There's no place like Saturday...

January 18, 2011

College Football Report - Recruits Switching Their Commitment is Just Part of the Process:

Where is theft permitted? Well, in college football, of course.

Not only is it legal, it’s widely practiced. OK, sure, it’s not technically theft, but to coaches, fans and university boosters, college football recruiting feels like a shootout of Wild West measures.

Taking one’s word, or pledge, in college football recruiting has become as dependable as listening to the weatherman when you leave the house. It’s not taking just anyone’s word, though. It’s a 17 or 18 year old who's just been promised a shot at luxury and an NFL future by one coach, then perhaps something more, or better, from another.

The recruiting process can go on for months, a year, even longer for some. The urge and pressures to slow it down, or end the process all together by making a verbal commitment to a school, happens now more than ever. In the new age media world and 24-hour online coverage of recruiting, recruits nationwide are hard pressed to give fans and the non-stop phone calls something to hang on.

Recruits can’t officially sign their letters of intent with a school until the first week of February, come National Signing Day. They can, however, give their verbal commitment. With just two-weeks to go, the 2011 National Signing Day (Feb. 2) is fast approaching, and recruits are becoming quick to change their minds.

It happens everywhere, too. A change can be affected by anything. A girlfriend, a teammate, playing time, a coach fired, a coach hired, weather, parents, a duffle bag of money, a gut feeling and a change of heart.

In 2009, the biggest change came from the nation’s No. 1 recruit in Miami (FL) verbal and Kansas native, Bryce Brown (above). Brown, a two-time USA Today All-American running back, was a yearlong commit to the ‘Canes. His brother, Arthur, was a freshman linebacker for the Hurricanes. So Bryce appeared to be a lock.

Then came National Signing Day. Brown didn’t sign. He didn’t sign a week later, either. He didn’t sign a month later. Brown dragged him commitment out to March 16, when he announced on national TV he would be signing with Tennessee. He’s now at Kansas State, where his brother transferred. Don’t even try to figure it out, though.

Last season, two of the nation’s top recruits changed their minds. One before signing day, another long after. North Carolina native Keenan Allen, one of the top athletes in the country, changed from Alabama to California. Offensive lineman Seantrel Henderson, considered by some the nation’s No. 1 recruit, changed his recruitment from USC to Miami (FL), even after signing his national letter of intent. Henderson was granted a release from USC and allowed to leave and play without sitting out, due to the heavy sanctions handed down by the NCAA to the Trojans.

This season, in the 2011 class, altered decisions can be found everywhere. Major coaching changes seem to be the main factor at major programs this year. Running back Dee Hart, a USA Today All-American, switched from Michigan to Alabama following the Rich Rodriguez firing in Ann Arbor. All-American quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (below), a Miami (FL) commit, switched from the Hurricanes to Louisville, following the Randy Shannon firing. Linebacker and Florida native, Ryan Shazier, switched from the Gators to Ohio State after the retirement of Urban Meyer. And finally, after John Harbaugh announced his intentions to leave Stanford, running back Amir Carlisle announced his intentions to switch from the Cardinal to the Trojans, just down the road at USC.

There’s more, though. Some switch multiple times. Like Cape Coral Florida defensive end, Aaron Lynch. Lynch, an Army All-American, has gone from a Notre Dame commit, to a Florida State commit, then most recently, back to an Irish commit. There will be more too, as National Signing Day is traditionally filled with switch surprises. Lynch appears set with the Irish, however.

Some schools take advantage of coaching changes more than others. Whipping out the BlackBerries in hopes of being the first to reach a recent coach-less commit. Miami (FL), who was coach-less themselves this offseason, attacked the Rich Rod firing at Michigan hard. By the looks of it, hard work has paid off. The Hurricanes new staff picked up three commitments from Michigan verbals in as many days, just a week after Rodriguez was out of the Maze and Blue. Cornerback Dallas Crawford, linebacker Antonio Kinard and kicker Matt Goudis all switched from U-of-M, to UM.

If it seems like there should be a regulation against it, there’s rational arguments on both sides. From the kid’s perspective, they’re making one of the biggest decisions they’ll ever have. Widening their options should be encouraged. If a coach they had a positive relationship with leaves the college they’ve committed to, why shouldn’t they have a chance to look elseware. Family problems? Maybe they’ll decide to stay closer to home.

From the coaches' and universities' perspectives, the ones who are getting burned by a recruit for another team, it’s a big blow. Coaches bank on recruits living up to their word. In some cases, like in the case of Bridgewater switching from Miami (FL) to Louisville, previous ‘Canes coaches promised the Miami Northwestern product they wouldn’t recruit another quarterback. Something Bridgewater looked for when giving his verbal to his hometown team.

When Hurricanes Head Coach Randy Shannon was fired, though, and after Bridgewater changed his commitment, Miami’s new staff, led by Al Golden, was left without not only a quarterback, but a quarterback who had even previously been targeted by the Hurricanes. They’ve had only a month to create a bond with a recruit who plays one of the more important positions in the game. A current problem for Golden and his staff, who are looking to bring in two quarterback commitments in the 2011 class.

As of right now, in the 1,000s of NCAA rules, there are no policies against ‘stealing’ recruits. Coaches and players will do what they have to, to change a young man’s mind. Recruits will also still be at fault of leading another program on. They’re both going to happen in college football recruiting. You’ve got my word on that.

Photo credit: Brown - Jamie Oppenheimer/Wichita Eagle

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This man Lynch! Best stay with the IRISH..WHO HE FOOLIN?

All writing and views subject to © Drew P. Kochanny, All Rights Reserved. Photo's credited to rights owner.