Provo • No fewer than 19 high school football stars from the class of 2018 remain committed to sign with BYU next month, despite the Cougars’ worst season in decades.

Yes, next month.

High school seniors can sign National Letters of Intent from Dec. 20 to 22 in addition to the traditional signing period in early February, the NCAA decided last spring.

BYU assistant head coach Ed Lamb said the coaching staff intends to take full advantage of the early signing period and lock up as many recruits as possible Dec. 20.

“Anybody that is committed, we won’t consider it a valid commitment unless they sign with us that day,” Lamb said.

BYU at Hawaii

When • Saturday, 7 p.m. MST

TV • CBSSN

What if one of the players chooses not to sign?

“We would consider his commitment invalid,” Lamb said. “We would continue to recruit them and try to earn a valid commitment and have them sign in February, but that would be an indication to us that we need to expand our net at that point. We would look at other options.”

Lamb said the staff generally likes the idea of an early signing period in December because it will allow coaches to “recycle after the early signing date and then determine how many scholarships we have left and who is still out there that we want to compete for.”

Coach Kalani Sitake said the early signing period coming just weeks after the season concludes is not an additional challenge because the recruiting calendar has been moved forward the past 5 to 10 years and recruits now commit earlier than ever before.

“It just brings [signing day] up faster for us and kind of relieves recruits of a little more of the stress of having to fight off people,” he said. “It has been good.”

When the Cougars were 1-5 and just had watched a pair of Herriman High stars who previously had committed to them, defensive ends Jaren Kump and Tevita Fotu, flip to rival Utah, Sitake said that there was “a long time until signing day” and a lot of things could happen before then.

“We are just going to keep trying our best with recruiting and get the best fit for this school and for this program,” he said.

Now that the Cougars are 3-9 heading into Saturday’s season finale at Hawaii (7 p.m. MST, BYUtv), Sitake said the subpar year hasn’t turned off recruits.

“I don’t think that it has been a catastrophe as far as recruiting goes,” he said. “Like I said before, our recruiting is a little different than other places. There are guys who have been committed for years and are still committed. I think we have more guys that commit early here, and they usually stay that way. [The losing] hasn’t been a huge detriment in our recruiting efforts. We are recruiting a certain type of player that lives this lifestyle and understands this program and wants to be here at BYU.”

Along with the Herriman duo, the Cougars also have seen Olympus defensive end Cameron Latu, St. Francis (Calif.) defensive tackle Tyler Manoa, Las Vegas defensive back Allan Mwata and Sekope Latu, a punter from Kahuku, Hawaii, withdraw commitments the past year.

“Regardless of how the season is going, you are always going to have a little bit of attrition here and there in recruiting,” Sitake said. “That’s with any program.”

Of their 19 current pledges, the Cougars probably will have the most difficulty holding on to Brandon Kaho, a four-star linebacker from Reno, Nev., who has offers from the likes of USC and Alabama.

Dec. 20 also is the first day that junior college players who intend to enroll in January can sign. Lamb said the staff is involved with a few of those, but “our academic standards significantly narrow our ability to get mid-year junior college transfers in at BYU.” He said most junior college players that BYU recruits are candidates to sign in February and join the program in the fall.

Sitake said the staff will look at its projected 2018 roster position by position to determine if they need help from junior college transfers.

“We will always have the issue with academics first here,” Sitake said. “So admissions is the No. 1 key for us. A good number of juco players go there first for academic reasons, so sometimes it doesn’t match up. … That is kind of what we are balancing right now.”

BYU’S RECRUITING CLASS

BYU’s 19 known prep football commitments from class of 2018:

Campbell Barrington, DE, Spokane, Wash.

Connor Pay, OL, Lone Peak High

Nathan Latu, LB, Olympus High

Brandon Kaho, L, Reno, Nev.

Jacob Smith, OL, Rosemount, Minn.

Dallin Holker, TE, Lehi High

Joshua Oglesby, RB, Katy, Texas

Zadock Dinkelmann, QB, San Antonio, Texas

Jaren Mitchell, WR, Lewisville, Texas

Oliver Nasilai, LB, Springdale, Ark.

Tysen Lewis, OL, Weber High

Brayden Cosper, WR, Bingham High

Brach Davis, DB, Olympus High

Gunner Romney, WR, Chandler, Ariz.

Talan Alfrey, DB, Auburn, Wash.

Chinonso Opara, DE, Juan Diego Catholic High

Isaiah Herron, DB, Las Vegas, Nev.

Cash Peterman, K, Chandler, Ariz.

Ben Tuipolotu, DB, Fort Mill, S.C.