091016-Iowa-ISU-003

Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz touches the helmet on the Nile Kinnick statue during the "Hawk Walk" on Sept. 10, 2016, at Kinnick Stadium ahead of the Iowa State game.

The merits have been batted around like a volleyball, but only time will tell what kind of an impact a 72-hour early-signing period for college football recruits will have on the recruiting process.

The Collegiate Commissioners Association signed off Monday on changes to the National Letter of Intent program including a new three-day signing period in December which will allow 2018 high school seniors to put their signatures on binding letters of intent.

This year's window is Dec. 20-22, mirroring the initial signing date that junior college football players have to sign with Division I programs.

It is designed to let high school seniors who have concrete college plans sign letters of intent and essentially be done with the recruiting process.

It allows college programs to take a look at where they stand in late December and map out strategies to fill needs during the final weeks of a recruiting calendar that will continue to lead up to a February signing date.

That's all good.

How it plays out in reality will unfold over time and promises to be interesting to watch.

If a player who has verbally committed to a school opts not to sign in December, what kind of message does that send to the school?

Does the school drop the kid and move on rather than risk ultimately losing a recruit who may simply be holding on while waiting for the next big offer to come along?

What happens if a school requests that a player who has verbally committed hold off on signing, suggesting that the school might have a bigger fish on the line?

What happens to a signed recruit if there is a coaching change, a coordinator's change or an assistant coaching change between the December signing date and February?

Those questions will be answered, most likely in a multitude of ways, as this all plays out.

Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz has been a long-time supporter of an early signing period, saying often that "basketball coaches got it right'' with the introduction of a November signing date in that sport years ago.

He would prefer a date earlier than the December date that was approved, but will take the current change as a positive.

He also has pointed out that several players who have developed all-Big Ten talent with the Hawkeyes were committed to other schools, many in the Mid-American Conference, at the time of what will now be the December signing date.

"How is that going to affect how you make decisions?'' Ferentz said last month. "Do you have to dig up Micah Hyde earlier and make a commitment to him earlier rather than later? Desmond King the same way. Those two guys right off the bat. We've had a lot of guys that way.''

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And Ferentz gets the flip side as well.

"Conversely, are the prospects willing to tread water a little bit?'' he said.

Time will tell, and right now, that is probably the only thing set in stone.

Ferentz gets that, too.

"One thing is for sure,'' Ferentz said. "Things will be more clear after the December signing period. We'll know where people stand in terms of being really committed as opposed to saying they're committed.''

There is also a twist to this year's process.

Recruiting rules changes approved by the NCAA recently, including allowing prospects to take paid official visits in the spring and summer prior to their senior year, will impact 2019 recruits.

Recruits in the 2018 recruiting calendar, while eligible to sign letters of intent on Dec. 20, will not be able to take a paid official campus visit until Aug. 1 as has been the case in past years.

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