Even now, less than 24 hours before the debut of college football’s early signing period, Memphis football coach Mike Norvell can’t say he’s completely sure what will happen.
But as Norvell and his coaching staff criss-crossed the southeast and midwest on recruiting trips since the AAC championship game on Dec. 2, one reality became crystal clear, and it’s contributing to how complicated the next few days could be for the Tigers.
“We’re receiving the highest level of attention and interest from the top players that we ever have while being at Memphis, so we’re excited,” Norvell said earlier this month. “We’re excited about what future prospects we might be able to bring here to our program and the difference-makers that they’ll be.”
Tough decisions looming
Indeed, the Tigers’ success and subsequent national exposure this season under Norvell has created something of a dilemma as it relates to the early signing period, which begins Wednesday and runs through Friday.
Memphis has 19 known commitments for its 2018 recruiting class and a limited number of scholarships available. But it’s also reportedly pursuing at least nine other prospects, both from the junior college and high school ranks. It means a numbers crunch of some kind seems likely.
“We have to make tough decisions because there’s a lot of really good kids that want to be part of what we’re doing… . There’s more good players than what we can sign,” recruiting coordinator Dan Lanning said last week. “We’re able to recruit a different kid here than they were 10 years ago.”
On Tuesday, for instance, four-star dual-threat quarterback Gerry Bohanon of Earle, Ark., will make a college decision between Memphis, Baylor, Arkansas and Indiana.
He took a visit to Memphis this past weekend and his commitment would be a major development with quarterback Riley Ferguson set to play his last game at Memphis in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl on Dec. 30.
A few hours before Bohanon’s decision, Butler Community College (Kan.) defensive tackle Charles Cole will pick between Memphis, UNLV and Kansas.
On Wednesday morning, meanwhile, four-star offensive lineman Jerome Carvin and three-star running back Jeremy Banks of Cordova will announce their college decision during a ceremony at school. Last week, Memphis hired former Cordova High School football coach Anthony Jones, Jr., as one of its assistant coaches.
Memphis also reportedly hosted junior college defensive linemen Nick Dawson, Isaiah Johnson and Emmit Gooden as well as junior college linebacker Tim Faison on campus visits over the past two weekends. Gooden had been committed to Arkansas and Faison previously enrolled at Purdue.
How the early signing period could help Memphis
Traditionally, prospective high school recruits could not sign a letter-of-intent until National Signing Day in February. But this year, the NCAA instituted a new rule that will allow for prospects to sign earlier than that with a school during a 72-hour window.
The early signing period should end up helping schools such as Memphis, who have consistently watched power five conference schools join the fray right before National Signing Day and flip prior commitments after a late scholarship becomes available.
Now, the Tigers can attempt to lock in their top recruits earlier, before traditional powers know about their scholarship situation, and have time to regroup if a prospect does change their mind.
Among the Tigers’ current commitments, their three junior college pledges (wide receiver Antonio Gibson, linebacker Keith Brown, Jr. and defensive lineman Keith Brigham) have all indicated on social media they will sign with Memphis in the coming days.
Defensive back Alondras Strong told The Commercial Appeal last May when the new NCAA early signing period was announced that he already planned to enroll early at Memphis next semester. Six-foot-five wide receiver Jeremy Tate, an incoming freshman, also wrote on Twitter than he will sign his letter-of-intent on Wednesday.
In addition, GoTigers247 reports that offensive lineman Titus Jones plans to make his commitment with Memphis official during the early signing period.
How the process plays out for the Tigers’ other commitments, however, remains to be seen given all the moving parts for Norvell and his staff.
“We talked to a lot of our players that we have committed and kind of tried to get a sense of what their expectation, anticipation of signing day is going to be,” Norvell said. “Some of them we know are going to sign here early. Some of the guys might have a little bit of work that they have to continue to do, whether it’s academically or continue with their test scores. Different things like that we’ll continue to evaluate that might hold off til February.”
Memphis 2018 commitments
RB Tyler Badie (Memphis): 3-star (247), 2-star (Rivals)
Who else is Memphis pursuing?
RB Jeremy Banks (Cordova): 4-star (Rivals) | 3-star (247)
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