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February 16, 2012

Recruits who frequently flop don't always fail

UCLA recruit Jordan Payton hasn't even played his first college game, yet he already should be quite familiar with his Pac-12 opponents.

After all, Payton signed with UCLA only after verbally committing to USC, California and Washington first. The Rivals100 receiver made his Signing Day switch to UCLA just one day after making his commitment to Washington, a move that came less than a month after he announced he would play for California.

Payton wasn't the only recruit whose frequent changes of heart raised eyebrows.

When five-star quarterback Gunner Kiel enrolled at Notre Dame after reneging on verbal commitments to Indiana and LSU, it inevitably raised questions about whether he might show similar indecisiveness in leading an offense. LSU coach Les Miles even told a booster group that Kiel "did not necessarily have the chest and the ability to lead a program," without mentioning the quarterback by name.

Payton and Kiel had plenty of company in the Rivals250.

Crowley (La.) High athlete Davante Bourque committed to Texas A&M and LSU before signing with Tennessee. Missouri City (Texas) Hightower wide receiver and Rivals250 pick Bralon Addison made a Signing Day switch from Texas A&M to Oregon after initially committing to Oklahoma State. South Miami cornerback A.J. Leggett was committed to Miami and Florida State before ending up at Marshall.

Patterson (La.) linebacker Lorenzo Phillips, a four-star prospect outside the Rivals250, committed to Texas A&M and Florida before signing with LSU.

While it's unusual to have this many high-profile recruits in one class commit to three different schools, their cases are hardly unprecedented. We've put together an alphabetical list of 10 previous four-star or five-star prospects since the formation of Rivals.com in 2002 who also committed to at least three different schools.

Some of them made more headlines during the recruiting process than they ever created during their actual careers. Others eventually proved they were worth all the fuss.

Hurst (Texas) L.D. Bell TE Chris Barnett (2011)
Commitments: Oklahoma-Arkansas-Michigan
His recruiting story: Barnett committed to Oklahoma a year before he would be able to sign his letter of intent. He reconsidered his decision four months later and started looking around again. Barnett, the No. 14 tight end and No. 224 overall prospect in 2011, committed to Arkansas after an October official visit. But he decided in January to tour Miami and Michigan before signing. He picked Michigan in a Signing Day decision. "I expect nothing less but to contend for Big Ten championships," Barnett told TheWolverine.com at the time. "After we contend for Big Ten championships, I expect to contend for national championships and I plan on winning one before I leave."
How it worked out: Barnett departed long before he got a chance to win a championship. He left school in August and never played a down for the Wolverines.

Hampton (Va.) Phoebus QB Tajh Boyd (2009)
Commitments: West Virginia-Tennessee-Clemson
His recruiting story: Boyd, the No. 4 pro-style quarterback and No. 51 overall prospect in the 2009 recruiting class, committed to West Virginia in March 2008. Seven months later, Boyd decided he'd committed too early and opted to make other trips. He committed to Tennessee in early November, but the Vols fired Phil Fulmer just a few days later. After initially saying he would stick to his Tennessee commitment despite the coaching change, Boyd decided he didn't have the right chemistry with new coach Lane Kiffin. He visited Ohio State and Oregon before settling on Clemson a week before Signing Day.
How it worked out: Boyd threw for 3,828 yards and a school-record 33 touchdowns last year to earn first-team all-ACC honors while leading Clemson to its first conference title since 1991. He was responsible for 38 total touchdowns (33 passes, 5 rushes) to set an ACC single-season record.

Jeffersonville (Ga.) Twiggs County LB Antonio Clay (2005)
Commitments: Oklahoma-Florida State/Miami-Clemson
His recruiting story: Clay, a former four-star prospect, favored Oklahoma early in the recruiting process. While some reports suggested Clay already had committed to Oklahoma in the spring of 2004, he continued visiting other campuses. That's when his recruitment really got interesting. At virtually the same time Clay verbally committed to Miami in December 2004, an uncle indicated Clay wouldn't join the Hurricanes and instead had committed to Florida State. Less than a month later, Clay announced he was going to Oklahoma after all. But he ended up signing with Clemson. Clay said at the time Clemson's depth chart gave him the best chance to play early. "None of it was ever meant to hurt anyone," Clay said after signing. "I was just confused and it took me a long time to figure things out." Two years later, another Twiggs County player also would struggle through the recruiting process, as offensive guard Chris Little chose Georgia on Signing Day after previously committing to Florida State and Notre Dame.
How it worked out: Clay recorded 95 tackles as Clemson's starting middle linebacker in 2006. Clay's sister and her child were killed in an auto accident prior to that 2006 season, and the tragedy took an emotional toll on him that affected him the rest of his career. Clay left school in the 2007 spring semester to deal with the fallout, though he returned and delivered 43 tackles while working primarily in a reserve role that fall. He didn't play for Clemson after the 2007 season. Clay was more productive than Little, who struggled with weight problems and injuries before leaving Georgia for Northwest Mississippi Community College in Senatobia, Miss.

