Recruiting is complicated and Athlon has collected some of the best tales from the trail.
The competition for the signatures of unproven 18-year-olds often includes more twists and turns than a spy novel. Here, insiders present a few slices of life out on the recruiting trail.
From J.C. Shurburtt (@JCShurburtt), 247Sports.com:
One evening during the 2011 recruiting cycle, I received a well-written e-mail from a James Wilder Jr. claiming he had committed to Florida. Wilder Jr., of course, was the highly regarded running back/linebacker from H.B. Plant High in Tampa who everybody in the country wanted and we had heard the Gators, then coached by Urban Meyer, were in good shape for his services. So naturally, without thinking, I sent out a Tweet ‘Just got an e-mail from James Wilder saying he has committed to Florida.’ The thing went viral in a matter of minutes as other writers ‘re-tweeted’ the blurb.
I quickly thought after sending it that it may be a hoax. I wasn’t particularly close to Wilder during the process and though it’s common for prospects to send out mass e-mails and texts to media members when they make a decision, something didn’t feel right about this one. Come to find out, it was a hoax. Some clown had created a fake Facebook page, e-mail address, etc., for Wilder and wanted to take the media for a little ride. Unfortunately, I was the victim. Several newspapers picked up on the story and I had a little egg on my face for a while, but it’s something I will never forget. It also goes to show you that even with the coverage of college football recruiting – which hit its prime during the advancement of technology and the Internet – that it is indeed a brave new world we live in with regards to social media and the flow of information.
Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch), Athlon Sports:
Back in the late 1990s, I was covering Vanderbilt, and the staff was really after Jimmy Williams, a running back (at the time) from Baton Rouge. He final five schools were Florida, LSU, Notre Dame, Northwestern and Vanderbilt. This was the type of kid Vanderbilt never gets. About a week before Signing Day he committed to Northwestern. Perry Fewell, the current defensive coordinator of the Giants, was the defensive backs coach at Vanderbilt, and he was recruiting Williams. Perry was absolutely crushed. Well, the Sunday before Signing Day, I got a call from someone who told me to get in touch with Jimmy Williams. So I called Jimmy, and he told me that he had just committed to Vanderbilt. He was a very religious kid. The night before he prayed about his decision and went to bed as a Northwestern commitment but woke up and decided to go to Vanderbilt. He said ‘the man upstairs’ directed him to Vanderbilt. He played running back as a true freshman and Vanderbilt before switching to cornerback. He played six years in the NFL as corner and kick returner.
Chris Level (@ChrisLevel), RedRaiderSports.com:
I had a running back a few years ago — who ended up signing with a school on the west coast — text message me on the Saturday night of his official visit, ‘Yo man, where are the girls at?’ ... not sure if he had me mixed up with someone else or why he thought I'd know but we found it amusing.
Tom Kakert (@HawkeyeReport), HawkeyeReport.com:
There was a kid named Ka’Lial Glaud from New Jersey who had interesting idea about how to decide which college program he would chose, flipping a coin. That's right, flipping a coin. Iowa was in the final three and finished third, very late deciding to eliminate them. With little time to decide, Glaud decided between Rutgers and West Virginia by flipping a coin on Signing Day. Heads means West Virginia, tails and he is headed to Rutgers. He ended up with the Scarlet Knights.
Braden Gall (@BradenGall), Athlon Sports:
Nothing compares to Kevin Hart’s story. The 6-foot-5, 290-pound offensive lineman at Fernley (Nev.) High wanted so badly to play college football that he wrote his own fairytale ending complete with press conference. On February 1, 2008, Hart held a historic announcement at his high school in which he picked Cal over Oregon. “Coach Tedford and I talked a lot, and the fact that the head coach did most of the recruiting of me kind gave me that real personal experience,” Hart said at the announcement.
There was only one problem. Jeff Tedford had never spoken to, visited or contacted Mr. Hart. Neither had Oregon, Washington or Oklahoma State, his other finalists, for that matter. Eventually, Hart admitted the entire recruitment was fictitious and apologized to all parties involved.
Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer), Pac-12 Digital:
I heard from a coach about a juco safety that had received several Pac-10 offers, so I decided to give him a call and do a story on him. Called him and talked with him for maybe 30 minutes and had a great conversation with him about several schools he was interested in. I hang up and write up the story that was going to run the next morning. A few hours later I got a text from one of our regional recruiting guys telling me the kid had committed to Utah this morning — before our conversation. I talked with the kid for 30 minutes about five schools, and he didn't once bring up the fact that he had already committed. I even asked when he was planning on committing and he said not for several months. Needless to say, the story never ran.
Barry Every, National Underclassmen:
When I worked at Georgia we had this top OL prospect with offers from all over the country coming in for a visit. His dad drove him down and dropped him off. After 48 hours the dad had not come back to pick him up. The coaches called (the father) and said it was a violation for him to be on campus for more than 48 hours. The compliance office stepped in and made the kid sit on the curb outside the football building (Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall) and said we could have no contact with him. Who knows when his dad came back to get him. But he ended up signing with NC State and later was drafted in the NFL.
Barton Simmons (@BartonSimmons), 247Sports.com:
A few years ago I was keeping close tabs on one wide receiver recruit that was trying to decide between a west coast program with a wide open offense and his hometown school in the southeast. I was texting with this prospect into the night and past midnight and he was completely torn up about the decision. He wanted more than anything to head out west but his family wanted him to stay home. When he went to bed that night, he had decided that he would head to the west coast. The next morning he signed with the hometown school. The lesson from my perspective is that any time a prospect is having a hard time with a decision, the smart bet is on Mom and the local program. As a side note, that prospect has yet to see significant playing time or make any kind of any impact.
Scott Kennedy, Scout.com/FoxSports:
A few years ago there was a player I didn’t particularly think much of. I asked a well-respected offensive line coach what he thought of him. ‘Nah, I didn’t like him. I mean we offered him because everyone else had, but we weren’t going to take him.’ I asked the coach if they really offered him. He said ‘Does he think we have?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ He said ‘That’s what we want him to think.’
Tom Lemming, CBS Sports:
In the 1980s, there was a really good ball player in Illinois, being nationally recruited. Back then, head coaches were the ones going out and signing the top players. They had to be there at 8 o’clock in the morning (on Signing Day). Everybody was coming after this kid, so at 8 o’clock there were several head coaches waiting by the front door ready to sign this player. The door opens at 8 a.m. promptly and out walks a very famous Big Eight head coach who had spent the night on the kid’s couch, outsmarting all the other coaches. He signed him before any of the other schools had a shot to get him.
Barton Simmons (@BartonSimmons), 247Sports.com:
Just this year (2011) one of the more bizarre recruiting situations played out that I’ve seen since doing this. Floyd Raven was an unknown prospect heading into the summer before his senior year. He blew up at Ole Miss’ summer camp and eventually committed to Ole Miss. However leading up to signing day, he showed a lot of uncertainty. He decommitted from Ole Miss, committed to Texas A&M, decommitted again only to re-commit to Ole Miss.
Heading into National Signing Day it was assumed that he would sign with Ole Miss without any kind of issues. The Letter of Intent did arrive in Oxford that day but as Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt informed the media later that day, Raven’s signature wasn’t his own but his mother’s. She had forged his signature and so Ole Miss didn’t accept the LOI and asked for another one. Raven instead signed an LOI and sent it to Texas A&M. Added to the situation is the fact that Ole Miss was in desperate need of cornerbacks and assumed that two great ones were coming in with Raven and 4-star Jermaine Whitehead. Not only did Raven shock the Ole Miss staff ,but Auburn was able to make a Signing Day steal with Whitehead as well, issuing a major hit in an area of need for the Ole Miss class.
Scott Kennedy, Scout.com/FoxSports:
One of my favorite misnomers in this business is the perception that college coaches spend hours upon hours poring over high school game film, doing exhaustive research on players. There was one player who from Florida who had all the offers anyone could imagine, but anyone I knew who had seen him in person said the kid couldn’t play dead in a cowboy movie. So, I’m at a college prospect camp and one of the coaches is justifiably excited about the players who have shown up to his camp, and as he’s going over the list with me, he mentions the player with all of the offers, and I said ‘Coach, what do you like about him, I’ve heard some mixed reviews.’ He proudly answered, ‘Well, I’ll tell you what, Miami brought him right into their office and offered him.’ Gee, thanks for the scouting report.