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High school football players sign up for new deal

St. John Bosco quarterback Josh Rosen celebrates with students and fans following the Braves' 20-14 victory over Concord De La Salle in the CIF state championship Open Division bowl game.
St. John Bosco quarterback Josh Rosen celebrates with students and fans following the Braves’ 20-14 victory over Concord De La Salle in the CIF state championship Open Division bowl game.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Ricky Town and Josh Rosen do not regard themselves as trailblazers or trendsetters.

But the high school quarterbacks recently adopted those roles.

Both took advantage of a 2013 NCAA rule change that allows players on track to graduate early from high school to sign financial-aid agreements with colleges after Aug. 1 of their senior years.

Town, of Ventura St. Bonaventure, signed with USC last month. Rosen, of Bellflower St. John Bosco, signed with UCLA on Monday.

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They were the first players to sign the agreements under USC Coach Steve Sarkisian and UCLA Coach Jim Mora.

“I feel like it’s turning a handshake into a pinkie promise that you’ll go there,” Rosen said.

In the past, football recruits could not officially end their recruitment until they enrolled mid-year at colleges or signed a national letter of intent in February.

The opportunity for some recruits to sign financial-aid agreements before their senior seasons stops short of a full-on early-signing period. But it is regarded as a boon to those eligible and the schools that are pursuing them.

Players are guaranteed a four-year scholarship. And they can sign agreements with multiple schools. But if a player opts to enroll elsewhere, he does not have to sit out a season — as he would be required to if a school did not release him from a letter of intent.

“It’s really a no-lose situation for the player,” said Mike Farrell, national recruiting director for rivals.com.

It’s also advantageous for schools.

NCAA recruiting rules limit the amount of contact college coaches can have with prospective players. There are “quiet” periods during the year and restrictions, for example, on how many phone calls or in-person visits can be conducted.

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But signing of a financial-aid agreement enables players to communicate directly with coaches by phone and in person with few limitations.

“It’s way easier now,” Town said.

NCAA rules forbid coaches or administrators from speaking publicly about players when they are being recruited. But once a player signs a financial-aid agreement, the coaches and schools can publicize the signing.

Not surprisingly, schools in the football-mad Southeast were quick to react to the new legislation.

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Town was previously committed to Alabama and learned of the opportunity to sign a financial-aid agreement from Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban.

Town switched his commitment to USC in January and took advantage of the first opportunity to sign with the Trojans.

Quarterbacks are regarded as prime candidates to sign the agreements because it allows for the start of full immersion into a program.

“This is a great way for coaches to keep that kid well-connected to what you want to do,” said Greg Biggins, national recruiting analyst for Fox Sports/scout.com.

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There is one downside for the school: If a player signs an agreement and opts to go elsewhere, the school could be considered in violation of recruiting rules if it has ignored quiet periods and limits on in-person visits because it believed the player was committed.

Sarkisian and Mora acknowledged they are still learning the ins and outs of the process.

“We’re all trying to figure out exactly how this works,” Sarkisian said.

Said Mora: “For the future, it’s a great thing. It takes the burden off recruiting a little bit.”

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The ripple effect has begun.

Linebacker Cameron Smith of Granite Bay High and offensive lineman Chuma Edoga of McEachern High in Powder Springs, Ga., have signed financial-aid agreements with USC, Sarkisian said, adding that the opportunity is presented only to players who meet criteria to become mid-year enrollees and are strongly committed.

“We don’t have that fear of the kid not coming,” Sarkisian said. “Could it potentially happen? Sure. But the guys we’re doing it with are just so strong in their conviction that this is where they want to come, we feel confident about it.”

Town and Rosen are on track to enroll at USC and UCLA in January.

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“It’s been an absolutely great thing,” Town said of signing the financial-aid agreement.

Rosen also is happy the process is done.

“I’ve told UCLA they don’t really need to bother recruiting me anymore,” he said. “I’m going there.”

gary.klein@latimesklein

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Twitter: @latimesklein

Times staff writer Chris Foster contributed to this report.


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