National Signing Day was a roller coaster ride for Washington State football fans. Nothing really happened that shocked most people, save for the Bruggman deal, but by the end of the day there were some definite questions about the four players that had committed but hadn’t sent in their letters. Before explaining the situation that we’re in, here are the four players who were committed but did not sign yesterday.
- 3-star RB Olito Thompson – Concord, CA
- 2-star LB Dylan Hanser – Billings, MT
- 3-star CB Marcellus Pippins – El Cerrito, CA
- 2-star CB Markell Sanders – Bellevue, WA
After doing a small amount of digging this morning it looks like some things happened recently that are making this an odd, but hopefully explainable situation.
First thing to explain is that the NCAA now limits every team to only signing 25 Letters of Intent in any given season on NSD. However if you had come up short in the previous year you can count up to the allotted amount of available slots to that year. So say you signed 24 last season, you have the ability to sign 26 this season and count 1 towards last years class, equalling them both at 25. This was the Cougars’ situation this season, but they’ve only signed 24 to this point.
Another is that Mid-year enrollees can come in and not count towards that number. So if you enroll in January for Spring Semester you still get your 5 seasons, or however many you have remaining in the case of a JC transfer. In this case you sign a “financial aid agreement” in December and then enroll in the following month. An agreement like this can also be signed in the Fall.
Washington State looks like they signed all four of these players to something they call a “grayshirt letter”. This is a letter confirming that the player is committed but will not enroll in school until the following Spring semester, essentially buying him an extra semester and football season to get stronger before starting his 5 seasons of eligibility. This is important because this player would now be in his “6th” season as a senior but he will have only been enrolled for 5.
The catch with a “grayshirt letter” is that it’s not binding, meaning from now until next December when these guys would sign their scholarship agreements, they are fair game to be recruited and signed somewhere else. Because the Cougars have only signed 24 in this class and have the ability for 26, they could go after someone else’s grayshirt and sign them to an LOI by April (last day to sign LOI is in April).
But I don’t expect that to happen, we have too many problems with the four that we’re dealing with to add more. It’s less than ideal because you could lose your player to another school, but there are several factors in the class that do make sense in signing these players to grayshirt letters.
In Sanders’ case, his injury isn’t fully healed and will need more rehab time to get back to form. In Thompson’s case, there seem to be some academic issues (if he gets clear by Fall he could be on board with a financial aid agreement for 2013). Hanser needs a year of strength/conditioning to get to Pac-12 size and Pippins was asked to be a grayshirt for the same reason. Remember Pippins was asked to do the same at Utah, but it’s apparent that something happened in his recruitment that caused him to recant his original commitment to them and commit instead to the Cougars.