Ultimate Guide to 2018 Early National Signing Day

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistDecember 18, 2018

TUSCALOOSA, AL - NOVEMBER 24:  Head coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide runs warmups prior to facing the Auburn Tigers at Bryant-Denny Stadium on November 24, 2018 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Coaches have said their piece. Visits are done. Decisions are made. As early signing day draws near, the college football world eagerly awaits announcements from top prospects.

And, most importantly, their signatures.

Wednesday brings the official opening of the initial signing period, a three-day opportunity to sign a national letter of intent (NLI) and lock in a football future. Players will send in the paperwork to join their program of choice.

The early signing period is effectively the same as the classic February date. It will feature televised commitments, unexpected flips and plenty of drama.

But what should you expect? Which coveted prospects are announcing on TV, and when are those happening? We've got you covered.


How Long Does It Last?

The early signing period begins Wednesday, Dec. 19 (7 a.m. in the athlete's time zone) and ends Friday, Dec. 21 at 11:59 p.m.


How Many Players Will Sign?

This is only the second year of the early signing period, but December 2017 reshaped the recruiting calendar.

According to 247Sports, 2,145 of the 2,687 committed prospects (79.8 percent) signed a letter of intent in December last year, and "roughly 65 percent" of the entire 2018 class sent in their paperwork.

In other words, coaches are expected to have a majority of their recruiting work done by now. They also expect committed players to sign their NLIs; otherwise, conversations could get tricky.


Any Negatives with the Early NSD?

PISCATAWAY, NJ - NOVEMBER 17: A Rutgers Scarlet Knights fan yells during the first quarter at HighPoint.com Stadium on November 17, 2018 in Piscataway, New Jersey. Penn State won 20-7. (Photo by Corey Perrine/Getty Images)
Corey Perrine/Getty Images

Yes, the NLI is a one-sided agreement. The school confirms it will offer an athletic scholarship, but a player has no leverage if something changes with his situation at the school.

Once signing day is over, coaches will accept new jobs. Position coaches and coordinators are typically the lead recruitersnot the head coachso dozens, possibly hundreds of players will submit their paperwork only to see their main contacts change jobs.

So, why sign? It's simple. Recruiting classes have a limited number of spots, and only the "best of the best" have a guaranteed place. For some players, signing the NLI ensures a place on the roster at what is theoretically their top choice.

The risk is being "dropped" prior to February's signing period and seeking a backup plan. Given the emphasis on getting a majority of recruiting done by now, those aren't always available.

Every case is different. Remaining on the market in January and into February can be the right choice. Or not.


TV Announcement Schedule

ESPN networks will show the announcement for seven prospects. Schools in consideration are listed in alphabetical order:

11 a.m. ET hour (ESPN2): 4-star RB Noah Cain (Auburn, Georgia, Penn State, Texas)
11 a.m. ET hour (ESPN2): 4-star OG Deyavie Hammond (Florida, Florida State)
11 a.m. ET hour (ESPN2): 4-star DE Lloyd Summerall (Florida, Miami, Nebraska)
11 a.m. ET hour (ESPN2): 4-star TE Keon Zipperer (Alabama, Florida, LSU, Miami)
1 p.m. ET hour (ESPNU): 5-star RB Trey Sanders (Alabama, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Texas)
2 p.m. ET hour (ESPNU): 5-star LB Nakobe Dean (Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, LSU, Ole Miss)
2 p.m. ET hour (ESPNU): 5-star OT Evan Neal (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Miami)


The Quiet Race for Zach Harrison

Zach Harrison is headed to a Big Ten school, but it's unclear whether he'll choose Michigan, Ohio State or Penn State.

The No. 1 strong-side defensive and No. 4 player in this class, Harrison is the highest-ranked player who is not committed. He also stays out of the spotlight.

Ari Wasserman of The Athletic notes Harrison will tweet his college decision Wednesday. There will be no ceremony, no interviews.

Just a 5-star player and a Twitter accountand three Big Ten programs waiting for the news.


Alabama Is Still Alabama

From 2011 to 2017, the Crimson Tide held the No. 1 class in the nation, according to the 247Sports composite rankings.

That ridiculous streak ended in 2018 when Georgialed by former Alabama assistant Kirby Smartsecured the top spot. What's old is new again, though; Nick Saban and his staff have assembled the top-rated class so far.

And on Wednesday, it might only improve.

The Tide are finalists for the three 5-starsSanders, Dean and Nealannouncing on TV. Additionally, they're pursuing four other players who will commit Wednesday in Zipperer, 4-star safety Jordan Battle, 4-star defensive end Ty Robinson and 3-star running back DJ Williams.

Saban won't land them alllargely because Williams is likely a backup plan if Sanders doesn't choose Bamabut might get close.


All recruiting information via 247Sports. Stats from NCAA.com, cfbstats.com or B/R research. Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bleacher Report CFB Writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.


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