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NWA Democrat-Gazette/DAVID GOTTSCHALK University of Arkansas head football coach Bret Bielema speaks with members of the media on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017, inside the Fred W. Smith Center in Fayetteville on the results from National Signing Day.
FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas football coach Bret Bielema expects to have most of his 2018 recruiting class signed before Christmas.
Speaking at the SEC Spring Meetings in Destin, Fla., on Tuesday, Bielema was asked about a new 72-hour early signing period that will begin Dec. 20-22.
“I think we could have 70 to 90 percent of our kids signed by that time,” Bielema said.
Bielema, who had nine signees enroll early in the 2017 class, said he thinks the early signing period will be great for his program and lets coaches and players know where they stand with each other.
It will allow a staff that doesn’t issue an abundance of scholarships to fine-tune its recruiting efforts in the final six weeks before the traditional signing day in February.
“I throw scholarships around like manhole covers, some people throw them like nickels,” said Bielema, referencing his track record of not offering too many high school athletes.
Bielema said recruits should handle the process the way they want.
“I say three things all the time to recruits,” Bielema said. “This is the one time in your life where it’s OK to be selfish. Nobody pats you on the butt and says, ‘Go be selfish today,' but in recruiting it is a unique time in your life where all you have to worry about is you.
“I also say this: The only pressure comes from within. No coach should be allowed to put pressure on a kid. The only bad things that come out of high pressure are bad decisions. Kids feel the pressure and make a decision they may regret.
“Those two things together, if a kid wants to take a visit for himself, but has high pressure to sign in December, it is going to increase that. There’s no going back once that happens.”
An early signing period would eliminate some recruits backing out of verbal commitments because an assistant coach has moved on to another program.
“I’ve always said the reason there’s a February signing period is because there’s a rule that a verbal commitment is just talking,” Bielema said. “Once you sign the paper, it’s real - no going back. To move that up, there are still coaching changes that happen after bowl games, not just head coach, but assistant coaches.”
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