Cainer’s Corner: Vol Fans Should Be Thankful for Early Signing Period

By: Eric Cain / @_Cainer

It’s still weird when the calendar flips to February and college football fans start gearing up for National Signing Day. Nothing wrong with it, as several top-prospects around the country do sign their National Letters of Intent on the day, but it’s just not the same.

At least not at the Power 5 level.

Since the implantation of the early period in December of 2017 for the Class of 2018, most of the country’s top recruits sign on to their next team. It makes sense, as a lot of these guys plan to enroll to school early for the spring semester.

I always thought it was weird when guys would enroll early and then have to wait and have a signing day celebration two months after already being on campus.

Nonetheless, the Early Signing Period has changed the game. Take Tennessee for example as the Vols only added two names on Wednesday.

And following a 3-7 season that proceeded a months-long investigation into the football program that resulted in the firing of head coach Jeremy Pruitt – Tennessee was saved by the Early Signing Period.

Recruiting isn’t for everyone. I was never a recruiting guy. Never followed it and never really cared for it growing up.

It wasn’t until I was presented with an opportunity to cover recruiting that I really got into it. And it took a while – not going to lie, but I’ve grown to love the work and how rewarding it can be to tell a kid’s story.

Credit: UT Athletics

But with recruiting comes the highs and the lows. The commitments and decommitments. The flips and the teases on Twitter. I understand why some people wouldn’t want to get emotionally involved in a decision made by a 17 or 18-year-old.

I do think, however, every Tennessee fan should be thankful for the Early Signing Period this year – regardless of their level of interest on recruiting in general.

I mentioned the two new additions the Vols reeled in on Wednesday on the traditional Signing Day. Junior college offensive lineman Jeremiah Crawford and graduate transfer kicker from USC, Chase McGrath.

The Vols brought in two from the transfer portal following the early signing period in Virginia Tech graduate transfer quarterback Hendon Hooker and junior college receiver Andison Coby. But the bulk of the class was signed in December when Tennessee inked 19 players.

You feel for those kids who have been recruited by a staff for years, pledged their allegiance to them, signed to them and then watched as the staff was sent away just weeks later. I couldn’t even begin to imagine how that would have rocked my world at that age.

Still, it’s a business and it helped Tennessee in this case. Yes, these kids could ask out of their National Letters of Intent, and two already have expressed interest on social media in doing just that (Dylan Brooks and Cody Brown), but that’s a detailed process that takes time.

If the coaching change came before the end of the season, things could have been totally different for this Volunteers signing class. And all things considered, a top-20 national class that is positioned in the top-half of the SEC – not too shabby for the mess that is Knoxville right now.

However you may feel about recruiting – or even if you’re an older timer who isn’t bought into the Early Signing Period yet – I think all Vol fans can agree they are thankful for it this year.