Wednesday was like a whole new signing day

Clay Horning / The Transcript

Missing was the fanfare, the displayed trophies, the VIPs, the applause, the parade and the confetti.

Oh, that’s right, Oklahoma never put on a national signing day parade, never showered confetti upon the head coach announcing the new recruiting class.

It only seemed like it.

Not so Wednesday, the first day high school seniors could sign off on their intention to play college football at the institution of their choice.

Tuesday, in the Red Room, inside the Switzer Center, it was more like a weekly media luncheon than any signing day in memory. It was a little bit like any other day all the writers and radio and TV people head over to the stadium.

Nevertheless, Sooner coach Lincoln Riley announced the reception of letters of intent from 17 athletes representing 85 percent of the verbal commitments the Sooners had received during the recruiting process to date.

Though three committments — you can read their names in a box next to this story if you’re holding The Transcript’s paper product in your hands — are yet to sign, they could still do it by Friday or still do it during the conventional February signing period.

The point?

Signing day sneaked up on everybody but the principals.

There were less media in the room, there was far, far, far less build-up to what had becomes college football’s yearly holiday, when the world seemed to stop in towns and cities like Norman, Tuscaloosa, Columbus, Gainesville, Ann Arbor and Austin.

Of course, that’s because there’s now two signing days (or periods) rather than one.

Nobody seemed to know what do with it. 

Though the Sooners may be setting new trends in the actual process, creating trading cards and miniature cereal boxes carrying images of their newly signed student athletes, the hysteria and hoopla attached to the celebration of the day itself was almost nowhere to be seen.

Crazy, right?

One wonders how long that will last. Next season, when 80 to 90 percent of every Power 5 institution’s new class becomes official in December rather than February — you know, if that's the way it goes —can it possibly be so quaint and low-key again?

Also, what February will now look like has become the most interesting question of all.

Here’s maybe best thing about the early singing day, certainly for the coaches:

“I think it’s definitely going to allow you to be more efficient with your time going forward, especially in January,” Riley said. “You’ll get a chance to move on to the ’19 class.”

On the other hand, bundles and bundles of football programs still have 5 to 10 scholarships to hand out and all of their resources to pour into a much smaller pool of possibilities than in years past, when you still had to get your all your commitments to February’s finishing line.

“I feel sorry for the young men on the other side who didn’t sign today,” OU receivers coach, co-offensive coordinator and recruiting coordinator Cale Gundy said. “It’s going to be a challenge for those guys.

Everybody knows who’s left out there … where it might have been five schools recruiting an individual player coming into today, you may have 10, 12, 15 schools recruiting that individual going into February if he’s still out there.”

You wonder if, eventually, December’s signing day will make February’s obsolete. Or, perhaps, only blue bloods will be able to fill their classes early, leaving the masses to feast on scraps.

Or, maybe, as the available prospects become more scarce, those same blue bloods (and their boosters) will be fighting it out for who remains like it’s the 1980s all over again. 

Maybe SMU will fly high again?

“As we went into some of these different homes and visited with these parents and they asked our opinion on it, that was one of the points we brought up,” Riley said, "‘You need to understand there’s going to be fewer fish in the barrel now and everybody’s going to want them.’"

So there’s that.

Also, the Sooners are at least well on their way to another top 10 class. You know, if you believe in recruiting rankings.

And it was a very different signing day. 

Not often can one watch culture change before their very eyes, but it happened Wednesday, who knows where it ends?

“We’re all going to learn a lot from this one,” Riley said.

No question.

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