National Signing Day is becoming less of a burden and we're all better off for it
It's OK to love recruiting, but still hate the first Wednesday in February
I hate National Signing Day. Don't worry, I'm not about to go on a long rant about how recruiting rankings don't matter. They do. Recruiting is the lifeblood of any college football program, and as a college football fan, it's nearly impossible not to care about recruiting.
But I still hate National Signing Day.
I hate that, with the advent of cable television, and networks needing all the content they can get to fill air time, national signing day became National Signing Day. What used to be a day when high schoolers across the country faxed in letters of intent to make things official and get on with their lives became a television event. Suddenly it was signing ceremonies that were scheduled at certain times so ESPN could fill every block of their eight-hour marathon with some teenager 80 percent of the viewers had never heard of before making his college decision by picking up a hat or exposing a t-shirt or sometimes pulling out a bulldog puppy.
OK, maybe I like the puppy, but that's more about the dog than the spectacle.
Now, there's a part of me cringing as I write these words because I know I am coming off as an old man yelling at clouds, and that's fine. Sometimes it feels good to yell at a cloud. Seriously, go outside and try it. You'll see. Even if that's the case, I want to make it clear I'm not mad at the kids for taking advantage of the spotlight. I blame us. I blame the networks, the websites and the fans who crave as much information on it as possible.
It's all related, after all. If fans didn't want the information, TV networks wouldn't broadcast it, and websites like this one wouldn't write about it, nor would 247Sports exist and be doing so well. But the problem with National Signing Day is that very first word: national. College football is a regional sport. The reason you see national sites spend so much time focusing on the College Football Playoff is, nationally, that's the one thing that truly moves the needle when it comes to fan interest. I could spend months doing the legwork on a story about a college football coach and when the piece was written and published, it might get 20,000 views, and roughly 80 percent of them would be members of that coach's particular fanbase. I could spend an hour writing about the latest College Football Rankings, throw the word "overrated" in the headline, and get 200,000 from all over the place.
The world of recruiting isn't any different. College football fans care about recruiting as it's related to their team, and their team's foremost competition. Alabama fans care about Alabama's recruits, Auburn's recruits and other SEC classes. They couldn't care less what Michigan is doing unless Michigan is competing for the same player Alabama is. So, when it comes to National Signing Day, the entire television spectacle of it all doesn't match the broader interest.
Now, there is good news here. I'm starting to hate National Signing Day less. The reason? The early signing period. It's sucking all the "fun" out of the February date. By the time the traditional signing day rolls around, the majority of top players have already signed with their schools, but while they have ceremonies in December, since it's happening before the season has ended, and while the coaching carousel is spinning, it doesn't receive nearly the same kind of attention.
In February, it's the only thing happening, so you get hammered over the head with it.
I saw select media members seemingly lamenting this idea on Twitter this week, and it blew my mind. We shouldn't mourn it. We should celebrate it. We are all being freed from the excesses of National Signing Day, and that's a good thing.
Yearning for the signing days of yore is like reminiscing about an MRI. What the hell is there to miss?
Absolutely nothing, because National Signing Day sucks, and I'm glad it's over. Anyway, now that I'm done yelling at this cloud for no reason let's answer some of your questions.
Submit your questions to be answered in this space on Twitter (@TomFornelli) or via email (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Willie Taggart has now put together two recruiting classes at Florida State. Neither of them have included a QB. When asked about it, Taggart said they have "a pretty good plan." Do you think not recruiting any QBs is "a pretty good plan?" - Robert
Short answer: No, I don't think not recruiting QBs is "a pretty good plan."
For those of you needing context, here's the story. Florida State did not have a QB commit in its 2018 class, the first one under Willie Taggart, though Taggart wasn't around to go through a full recruiting cycle. This year, after having that full cycle, National Signing Day came and went without the Seminoles landing a QB. Florida State had a commit from Sam Howell, who committed to FSU in April 2018. Howell then camped with FSU a few times and visited campus (both officially and unofficially) a few times. But he also never stopped letting other teams recruiting him. In September, he unofficially visited North Carolina. In late November and early December, Howell had coaches from Miami -- including the now unemployed Mark Richt -- visiting him. He may have been verbally committed to Florida State, but he didn't seem all that committed. Still, FSU believed he would honor his original commitment until the early signing period when he not only flipped his commitment to North Carolina but signed his letter of intent.
