published Saturday, January 28th, 2012

Greeson: Try early football signings

College football recruiting is the sports equivalent of the smart phone. Its basic premise has been around for decades, and there's no debating its importance, but time, technology and testosterone have turned it into a monster.

Each is its own cottage industry, and each has become indispensable.

Whether you know Jeremy Crabtree from regular crabgrass or are blissfully naive enough to think Scout.com is about Thin Mints or merit badges, today's hard-number recruiting process is more frequently leaving scholarship-worthy football players on the outside looking in.

In the last month, Alabama and Georgia Tech pulled scholarship offers from teenagers who had been committed for almost a year.

Now that there are limits of signees per class, schools telling recruits and commitments that there's no room will only become more common. It's a simple fact, but before we throw stones at Nick Saban or Paul Johnson, let's acknowledge it's a two-way street, too. Kids change their commitments all the time, leaving coaches and schools scrambling to fill spots.

Sure, it's easy to feel sorry for the kids who get skipped, but sadly that's part of the foundation of the system.

In fact, maybe we shouldn't be surprised that recruiting has deteriorated to this point considering it is an entire system built somewhat on deception. Who's looking here? Who's a silent commitment? Who's trying to flip whom?

All of it is built on sleight of hand and whispers and winks and wondering. So it goes, and that unknown adds to the drama, too, but we can't have it both ways. It can't be secretive and dramatic and then we wonder why it's filled with lies and deceit.

That said, kids getting left in the cold is not what this should be about, so let's add a few new rules to help with the crowds and the confusion among the coaches and the prospects with the new hard numbers of signees. (The hard number of 25 signings is not going anywhere. In fact, the SEC's tighter restrictions will be adopted sooner rather than later across the country.)

Here's an idea to nip this "pulling scholarship, flip commitments" stuff in the bud: Have an early-signing day.

Make it Aug. 1 of the recruit's senior year. That way it can be done before the college and high school programs get going full speed in preseason practice.

Make it so schools can sign no more than 15 in the early-signing period. This way, the schools get a solid foundation of a class and the players get some real knowledge.

If a player is committed but the school does not want him to sign in the early-signing period, the school obviously is not as interested in that prospect as they once were. If a committed player, however, does not want to sign in the early-signing period, then the school may want to make other plans.

Plus, with 60 percent of the recruiting class in the bag by Aug. 1, think how much less time coaches would have to spend on their smart phones.

about Jay Greeson...

Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...

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