Programs are allowed to add 25 new scholarship players per year onto their football teams. In years past schools would routinely announce the signing of more than 25 players knowing that, statistically, some wouldn’t qualify academically and others would grayshirt – enroll at the school the following January rather than in the summer.
This year an NCAA regulation aimed at eliminating the practice of oversigning takes effect, and it makes predicting FAU’s 2019 class a little more complicated.
The first step toward determining how many players FAU will sign during Wednesday’s National Signing Day involves looking back to December. FAU signed nine players during the early signing period – 10 counting Tampa Tech linebacker Joe Lewis who signed a grant-in-aid agreement with the Owls in December but will sign his National Letter of Intent to FAU on Wednesday. For the moment, we’ll count Lewis among the unsigned.
FAU Early Signees (9)
- Antarrius Moultrie, LB, Pensacola-West Florida Tech
- Diamante Howard, LB, Miami-Southridge
- Adrian Bryant, WR, College of the Sequoias
- Eddie Williams, LB, Miami-Palmetto
- Caliph Brice, LB, Hutchinson CC
- Rahmod Smith, TE, Homestead
- Dwight Toombs, S, St. Lucie West -Centennial
- Kelvin Dean, RB, Tallahassee-Rickards
- Lavante Epson, OL, Northwest (Miss) C.C.
Of FAU’s nine early signees one junior college transfer, Lavante Epson, is already enrolled. Because Epson is considered a transfer and he entered in January, the NCAA allows for his scholarship to be assigned to either the school’s previous recruiting class (provided the school didn’t add the full complement of players that year) or the upcoming one. With FAU declaring fewer than 25 new scholarship players for its 2018 class, FAU can assign Epson to the 2018 recruiting class. If, on Wednesday, FAU formally announces that former Alabama running back B.J. Emmons, a January enrollee at FAU, is an Owl his scholarship will count toward 2018, also.
Removing Epson from the early signee count leaves FAU with eight early signees and, therefore, 17 spots the Owls can fill on Wednesday.
Heading into Wednesday their are 12 players who have publicly committed to FAU.
Known Commits (11)
- Jeremiah Ashe, DB, Tampa-Freedom
- Marlon Bradley, DE, Deltona
- Eyin Cole, WR, Niceville
- Eldridge Franklin, CB, Palm Beach Lakes
- Dorien Josey, DE, Rockledge
- Joe Lewis, LB, Tampa Tech
- Andrew Plummer, WR, Mainland
- Larry McCammon, RB, Hoover
- Federico Maranages OL Miami-Columbus
- Deshawn Richardson, OL, Pahokee
- Travon Thomas, LB/DE, Miami-Edison
Assuming those 11 all sign as expected, FAU will have six more scholarships available for players who are announcing their choices on Wednesday. Simple math, right?
Here’s where the rules get tricky. The NCAA is doing its best to eliminate the process of grayshirting, but it does appear to allow for it when the signee in question is injured, thereby allowing the player to keep his five-year eligibility clock from starting while he rehabs the injury. Players who grayshirt don’t become fulltime students until January of the following year and still have the full five years to play four seasons.
Dwyer running back James Meeks, an early commit to FAU’s 2019 class and a member of the above list, tore his ACL late in the season and isn’t expected to be ready for fall camp. FAU intends to grayshirt him, counting his scholarship forward to the 2020 total. FAU could potentially count Wetumpka (Ala.) wide receiver J.D. Martin and St. Petersburg-Gibbs cornerback La’Darius Henry – two players who haven’t committed but have FAU as a finalist – toward their 2020 signing class. Martin and Henry are both recovering from knee surgery, though Martin’s happened before the season and he says he’ll be ready to go in the summer.
Another of the NCAA rule changes that take effect this year forces schools to count a signee among its 25-player maximum even if that player never arrives on campus. Why is that important? Last year a couple players signed but never arrived at FAU, but NCAA rules at the time allowed transfers and to fill the spots left vacant by non-arrivals. Those openings are part of what allows FAU to count Epson as part of the 2018 recruiting class.
The new rule effectively penalizes schools who sign players that won’t qualify academically. And Palm Beach Lakes cornerback Eldridge Franklin has been caught in that squeeze. Franklin, long an FAU commit, will not sign with FAU on Wednesday. The Owls, however, will take a chance on Miami-Edison LB/DE Travon Thomas, who still needs his standardized test scores.
Removing Meeks and Franklin from the commitment list drops FAU to 9 current commits, leaving eight spots open to FAU on Wednesday. There are more than a dozen candidates to fill those eight spots – we’ll get to the candidates in a forthcoming story – but FAU may choose not to fill all eight spots, leaving one open for a possible graduate transfer.
How will FAU fill out its 2019 signing class? We’re less than 24 hours from finding out.