Pac-12 football coaches see problems with early signing period

Stanford coach David Shaw addresses the media Thursday in Los Angeles.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

One of the intended benefits of college football’s new early signing period is that it will allow high school players to lock in on a school in December, preventing two additional months of recruiting drama.

That is, if it doesn’t lead to a different kind of fuss.

“Honestly, what’s going to happen, my little crystal ball here, you’re going to recruit and sign an offensive lineman,” Stanford coach David Shaw said in describing a hypothetical scenario Thursday at the Hollywood & Highland Center during Pac-12 Conference media days. “Great, he’s committed, his family’s committed. He wants to come. He wants to be there.

“The O-line coach may get a coordinator job someplace else, may become a head coach someplace else, now you might talk about changing the offense with a new coordinator and new line coach. Well, he may not want to play in that new system, so now we’ve created a problem in December that we wouldn’t have had in February because he wouldn’t have signed to begin with. So for me it’s created more problems than I think many people are seeing that are going to happen.”


Several coaches voiced concerns about teenagers being forced to making binding commitments at a time when both players and schools are still feeling each other out.

“Guy’s 18 and making a very important decision, and between him and his family needs more time to make that decision,” Washington State coach Mike Leach said. “In addition, as a school, you try to evaluate character and things like that. The more opportunity you have to get to know them and spend time with them and their family, the better your chances of making accurate judgments on that. So from that standpoint, I think the additional time is helpful.”

Shaw said Stanford would continue to allow players who change their minds out of their letters of intent “because we’ve never held anybody to a letter of intent that really wants to get out, whether they have a legitimate reason or not.”

Fundamentally, at least, the mechanics of recruiting remain unchanged.

“At the end of the day,” Oregon coach Willie Taggart said, “you’ve got to recruit, recruit, recruit and get guys to come into your system, the right guys.”

Back of the Pac

Pac-12 coaches like to trumpet the top-to-bottom strength of the conference, repeatedly saying there are no gimme games.

But UCLA coach Jim Mora acknowledged that a lack of success on college football’s biggest stage has hurt the national perception of the Pac-12. Every Power Five conference besides the Pac-12 has won a national championship since USC defeated Oklahoma in the 2005 Bowl Championship Series title game.

“Every team is capable of winning any game,” Mora said, “but for us to legitimize it outside of our conference, someone needs to go win a national championship here soon, and then when that happens then I think more of the nation will stand up and take notice of just how competitive the Pac-12 is.”

Mr. Personality

Leach likes to get straight to business. He sat down behind a table on a platform inside a ballroom and looked like someone who wished he could get right back up to leave.

“All right, any questions?” Leach said by way of introduction, prompting laughter among reporters.

Asked by a Pac-12 official to make some opening remarks, Leach said, “What did you say?” He then pointed to his players preparing to speak with reporters in the back of the room.

“There’s Peyton Pelluer over there,” Leach said. “He’s got the samurai hairdo going, middle linebacker, great player. And then Jamal Morrow, running back. And he continues to walk away, very disinterested.”

Leach went on to address an unusual mix of topics that included millennials and whether hot dogs should be considered sandwiches. “I don’t like hot dogs,” he said. “I never liked hot dogs when I was a kid, and I think that some of that started with when I was a real young kid. I’d have bologna sandwich after bologna sandwich. So anything that even remotely resembled bologna, I hated. Everybody says go to the ballgame and eat a hot dog. Not me. No, it’s not a sandwich.”

His thoughts on millennials giving up because so many things come easier in the world: “I think, you know, nowadays there is a temptation to do that. I do think we’ll cycle out of that. There’s always been a cycle. Heck, we got out of disco, you know? We survived that. We had punk rock briefly as we were recovering, you know? So then things evened out.”

Southern comfort

Oregon’s 24-player freshman class includes seven players from Southern California and a handful who were recruited by USC and UCLA. Taggart cited two factors that helped sway those players away from their local colleges.

“I think the ‘O’ and the Nike swoosh helps going in there,” Taggart said, referring to the influx of money and gear from the apparel giant through its affiliation with Phil Knight but perhaps forgetting that USC is also a Nike school. “Then the tradition. Oregon has won a lot of football games. I think I saw a stat where the last 20 years probably the winningest team in the Pac-12.”

Recent history isn’t nearly as flattering. Oregon finished last season 4-8 overall and 2-7 in the Pac-12, its struggles the reason that Taggart was addressing the media after replacing Mark Helfrich.

The Ducks are also losing wide receiver Darren Carrington, who transferred to Utah.

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said there are “paperwork things” that must be completed with the Pac-12 and NCAA before Carrington is fully cleared as fall practices begin Friday. He is confident those hurdles will be cleared.

Carrington was dismissed from the Ducks two weeks ago, soon after he was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of driving under the influence. Whittingham said Carrington will be on a short leash when it comes to discipline-worthy actions.

The Utes are plenty familiar with Carrington after he caught a game-winning, 17-yard touchdown pass with two seconds left last season for a 30-28 Oregon victory.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

Twitter: @latbbolch