FCS programs embrace early signing period
By CRAIG HALEY
(STATS) - It must have felt like an early Christmas. At least an early February.
High school seniors began to sign national letters of intent with college football programs on Wednesday as part of the new three-day December signing period that precedes the traditional cycle, which annually runs from the first Wednesday in February to April 1.
College transfers had previously been able to sign during the mid-year period and enroll in January, but football programs celebrated the expanded recruiting haul as commitments increased throughout the day.
FCS-level programs welcomed the day seemingly with more success than coaches originally expected for the early signing period.
James Madison, the 2016 FCS champ which seeks to claim back-to-back national titles on Jan. 6, announced 13 newcomers, highlighted by cornerback Jamari Currence (Rock Hill, South Carolina), linebacker Mateo Jackson (Richmond), offensive lineman Amelio Moran (Virginia Beach, Virginia) and wide receiver Devin Ravenel (Stafford, Virginia).
"I think this has to be one of top classes at the FCS level," coach Mike Houston said. "We think every one of these kids will be a starter for us at some point in their respective careers."
North Dakota State, the other FCS finalist and the national champ from 2011-15, had one of the larger early groups of newcomers with 19 signees plus five recruited walk-ons. It featured quarterback Trey Lance (Marshall, Minnesota); wide receiver Phoenix Sproles (New Hope, Minnesota) - the cousin of NFL running back Darren Sproles; defensive tackle Samuel Moore (Verndale, Minnesota); and offensive lineman Joe Schreiber (Chanhassen, Minnesota) and Jalen Sundell (Maryville, Missouri).
The early signing period is expected to grow next year with more high school seniors making earlier commitments. In April, the NCAA will allow juniors to take official visits with college programs. Previously, players had to wait until September of their senior year.
Updated December 20, 2017