The one thing you can trust about college recruiting is simple. You can't trust anybody.
At its core, recruiting is an unsavory game of broken promises and double-reverses. It is about grown men trying to sell tomorrow to teenagers, although what either side says might not be true by tonight. It is about coaches and players talking about commitment, although neither side seems to have any idea what the word means.
Remember this as the college football programs of America approach the stretch run of their recruiting season. Everyone wants a better deal. Coaches want better players. Players want more prestigious programs.
Brian Kelly, the Notre Dame coach, wants to talk to the NFL, although the week before, he swore he did not. Linebacker recruit Alex Anzalone, who had previously committed to the Irish, immediately decommitted and enrolled at Florida.
So who is wrong here? Both? Neither?
Or, is it just one more chapter in the necessary evil of recruiting?
Another story: Auburn had picked up a commitment from a linebacker named Reuben Foster, who was so fired up to play for the Tigers that he had a large, rest-of-your-life tattoo plastered onto his forearm. But when Auburn fired Gene Chizik, he decommitted. His new favorites seem to be Alabama and Georgia, where the new ink is sure to be a lively conversation.
Perhaps you heard that USF had rescinded its scholarship offer to Robinson lineman Connor Rafferty, even though athletic director Doug Woolard is on record as saying that the scholarships offered during the Skip Holtz era would be honored.
Is that a shame? Yes. Should it surprise anyone? Probably not. Coaches tell players all the time if they think they fit into the future. It's hard to blame new USF coach Willie Taggart for being honest enough to tell a kid he doesn't think he'll get significant playing time. After the athletic director promised, there should have been a scholarship for Rafferty if he wanted to come despite that.
Compare USF with Cincinnati, for instance, where new coach Tommy Tuberville has evidently lost the Rolodex with his recruits' numbers. A cornerback named Demetrius Monday decommitted from the Bearcats because he never heard a word from Tuberville. Another commit, cornerback Jaleel Canty, finally called Cincinnati himself and was told that Tuberville was bringing in his own guys. Not that Tuberville felt as if he should, you know, call anyone to let them know.
So it's the coaches who are the bad guys? Right.
Also, it's the players.
If you follow USF, for instance, you have heard plenty about Asiantii Woulard, a quarterback from Orlando who has 1) committed to USF, 2) decommitted, 3) recommitted, 4) re-decommitted and 5) is considering.
Hey, some quarterbacks take longer to read a defense than others. Nothing against Woulard, who is making a four-year decision, but here's a question. Why commit in the first place? Why not just take it to the last minute before making any announcement at all?
This is why recruiting drives so many coaches wacky. These days, you have to recruit some players every blessed day. If you get a commitment, it doesn't mean the player isn't still going to take other trips and listen to other pitches. It just means you have moved into the first fallback position.
At USF, they still remember the recruitment of a quarterback from Jupiter named Tyler Cameron, who was on board two years ago. Late in the process, he switched to Wake Forest. Then there was Manatee quarterback Brion Carnes the year before. Carnes had committed to USF, but he wanted to keep making trips. USF told Carnes that if he kept dating, it would call the engagement off. When the Bulls did, Carnes' high school coaches cried foul.
And so it goes.
There has to be a better way, doesn't there? What if schools could offer 10 of their scholarships in the fall. Would that stop the waffling? Would that make the schools pick better? Would that make the athletes more committed? What if players weren't allowed to take any more visits once they promised? Here's an idea: What if coaches stopped recruiting the commitments of other schools except for, say, one wild weekend in January?
In the meantime, it could be worse. USF could get a commitment from a kid it had never scouted.
That happened, remember?
Five years ago, an offensive lineman at Fernley High in Nevada named Kevin Hart called a news conference to announce his college choice. Like a lot of athletes, he had two caps in front of him, one from Cal and one from Oregon. In the end, Hart picked up the Cal hat and said that's where he was going.
Except Cal had never heard of him.
Also, Oregon had never heard of him.
Hart made the whole thing up. The truth was, he didn't have a college offer. He did, however, have the whole spirit of recruiting down pat.
He lied, bless his heart.
Given the spirit of college recruiting, someone should have signed him the next day. Or hired him as a recruiting coordinator.
Listen to Gary Shelton weekdays from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on 98.7-FM the Fan.