This left FSU scrambling a bit to find a QB, and going into this week; the Noles were alive for four-star QB John Rhys Plumlee as well as four-star QB Lance LeGendre. On Monday, Plumlee committed to Ole Miss and signed his LOI on Wednesday. Then LeGendre followed suit and chose Maryland over Florida State on Wednesday.
And now, days after dismissing presumed starter Deondre Francois from the program, Florida State is left with no QBs in its last two classes and only one scholarship QB on the roster in James Blackman. This is not a good position to be in, nor is it a common one, as Noles247 points out.
Through two recruiting cycles under Taggart, FSU has yet to sign a high school quarterback. There've been 121 scholarship high school QBs to sign with Power Five programs in the 2018 and 2019 recruiting cycles, and there are 65 P5 programs. FSU is believed to be the only P5 program without a high school QB signee in that span.
I have a pretty simple philosophy when it comes to recruiting QBs. One that I don't think is uncommon. No matter what your QB situation is, you should try to get one in every single class. Especially in this current age when they transfer more than ever before. You don't want to end up in a situation like the one Taggart currently finds himself in, where he's now in a position where he'll be entering the 2019 season one injury away from an awful season.
Knowing that, I would expect Florida State to be very active in the transfer market between now and fall camp.
Do you think we get changes to the transfer rules or the four-game redshirt rule with the seeming increase in transfers? Do you think we need them? What about releases for a coach change situation like Temple or Kliff? - @NDEddieMac
It's hard to know for sure, but I don't think they'll repeal any of the latest rule changes. If anything changes, it'll be the rules becoming more lax, particularly in the area of coaching changes as you mentioned. Maybe both recruits and coaches should sign an LOI, and once the coach breaks the contract, the player shouldn't be required to honor it if they don't want to.
As for the redshirt rule, I think that's here to stay because most coaches are very much in favor of it. Flexibility with your roster is a good thing.
How do you see Jalen Hurts playing for Lincoln Riley? He is a great quarterback but not what Riley had last year in Murray. How do they make it work? - @GhostOfQC44
I don't know if Hurts will put up the kind of overall passing numbers that Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray did, but I would have said the same thing about Murray at this time last season, and he exceeded Mayfield in a lot of areas. What I love about Riley as a coach isn't his schemes or play designs as much as it's been his ability to adapt his offense to the skills of his players. He puts them in positions to succeed and rarely asks them to do things they aren't capable of doing. There are a lot of coaches who are great at calling plays who aren't able to understand how to best utilize their players, and they suffer for it.
In other words, Hurts will be just fine for the Sooners.
Who will ultimately have the better college career: Tua Tagovailoa or Trevor Lawrence? - Nick
Listen, they're both great. Both have already won a national title, and both will be competing for another national title in 2019. Still, I'm going to lean toward Lawrence, but it has nothing to do with the ability of either. It's just math.
Tua Tagovailoa has played two seasons and won a national title, and does not have a Heisman Trophy. He has one year left before he leaves for the NFL. Lawrence has a national title and no Heisman, but he's got at least two more seasons at the college level before he can go to the NFL. So he has an extra season to increase those career accolades, which increases the likelihood that he will.
So I'll go with Lawrence. This explanation will do nothing to stop Alabama fans that are already mad at me for voting for Kyler Murray over Tua from yelling at me some more. So thanks for that, Nick.
If you had to bet $10,000 of your own money on this wager, does Texas A&M win a national championship in football in the next 5 seasons? - @TuxedoYoga
I wouldn't bet $10,000 on anything because I am a sportswriter, and $10,000 is nothing to me. I spend $10,000 on my breakfast. Sportswriting is a life of pure, unadulterated opulence, my friend. Not since the Egyptian pharaohs has anybody lived so well.
As for the idea of betting on Texas A&M to win a national title in the next five seasons, I'd bet against it before I bet on it. Not because I don't think it's possible, but because it's really hard to win a national title. Particularly when you have two absolute units like Alabama and Clemson operating at full capacity right now. It's difficult enough to climb the mountain, knocking both of them off the top of it's even harder.
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