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August 2, 2013

Commitments no longer end the recruiting process

MORE: FSU, Mississippi State after Ole Miss pledge?

Dallas Jackson is the National Columnist for Rivals.com. Email him your comments or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.

The process starts innocently enough, usually with a simple phone call.

The recruitment of committed players happens all around college football. There are no gentlemen's agreements among coaches, and there are no sacred cows. Until the ink is dry and a national letter of intent is faxed, the process continues for five-star and unranked players alike.

Arrowhead (Wis.) High linebacker Sam Seonbuchner is experiencing it firsthand. The three-star Iowa State pledge said teams are still reaching out to him nearly three months after he announced his decision.

"It hasn't happened too recently, but Pitt was a school that called me for the first time after I had already committed," he said. "They just said, 'We know you're committed to Iowa State, but we have ties to the area with coach (Paul) Chryst and wanted to still recruit the area.' Then they said something like, 'We had a recruiting meeting and decided that it was still important to reach out and get you an offer in case anything happens with Iowa State.'

"I just told them that I was committed to Iowa State but that I respected their offer and that I would keep in touch just in case."

Seonbuchner said he tries to get to Iowa State once a month and is very committed to the program, but he added that he would keep taking calls if they come in.

"Recruiting can be really weird, so I have to keep my options open," he said. "I have every intention of being at Iowa State in 2014, but if something happens I want to be respectful to all the coaches that are recruiting me just in case."

Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell said the Seonbuchner story plays out thousands of times per recruiting class.

"That is the way it works these days," he said. "If you are an assistant coach and aren't recruiting the kids you want -- even if they are committed -- then you aren't doing your job.

"It really is that simple, because so many kids are committing and then de-committing; there is no reason to stop trying to get them into your program."

It may have taken time, but even the vocally opposed Bret Bielema is getting into the act.

The former Wisconsin coach, now at Arkansas, made it known that he was against the recruiting tactics of Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, who came into the Big Ten and raided the commitment lists of rivals.

Bielema said at the time, "We at the Big Ten don't want to be like the SEC -- in any way, shape or form."

Arrowhead offensive guard and Badgers three-star commit George Panos said Bielema apparently has changed his story now that he is in the new conference.

"I have been getting calls from the Arkansas coaches still," Panos said. "I committed to those guys, and they have been calling and trying to get me to come down to Arkansas."

Panos gave his pledge to Wisconsin in April of 2012, and he has maintained his intention to be in Madison for more than a year. He has added a handful of offers in that time, but he says he remains a Badger.

Farrell said kids who commit as sophomores are a different target group altogether.

Often, early commitments are precursors to early de-commitments.

"No one is giving up on the young guys," Farrell said. "That kind of attitude would get you fired.

"Seriously, if there is an assistant coach out there who thinks a kid from the class of 2015 is off limits, he is in the wrong profession."

Farrell said the staff that will have the biggest battle for the next class could be Michigan's. It has landed high-profile players George Campbell from Tarpon Springs (Fla.) East Lake and Damien Harris of Berea (Ky.) Madison Southern.

"Urban Meyer didn't bring this mentality to the Big Ten," Farrell said. "He certainly increased it and put more pressure on staffs to keep up with him.

"With what Michigan already has committed, you can bet that there are a lot of schools that are going to come after those guys and there will be negative recruiting and all kinds of things being said."

Kansas coach Charlie Weis was the latest college coach to suggest a second signing day to alleviate some of the problems that this tactic creates.

He has two proposals that he thinks could work for very different reasons.

At Big 12 media day, Weis said his first plan would be to go with a mid-December date.

"I think the advantage of doing that is now everyone would know what they need to finish out their class," he said. "So let's say if you sign 15 guys and you had 25 (spots to fill), you'd know what positions you already had. These were in the bank, these were done, and these were the ones that you had to go scramble to go ahead and fill."

His second option was to have a signing day before the start of the high school season.

"Because the nature of recruiting has changed so drastically, I personally have been in favor of having one in August, and the reason -- that's for a totally different reason," he said. "I believe that the player, a lot of times a high school senior, their coaching staffs get very aggravated with kids because they think they're playing to get ready for college, not playing for their team.

"I think that, if they had recruiting behind them, they were already committed, you don't even have to worry about that. They didn't have to worry about sandbagging an injury or something like that because they already had a scholarship. You could eliminate a lot of the 'yeah, buts' for the college programs and the high school programs, so the guys could just go be seniors in high school."

Arizona State coach Todd Graham said the timing of everything hurts the process.

"I think it's hard on young people making decisions because it's pushed up," he said. "Guys are committing so early, and recruiting has been pushed up so early."

USC coach Lane Kiffin has experienced other programs pilfering his players.

The Trojans had the top class in the country before the season began last year, only to lose nearly half of its members.

Without blaming other programs, he was direct in responding to a question about why de-commitments happen.

"We got off to a great start in recruiting, had a lot of early commitments," he said. "As we're seeing now in college football, commitments don't mean a whole lot. So I think what happened was we ended the season poorly, by the way that we played and also whenever you have job security questions come up like they did at the end of the year, that's going to impact your recruiting because kids, especially a lot of those kids were national guys that those families are saying, 'OK, our kid is choosing USC and that coaching staff,' so I think it was a combination of those things.

"I think anytime you start at the top, much like our season went, it's frustrating for our fans and for us, too, to lose guys at the end and that became the focus, was the guys that we lost instead of the guys that came."

But before the sales pitches fly and the negative recruiting can start, coaches must build a relationship with prospects.

"That first call is important," Farrell said. "You have to get into the living room before the closed door stuff begins.

"Everything is in bounds in recruiting, and just because someone is committed doesn't mean anything, anymore."



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