Indianapolis Warren Central DB Jerimy Finch (2007)
Commitments: Michigan-Indiana-Florida
His recruiting story: Finch committed to Michigan in the spring of 2006, though he indicated at the time he would still make all his official visits. Three weeks before Signing Day, Finch decided to join Warren Central teammates Chris Adkins, Jeff Boyd and Andrew McDonald at Indiana, apparently giving the Hoosiers one of their most decorated recruits ever. Finch was the No. 1 safety and No. 37 overall prospect in the 2007 class. On the eve of National Signing Day, Finch opted for Florida, which had only started pursuing him a couple of weeks earlier.
How it worked out: Finch ultimately ended up at Indiana anyway. After breaking his leg early in his freshman season at Florida, Finch transferred to Indiana and received a waiver that allowed him to play for his new team without sitting out a year. He never worked his way into a starting role for the Hoosiers and left the team in the spring of 2010.

Houston Nimitz RB Josh Huff (2010)
Commitments: Utah-Minnesota-TCU-Oregon
His recruiting story: Huff, a four-star prospect and the No. 7 all-purpose back in the 2010 class, committed to Utah in June 2009 but continued to visit other schools. He officially backed off Utah in October and committed to Minnesota later that month. By the end of December, he had switched to TCU and mentioned the convenience of playing close to home. But he continued listening to other schools and eventually made a Signing Day switch to Oregon.
How it worked out: Huff was a high school quarterback recruited by many schools to play running back, but he has developed into a receiver at Oregon. He caught 31 passes for 430 yards and two touchdowns as a sophomore last fall.

Houston Eisenhower S Craig Loston (2009)
Commitments: Texas A&M-Clemson-LSU
His recruiting story: Loston was only a sophomore in high school when he committed to Texas A&M in February 2007, so he had plenty of time to change his mind. That's something this five-star prospect would do more than once. Loston, the No. 1 safety and No. 20 overall player in the 2009 class, started considering other schools again in the fall of 2007 and committed to Clemson in the spring of 2008. He withdrew his commitment and announced he wouldn't attend Clemson after the Tigers fired Tommy Bowden in the fall of 2008. He then declared LSU his leader and said he always wanted to play in the SEC. He finally committed to LSU in January 2009.
How it worked out: Loston has struggled to earn playing time in LSU's star-studded secondary, though he still has a couple more seasons to make an impact. Loston started two games as a redshirt freshman in 2010 and recorded 14 tackles in a reserve role this season.

Wichita Falls (Texas) Rider DB Markelle Martin (2008)
Commitments: Texas A&M-Oklahoma-Oklahoma State
His recruiting story: Martin, the No. 15 safety and No. 201 overall prospect in the 2008 recruiting class, committed to Texas A&M a year before he could actually sign there. The firing of former Aggies coach Dennis Franchione caused Martin to look elsewhere, and he made the switch to Oklahoma in late November. But even as he made that commitment, Martin indicated he would keep Texas A&M, Oklahoma State and Kansas State under consideration. About two weeks later, Martin changed his mind again and committed to Oklahoma State.
How it worked out: Martin was a three-year starter at Oklahoma State who earned second-team All-America honors from The Associated Press his senior year. He also was a first-team all-Big 12 pick and was one of 15 semifinalists for the Jim Thorpe Award. He's projected as a third-round draft pick by nfldraftscout.com.

Salt Lake City (Utah) Highlands DT Haloti Ngata (2002)
Commitments: Nebraska-BYU-Oregon
His recruiting story: Ngata, the No. 2 overall player in the 2002 recruiting class, verbally committed to Nebraska in December 2001 after also considering Washington. He decommitted less than a month later and said he was leaning toward Oregon. But he committed instead to BYU in January and only became a Duck after selecting Oregon in a Signing Day switch.
How it worked out: Ngata's clearly the biggest star on this list. Ngata was a consensus All-American and Outland Trophy finalist at Oregon before going to the Baltimore Ravens with the 12th overall pick in the 2006 NFL Draft. Ngata was a first-team All-Pro in 2010 and 2011, and he was a second-team pick in 2008 and 2009.

Asheville (N.C.) DE Jeoffrey Pagan (2011)
Commitments: Florida-Clemson-Alabama
His recruiting story: Pagan, the No. 4 strong-side defensive end and No. 42 overall prospect in the 2011 class, committed to Florida in the spring of 2010 while acknowledging he would continue visiting other campuses. He officially backed off his Florida pledge in late November and committed to Clemson in mid-January. At the time, he called Clemson "the closest thing to my family and my home." In a Signing Day surprise, Pagan chose Alabama instead.
How it worked out: Pagan already has earned a national championship ring as the result of his late switch. He assisted on four tackles and played six games as a true freshman.

Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas CB Marcus Roberson (2011)
Commitments: Texas Tech-Auburn-Florida
His recruiting story: Although he had considered Auburn his leader for much of his selection process, Roberson instead committed to Texas Tech in mid-January because of his interest in playing for his uncle, Texas Tech graduate assistant Otis Mounds. Even as he committed, however, Roberson said he would make his last two scheduled trips to Florida and Auburn. Sure enough, Roberson indicated two days before National Signing Day that he planned to play for Auburn. His commitment to Auburn didn't last long: Roberson made a Signing Day switch to Florida. Roberson was rated as the No. 2 cornerback and No. 37 overall prospect in the 2011 recruiting class.
How it worked out: Roberson was the Gators' starting cornerback for the first 10 games of his freshman season this fall before straining his neck in a Nov. 12 loss to South Carolina. The injury knocked him out for the remainder of the season.

Steve Megargee is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at smegargee@rivals.com, and you can click here to follow him on Twitter.



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