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Early Signing Period: What to watch for in Virginia football’s 2019 recruiting class

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December 2018 was the first iteration of the new early signing period in college football. But even after just one year, it’s already replaced February as the primary signing period. The prevailing view among coaches: “If you’re verbally committed and you don’t sign, you’re not committed.”

And now here we are again: Wednesday, December 19th is the start of the early signing period for the class of 2019. Players can submit their letters of intent Wednesday morning through Friday the 21st.

Here are the big storylines to watch for the Virginia Cavaliers.

Will everybody sign?

This is the big one, as it is for every team. Coming into signing day, UVA has 22 commitments, giving the Hoos the 35th class nationally (6th in the ACC). That’s the same number as the 2018 class on Signing Day Eve, when Virginia signed 18 players in the early period; all 22 ended up signing, plus JUCO transfer Cassius Peat.

There are no indications that any of the currently committed players are risks to flip elsewhere, or to hold out on signing in hopes of better offers between now and February. One major wrinkle could be making sure all the admissions requirements are satisfied for the foreign players in the class. Keep an eye on the three European players—offensive lineman Kariem Al-Soufi, quarterback Luke Wentz, and defensive lineman Emil Bo Andersen—as the day progresses.

Will there be any last-minute additions?

Wide receiver Dontayvion Wicks became commit #22 just this week, with a Sunday commitment to the Cavaliers. While the NCAA maximum headcount per class is 25, mid-year enrollees can count against the previous season’s number. Since four players the 2018 class enrolled in January—Bryce Perkins, Bobby Haskins, Noah Taylor, and Brennan Armstrong—there is some wiggle room this year.

So who might jump in at the end this year? Watch the following:

  • Nathaniel Beal (WR): This is the quintessential big target that’s been missing from the last few classes of speedsters. At 6-foot-5, 205 pounds, Beal would be a jump ball threat on every play. The Texas prospect is currently committed to Iowa State, but 100% of the Crystal Balls on 247Sports point to UVA.
  • Tenyeh Dixon (DB): Coaching changes shake up everything. And with the Temple Owls losing Geoff Collins to Georgia Tech, Dixon decommitted on Monday afternoon—a week after getting an offer from Virginia and the day after his official visit weekend in Charlottesville.
  • Devin Baldwin (DL): Baldwin displayed a similar pattern as Dixon, decommitting from Western Michigan on Thursday—and tweeting out his offer from Virginia two minutes later. The three-star defensive lineman has the right frame (6-foot-5, 265) for an incoming end in Mendenhall’s defense.

Could there be more transfers, too?

Line depth is still a major concern, even as a few years of focused recruiting have helped shore up the personnel. This coaching staff has made no secret of the fact that they’ll go get whoever can help them win while also succeeding in the academic realm.

Now, that hasn’t resulted in the transfers batting 1.000—in fact, far from it. For every Perkins or Kurt Benkert who becomes a sensation on the field, there’s been a Cassius Peat (medical retirement) or Jared Cohen (quit football).

Adding a graduate transfer or JUCO bounce-back who can play immediately—or even a traditional transfer who has to sit a year—may be a part of UVA’s signing day strategy.