It’s beginning to feel a lot like. … National Signing Day.
Only now, “signing day” has taken on new meaning, with lots of shiny three, four and five-star gifts that will start being unwrapped in Coral Gables at 7 a.m. Wednesday, when football’s inaugural early signing period commences and gets fax machines, emails and even text messages buzzing across the country.
The “dead period’’ has begun in college football, as recruits en masse prepare to sign their Letters of Intent from Wednesday through Friday. The ones who would rather linger, or maybe aren’t quite sure of their decision, will sign during the traditional signing period that begins Feb. 7.
On Monday, University of Miami coach Mark Richt spoke publicly for the second time since his appearance at the Capital One Orange Bowl coaches’ press conference. Speaking with Joe Rose and Zach Krantz on WQAM, the UM coach never mentioned the word “Wisconsin,’’ his sixth-ranked (College Football Playoff final standings) opponent in the Dec. 30 Orange Bowl. But he did talk about this past weekend’s “largest group’’ he has ever “been a part of,’’ as 18 of the 20 players committed to UM’s vaunted recruiting class of 2018 — known as Storm18 — gathered with their parents at the Coral Gables campus.
“Great group,’’ Richt said. “We expect a very large group of them to sign.’’
Of UM’s 20 committed prospects, 10 are from Broward and Miami-Dade and one is from West Palm Beach. Of those South Floridians, at least eight are expected to sign Wednesday.
“We, as coaches, have asked guys on the road just what they think is going to happen on Wednesday,’’ Richt told Rose. “Most people think the great majority of the young men are going to sign on Wednesday. There will be a few that are still trying to figure out what to do or are confused or whatever it may be. But we really believe the great majority of these guys are going to go ahead and do it.
“There will always be some that everybody will still be pursuing. The good thing is the guys that do sign, they’ve got their place, they’ve got it secured. All the madness stops.”
After 6-0, 178-pound cornerback Josh Jobe, out of Miami Christopher Columbus High, decommitted from Miami this past weekend to join Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide of Alabama, the Canes’ impressive class fell from No. 3 to No. 4 in the 247Sports.com team rankings, but stayed at No. 2 behind Ohio State in the Rival.com rankings and at No. 3 behind OSU and Texas in the ESPN rankings.
Even with Jobe out of the picture, former Florida State commit Patrick Joyner — a Homestead South Dade High standout defensive end (three/four stars) who could play outside linebacker as a Hurricane — flipped his pledge earlier this month to the Hurricanes and is expected to sign on Wednesday.
Thirteen of the UM commits are on the offensive side of the ball, including a four-star quarterback (Jarren Williams of Central Gwinnett High in Lawrenceville, Georgia), five-star running back (Lorenzo Lingard of Orange City), and depending on the recruiting site, five star receiver (Mark Pope of Miami Southridge). Each will sign Wednesday.
And that doesn’t include two of the finest tight ends in the nation: Brevin Jordan of Las Vegas Bishop Gorman and Jacksonville Providence School’s Will Mallory. Jordan will sign Wednesday but won’t enroll early.
Only Williams and future UM four-star defensive tackle Nesta Silvera (Plantation American Heritage) didn’t make this past weekend’s visit.
“It felt like we were going to play that day,’’ an obviously excited receiver Pope told InsidetheU. Com of the 247Sports recruiting network. “Just all of the guys were getting ready, talking about how we’re going to win big games.’’
Richt said the weekend “was so awesome because every guy was committed, every guy got a chance to hang out with his future teammates [and] all the families got to know each other a little better.’’
“It’s something that I would normally do at a spring game,’’ the coach told WQAM. “Throughout the recruiting process you normally get kids at different weekends — some in December, some in January. You never get them all in the same room. …We try to get them all together where everybody can just feel it, feel the love.”
Richt said about half the players that were on campus this past weekend will arrive in January, enroll early and participate in spring practice.
“We know it’s never over till the paper is signed,’’ the coach said. “I’ve seen so many things that have happened over the years. It runs the gamut of knowing 100 percent you’re not going to get him and all of a sudden the fax came through and you’re wondering, ‘What in the world happened?’
“I’ve seen it all. But I’ve always learned to really focus on the young men that choose Miami...And the other guys, God bless them. A lot of them, to be honest with you, I hear later, they’re like, ‘Hey, can we come back?’’’
At that point, Richt said, all he can reply is, “’No, I tried to tell you, but we don’t have room for you now, son.’’’