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Beware of National Signing Day when it comes to win totals

It’s probably the most important day for college football programs, but it’s also likely at least two years from having an impact.

Houston Cougars quarterback D’Eriq King throws a touchdown against the Tulane Green Wave during the first quarter at Yulman Stadium.  Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Wednesday is National Signing Day for college football. It’s not as big as it used to be before the Early Signing Day became the most important day on the college football recruiting calendar, but NSD is still a milestone all of college football is trying to win.

Even still, don’t think what happens in the recruiting cycle is going to make an impact immediately. While it’s true that teams who don’t sign enough four-and-five star recruits don’t have much of a chance at winning the national championship, the players that do make up those title-winning teams don’t often consist of many impact true freshmen. And that’s what every player that signs today will be in 2020.

The overwhelming majority of players that sign in either period will likely not make much of a contribution this year. Sure there’s been a trend towards true freshmen starting quarterbacks in particular, but they are still the exception rather than the rule. And the speed and strength needed for the college game often require a year or two of the conditioning programs and training tables needed for a player to make the transition.

The more important factor in 2020 might be the transfer portal, which allows players to move around in something akin to free agency, particularly if they’ve completed an undergraduate degree already. It allows players to find a fit on teams that have a positional hole at their place of need, so the market sorts itself out more easily when players go looking for playing time and exposure. With three of the four finalists for the Heisman Trophy this year being transfer quarterbacks, you can see the immediate impact that one player can have.

A good example is D’Eriq King, a star quarterback with three years experience who graduated from Houston and his heading to Miami as a quarterback for 2020. The Hurricanes really struggled to move the ball all last year, firing their offensive coordinator because of it. Surrounding King with the elite skill-position talent at The U likely will make an immediate impact, and you should see Miami worth an extra win because of his presence.

You might also dock the Coogs a victory since they don’t seem to have anyone to replace King, with four not-so-highly rated quarterbacks on their roster. But that’s for now: if they add an impact guy from the portal themselves, they could be right back to where they were.

Watching the transfer portal, for players both coming and leaving, likely will affect the win total much more than anything coming via the fax machine this morning.

Keep an eye on Spring Practice reports for early enrollees too, as sometimes players that get to campus earlier might have a chance to crack the first-string in the fall. But thinking that the 17-year-olds putting pen to paper today are going to save your alma mater this year... sorry about it, but that die is already cast.