The one early signing period story I was looking forward to reading the most was the big, data-driven story that let us know just what sort of era this sport had just entered. How many players signed? Did it matter if the school was a blue blood or lower in the conference pecking order? How did the Group of 5 schools do?
I have yet to see that story and don’t have the data set needed to do it myself in any sort of manageable time frame, but I was curious enough to take a look at the top of the ladder, 247Sports’ Composite Top 25 classes after yesterday. If the numbers there are even close to representative of what happened nationally then the annual three-ring circus we’ve come to expect on the first Wednesday in February is going to feel more like a one-ring circus.
Of the top 25 teams, 439 of their 502 listed commits signed on Wednesday. That’s 87.5 percent. On average, those schools had 17.6 players sign and 2.5 players committed but unsigned at the end of yesterday. At some of the most advantaged programs in the country at least, if a player was considering signing early he probably did so yesterday. While I have no idea the number of players each of those 25 schools is hoping to sign, if we were to assume they were all going to take the max of 25 – yeah, I know there are ways around this limit, but we’re trying to make the math easier here – those schools’ classes would still be 70 percent signed at this point.
In the Big Ten the signed percentage was even higher. The conference schools signed 264 players with another 21 commits listed as unsigned. That’s 92.6 percent of commits, and, if we were to again assume every school was signing 25 players, 75.4 percent of the maximum class numbers the Big Ten could have. Ohio State (21 signees), Michigan State (20), Wisconsin (19), Indiana (23) and Northwestern (16) all ended yesterday with zero unsigned commits. P.J. Fleck’s traditional sea-change class in his first full recruiting cycle at Minnesota is nearly complete, too. The Gophers signed 25 on Wednesday with one unsigned commit still listed.
Nebraska’s 10 signees were the fewest in the Big Ten, and we know that was by design.
“One thing we weren’t going to do was just sign kids to fill spots,” Frost said on Wednesday. “We want kids that we know can come be good people and become good football players. I feel good about where we are, and I wouldn’t have wanted to sign a whole recruiting class and fill it all up in these first two weeks because I think we’re going to have a real opportunity in January to get out and see a lot more kids.”
Given the circumstances facing Nebraska’s new staff, that makes total sense. It was able to keep some key Mike Riley commits in the class and add a few intriguing pieces, some of whom could contribute right away. And Frost’s confidence in finding more good players before February is interesting.
While we don’t know the exact number of players that are “off the board” after the first day of early signing, it looks like the projections were about right based on the small sample above. Two-thirds to three-fourths of the total players probably have their homes now.
I’m anxious to see how Nebraska attacks the portion that’s left. Normally you can kind of take a “do what you can do” approach to these transition classes that bridge a coaching change. But when you add early signing on top of a coaching change it might be a little different this time around. If anything, this strange Nebraska class compiled under the most unique of circumstances may only underscore this staff’s ability to evaluate talent and fit.
Or at least it has the potential to do that. I’m pretty confident in this staff’s ability to do that, and if this 2018 group ends up producing some key contributors two or three years down the line, well, that’s a ringing endorsement given what a strange time it was to change jobs.
The Grab Bag
- ICYMI: You can find links to all of our early signing coverage here. Also, Nebraska basketball scored enough points to outlast UTSA last night.
- Maryland axed the fax machine yesterday, using a service that allowed prospects to sign their documents on their phones.
- Bill Snyder said yesterday (of all days) that he's undecided on returning next year, and Dennis Dodd makes the case that he's strongarming Kansas State into hiring his son.
- College ADs are pretty nervous about what the new tax bill might mean for donations.
Today's Song of Today
Brandon is the Managing Editor for Hail Varsity and has covered Nebraska athletics for the magazine and web since 2012, Hail Varsity’s first season on the scene. His sports writing has also been featured by Fox Sports, The Guardian and CBS Sports.