Westfield High senior Taylor Morin stood and looked down at the two hats on the table in front of him. One was a crisp white with the words “Wake Forest” emblazoned on the front. Next to it was a black hat, with a “WF” in a strikingly similar font.
“So first, I want to decide between my two hats,” Morin started to say, before a burst of laughter engulfed the room.
Picking up the white Wake Forest hat to a round of cheers, Morin, who played both wide receiver and defensive back in high school, sat down and officially signed his national letter of intent with the Demon Deacons.
Morin, a 2018 All-Met first-team selection, had been waiting for this moment for the last six months. Since verbally committing to Wake Forest in June, Morin knew the school would be his choice. And on Wednesday, the first day of college football’s second early signing day period ever, Morin made it official.
By signing in the early signing day period, which runs for 72 hours until Dec. 21, Morin is securing his spot in Wake Forest’s 2019 recruiting class and getting ready for his last semester of high school. The benefits of signing early are plentiful: no more college coaches calling or texting every night to check in, no more stress of comparing schools' football programs, and finally, some relative peace and quiet.
Last year, the inaugural early signing period authorized by the NCAA proved to be a success, with the majority of top recruits in the country signing early to their college of choice.
“It’s definitely an exciting time,” Morin said. “Especially because you know I do see a lot of kids that flip their verbal commitments and they’ve kind of lost their value these days, so to make it official, it is definitely an exciting time. You are officially on the team’s roster, they have a media release about you, too.”
But while Morin and many other Washington-area recruits signed early, others decided to wait until February for the still-intact National Signing Day. The waiting game is beneficial to some, but can leave others in a bind. Players who are on the fence about a school for a variety of reasons — including a recent coaching chance or late offers from other colleges — can be conflicted on when to sign. That proved to be the case for several local players considering Maryland, as the Terps hired Michael Locksley as coach a few weeks ago.
Westfield outside linebacker Eugene Asante, who was at Morin’s signing ceremony, was one of the many recruits who received a surge of late interest. He had been considering signing early, but decided to wait until February after getting offers from Miami, TCU, Maryland and UCLA within the past week.
“I just want to take more time to decide,” Asante said. “I want to go on some more official visits before I choose a college."
The first day of the early signing period did produce some surprises, as Flint Hill three-star defensive back Trey Rucker also signed with Wake Forest, after having been uncommitted since backing away from his verbal to Maryland in November. Rucker’s teammate, kicker Justin Duenkel, signed with Virginia.
H.D. Woodson cornerback Tenyeh Dixon was a late flip from Temple to Virginia, and three-star Meade tight end Malik Jackson decided to change his commitment from Connecticut to Maryland.
From Gonzaga, the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference champion, four-star defensive lineman Joseph Wete signed with Oklahoma, three-star tight end Justin Ball signed with Vanderbilt, three-star cornerback Dean Engram with Wisconsin and three-star linebacker Hunter Stewart with Virginia.
DeMatha standout defensive back and wide receiver DeMarcco Hellams signed with Alabama. The four-star recruit verbally committed to the Crimson Tide in June and had Alabama Coach Nick Saban visit him and his father at DeMatha last week, not long after Locksley, who is finishing out his tenure as Alabama’s offensive coordinator, accepted the Maryland job. Hellams’s high school coach, Elijah Brooks, also recently joined the Maryland staff.
Hellams is expected to play defensive back for the Crimson Tide. His four-star teammate, defensive back Nick Cross, a Florida State commit, decided to wait until February to make his college decision official.
Other highly ranked prospects who chose to wait until National Signing Day included a trio of St. John’s players in running back Keilan Robinson (verbally committed to Alabama), safety Quinten Johnson (Michigan) and defensive end Tre’Mon Morris-Brash (undecided), Flint Hill running back Jordan Houston (Maryland) and St. Charles linebacker Kameron Blount (Maryland).
Maryland picked up multiple local recruits during the early signing period, including Jackson, three-star Good Counsel offensive lineman Mason Lunsford, Ballou defensive back Lavonte Gater and four-star Wise wide receiver Isaiah Hazel. Hazel made a late flip to Maryland last week after originally committing to West Virginia. Lunsford received his Maryland offer just over a week ago and decided to commit to the Terps three days later.
Other local recruits who said they signed Wednesday to high-major Division I colleges: Good Counsel wide receiver Cam Hart (Notre Dame), St. John’s defensive back Aman Greenwood (Syracuse), Landon defensive back Jalen Williams (Boston College), National Christian offensive lineman William Harrod (Florida), Broadneck wide receiver Ethon Williams (Boston College), Bullis safety Bryson Shaw (Ohio State), Episcopal defensive back Litchfield Ajavon (Notre Dame), Episcopal defensive back Salim Turner-Muhammad (Stanford), Wilde Lake two-way player Osita Smith (West Virginia), Sidwell Friends offensive lineman Walter Rouse (Stanford), Northwest defensive back A.J. Woods (Pittsburgh), Northwest defensive end DeAndre Jules (Pittsburgh), Lake Braddock linebacker Josh Ahern (Virginia), Stonewall Jackson defensive back Chayce Chalmers (Virginia), Freedom defensive tackle Joshua Fuga (Virginia Tech) and Patriot offensive lineman Jakai Moore (South Carolina).