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Just about everyone knows someone who has been bullied, in ways big and small. Understandably, though, many victims are reluctant to speak about their experiences. We found some who aren't.
By John C. Cotey, Times staff writer
Lakewood High School’s Dante Fowler Jr. is planning to sign with Florida State on Wednesday.
Unless he doesn’t.
But he probably will.
Though he might change his mind.
However, he probably won’t.
Unless, you know, he does.
Welcome to the world of prep football recruiting, where kids are not only rewriting the record books, but the dictionary as well.
A verbal commitment used to be like getting engaged. You play the field, wine and dine potential suitors, finally settle on one partner and pop the question.
A verbal commitment in football recruiting is kind of like that, except you have a bachelor party every weekend and other girls don’t stop calling and every once in a while you sneak away with a new one for a weekend, and the whole time she is telling you how handsome you are and how great things could be.
And while that’s going on, her friends are writing on your Facebook wall about how great she is and how getting married to that other girl would be the worst thing that ever happened to you.
No wonder, then, that Mario Edwards Jr., a majestic combination of size, speed and strength and the country’s top defensive end recruit, lists his top three as:
Even though he has orally committed to FSU.
This, of course, created a bit of a stir in Tallahassee. But if you’ve really been paying attention, why would it?
• • •
We used to call them soft verbals, meaning they had no roots. But show me a commitment today that isn’t a soft verbal. Maybe we need a new word. One recruiting analyst, Josh Newberg of 247Sports.com, said players aren’t so much committing as naming a leader.
Except in Edwards’ case, apparently. But for Fowler, the leader remains FSU.
The talented Lakewood defensive end committed to the Seminoles more than a year ago, but since that time has visited — gasp! — Florida multiple times and played footsie with a few others.
“With the commitment, anything can happen,” Fowler said. “Things happen. All in all, it’s a verbal offer; it’s not like you signed any papers or anything. So you can still do whatever you want.”
Fowler is right. Until prospects sign those papers Feb. 1, binding them to the school of their choice, they can do whatever they want. And for Fowler, that means exploring all of his options, taking all of his free visits and lingering in the spotlight.
“They (FSU) don’t like me taking my official visits and going to other schools’ camps and stuff like that,” Fowler said, “but it is what it is.”
• • •
Even recruits who seem firmer in their commitments can’t seem to bring themselves to make them absolute.
“As of right now, I’m a Gator, and I don’t think that’s going to change,” said Bradenton Southeast defensive back standout Brian Poole, who you may have noticed said “as of right now” and “I don’t think” it will change while reaffirming his “commitment” recently.
For more and more kids, the process has become a journey of commitment, decommitment then recommitment.
One of the nation’s top quarterbacks, Gunner Kiel, commits to Indiana, then decommits, then recommits to LSU — then reportedly decommitted from the Tigers on Monday in favor of Notre Dame.
A top running back, T.J. Yeldon, commits to Auburn, then flips to Alabama.
A top defensive back, De’Vante Harris, decommitted from Oklahoma after previously professing his love, according to one report, by shaving OU into the side of his head. Other schools are already calling. His hair will grow back.
• • •
I’m not begrudging players for changing their minds. They understand the power they have better than in the past and are using it, so good for them.
Certainly the more prudent course is the one taken by Berkeley Prep athlete Nelson Agholor — he’s taking his time because once he makes his decision, the process is over — but this is a game, and it goes both ways.
A school offers, many times stressing the sooner the commitment, the better. Have to secure that slot before someone else does (because most likely, the school made more offers than it has slots for).
So a kid commits, having wised up to the colleges, often just to lock up a spot in case nothing else comes along. But other schools, they don’t stop recruiting the kid. There’s no gentleman’s agreement between coaches not to. They call, text, send messages on Facebook, fly the kid in for a weekend of fun, beg him to change his mind. Enough of these calls, enough of these trips, and the kid changes his mind. What do we expect? Who’s to blame?
• • •
We’ve entered the stretch run.
Kids are going to reaffirm their choices, make their picks or change their minds. The hopes of entire nations of college fans will rise and fall with every decision.
Twitter will blow up, once or twice. Facebook will turn nasty. (Sorry, I mean nastier.)
And Wednesday , we will head out to high schools across Tampa Bay to watch our best recruits sign with the colleges they orally committed to.
Unless they don’t.
But they probably will.
Though they might change their minds.
However, they probably won’t.
Unless, you know, they do.
John C. Cotey writes about prep sports for the Tampa Bay Times.