Early signing period to commence Wednesday

Grayson High School football player Robert Nkemdiche, the nation's top recruit, announces his intent to play college football for Ole Miss during a signing day ceremony at his high school auditorium in Grayson, Ga., Wednesday Feb. 6, 2013. (AP Photo/David Tulis)

(STATS) – Just in time for the holidays, college football programs will be stocking up on future players this week.

For the first time this year, there is an early signing period for high school seniors, lasting for 72 hours from Wednesday to Friday.

The new window is designed to allow players who wish to end the recruiting process to sign their binding National Letter of Intent about seven weeks in advance of the traditional period, which annually runs from the first Wednesday of February to April 1 (the upcoming cycle begins Feb. 7).

Junior college players have long been able to sign during this December period, but the addition of high school seniors brings much greater focus to it.

The early signing period is expected to have a bigger impact with FBS programs than on the FCS level, especially because FCS programs often have to wait out players who are pursuing options with other schools. But many FCS programs will begin their Class of 2018 signings this week.

“I do think that you’ll see as the years go on,” James Madison coach Mike Houston said, “people will become a little more comfortable and kind of figure out a little bit what their strategy needs to be.”

The early signing period is expected to grow next year as players begin to make earlier decisions. Beginning in April, the NCAA will start to allow high school juniors to take official visits with college programs. Previously, players had to wait until September of their senior year.