What USF and FSU tell us about the early signing period’s effects

Also, why Jimbo Fisher's recruiting might not be as bad as it seems.
Because USF coach Charlie Strong signed almost a full class in December, his Bulls could be more flexible in January. [ TIMES FILE ]
Because USF coach Charlie Strong signed almost a full class in December, his Bulls could be more flexible in January. [ TIMES FILE ]
Published Feb. 6, 2018

We're still learning how college football's inaugural early signing period is affecting the sport (including Wednesday's traditional signing day), but two interesting case studies have Florida ties.

Start with USF, which signed pretty much a full class (24 recruits) in December and sits No. 2 in the American Athletic Conference.

ESPN recruiting director Tom Luginbill said the Bulls are one of about 30 schools nationally (and five in the Group of Five) that can try to land the best available players rather than filling specific needs. That gives USF two distinct advantages.

The first perk is obvious: It can sign very good players to boost the roster. If landing that recruit keeps a rival school from filling a position of need, even better.

The second advantage is that USF and schools in similar positions could structure their January differently than usual. Instead of chasing 2018 prospects like most other programs, the Bulls could get a jump start on 2019 or 2020.

"You're looking at two different blueprints in my opinion," Luginbill said Monday in a teleconference with reporters.

RELATED: Six takeaways from the inaugural early signing period

The other case study centers on James Foster, a four-star quarterback recruit from Montgomery, Ala.

Only seven of the nation's top 50 quarterbacks didn't sign in December's early period. Of those seven, only Foster and two others remain uncommitted.

The decreased supply has spiked demand for Foster, who visited Florida State over the weekend. He's also being heavily recruited by LSU, Alabama and Texas A&M.

"James Foster was a player and a prospect throughout the fall that coaches liked, they were tracking, but maybe didn't have near the top of their boards…" Luginbill said. "And now all of a sudden he becomes a hotter commodity in literally one month than he ever was the previous ten months of the cycle."

RELATED: Still a few signing day surprises in store for Tampa Bay

Two other notes:

* Luginbill said he thinks it's "going to be difficult" to pull five-star Berkeley Prep offensive tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere out of the South. Florida, Ohio State, Alabama and Notre Dame are among the contenders for Petit-Frere, who plans to announce his commitment at nationally televised ceremony Wednesday morning around 10 a.m. Sounds like the Gators have a good shot at landing Tampa Bay's top prospect and the first five-star prospect of the Dan Mullen era.

* Luginbill said Jimbo Fisher inherited one of the toughest recruiting positions of any of the new Power Five coaches after leaving FSU for Texas A&M. His Aggies signed only 10 players in the early period, and they have a lot of competition for their remaining top targets to bolster a class ranked No. 35 nationally. That said, Luginbill said Fisher understands recruiting in the SEC footprint, and he knows how to build championship rosters. "So from a long-term standpoint, I think Texas A&M and Jimbo will be just fine," Luginbill said.