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Like most of his SEC brethren, Tennessee coach Butch Jones is not in favor of the NCAA’s recent early signing period proposal.
Earlier this month, the Football Oversight Committee pushed forward the possibility of a pair of 72-hour signing periods in June and mid-December, allowing student-athletes two short windows to sign their National Letters of Intent before February’s traditional National Signing Day.
The proposal has sparked opinions on both fronts, with Jones landing in the camp that the recruiting process is already too accelerated, and that the pair of early signing periods will create only more issues.
“I’m not a proponent of what’s proposed right now,” Jones said.
“If we’re ever to go to an early signing date, then I’m 100 percent all in the SEC’s plan (Monday after Thanksgiving). I think it makes perfect sense. I think we have to take out all the hidden agendas and do what’s best for the student athlete and what’s best for the institutions. I don’t know if an early signing date is that answer to that solution.”
Jones was one of a few SEC coaches in favor of that 2014 proposal. However, that proposal was quickly tabled when not enough coaches supported it.
“I definitely think it’s a decision that has long-term ramifications for our sport and for our industry,” Jones said.
“I’ve continued to say it. The best proposal for the early signing date is the SEC proposal. I thought it was well thought out. I didn’t think there was any hidden agendas in that early signing date.
“But we have to be careful. The recruiting process is already accelerated. I want to make sure — we have a recruiting profile — just like a young man has a profile of which school he is looking at. We also have a recruiting profile of what we’re looking for ourselves. We have to have the ability to do our due diligence of researching individuals who we’re going to welcome into our football family. So to me, with everything being accelerated already, we need to slow down a little bit, if we’re going to make this drastic change that we make it for all the right reasons.”
The obvious merits to an early signing period is allowing players who truly want to commit early being able to move forward quickly in their recruitment.
But as Jones, and others, have explained, it’s not that simple. The current proposal doesn’t address issues like coaching changes, potential programs under the NCAA microscope and prospects who explode onto the scene during their senior seasons.
“I don’t think you can just have an early signing period and say, ‘Here’ and not change anything else,” Tennessee receivers coach Zach Azzanni said.
“I would think they would go back and look at all the other ways we’re able to evaluate. The times we’re able to evaluate. How many times we can call them, go to the school, before they just slap on an early signing period. … It would be harder. It’s time. We don’t get as much time now. So if you make it earlier … I would hope they would look at all the other rules that surround that before they just put a deadline on it.”
The World Wide Leader updated its 2017 recruiting rankings, and five Tennessee commits made the cut.
LaVergne (Tenn.) safety Maleik Gray remains the Volunteers’ highest-ranked recruit, as the 4-star prospect checked in at No. 86 overall. Montgomery Bell Academy (Nashville, Tenn.) tailback Ty Chandler made one of the biggest jumps in the rankings, moving up over 100 spots to No. 104.
Meanwhile, Virginia Beach, Va., defensive tackle Eric Crosby checked in at No. 224 and athletes C.J. Cotman, a Clearwater Catholic (Fla.) star, and LaTrell Bumphus, an in-state product from Hardin County (Savannah, Tenn.), were ranked No. 245 and No. 266, respectively.
Top Tennessee targets in OT Trey Smith (No. 1 overall), ATH DeAngelo Gibbs (No. 10), RB Cam Akers (No. 24), DT LaBryan Ray (No. 36) and WR Jeremiah Holloman (No. 98) were all ranked inside the top 100.