The Scout Team: De-commitment issues

Ricky Seals-Jones

Five-star prospect Ricky Seals-Jones de-committed from Texas this week, reopening his recruitment and marking a trend we've seen a lot of in the last couple years. Is this rise in de-commitments a problem for the game? Our Scout analysts give their thoughts.

The national recruiting analysts will answer questions about the 2013 recruiting class season in a feature called "The Scout Team." Each week, we'll look at a different topic. The national analysts include Scott Kennedy (Director of Scouting), Chad Simmons (South), Allen Trieu (Midwest), Greg Powers (Midlands), Bob Lichtenfels (East), Greg Biggins (West) and Brandon Huffman (West).

  1. Is de-committing a trend on the rise, and if so, is it a problem for the game? Or is it a natural consequence that offers some added intrigue to the recruiting process?
Scott Kennedy
Scott Kennedy (Director of Scouting):

I definitely think it's a trend and wrote about it becoming more and more commonplace as recently as earlier this week (Buyer Beware). Prospective student athletes are being pressured into making a decision before they are ready and are making commitments to make sure they have a spot reserved.

Coaches understand this, and they have started calling some commitments "reservations," knowing that the prospect still needs to be recruited heavily through Signing Day.

I think it adds a new level of intrigue and excitement knowing that kids may still be in play in January. Half the Pac-12 had coaching changes last year in by December, and the whole process in essence starts over again.

These are days when coaches are signing seven figure contracts, they're mercenaries hired to bring a return on an investment. Why should a 17-year-old player feel loyalty to an institution in theory he really knows nothing about and the person who introduced him is gone?


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Fans, who have a lifetime of loyalty to a specific program, lament the loss and gnash their teeth at the changing of minds of the nation's top players and calls for an early signing period grow stronger and stronger.

But who is helped by an early signing period? The player who has only five years of eligibility and must sit out a year if his scholarship is cut or a new staff comes in and he decides he doesn't fit? No. The student athlete doesn't benefit at all from an early signing period. Until the players are afforded a similar luxury of changing their minds after enrolling in a school as the professional coaching staffs are for leaving it, the players need as much time as they can to make an informed decision.

And the more they're pressured to decide early, the more they're making an uninformed decision, and the more of a trend of de-commitments we'll see in the future.

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Greg Powers
Greg Powers (Midlands):

I believe the de-commitment has become more prevalent because there is just so much more information floating out there. Also coaching changes occur much more frequently. That recruiting trend will continue as long as college football continues the trend of firing coaches and overhauling coaching staffs if they are not hugely successful within the first three or four years.

Even though it can be frustrating for fans that these prospects do decide to switch, it is also a clear sign that nothing is binding until a prospect signs a Letter of Intent.

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Allen Trieu
Allen Trieu (Midwest):

I think, for the most part, you'll still see the majority of kids stick with their commitments. Will there be more de-commitments than in the past? I'd say that's probable, but I don't think it will start running rampant or anything. De-commitment is part of the process and will continue to be part of the process, but for the immediate future, I don't see it happening too much more than in the past.

From a fan perspective, it certainly creates a lot of disappointment for the school that loses the kid and intrigue for the schools pursuing the kid, but I don't think it devalues commitments at all, because no one comes to expect this and as I said before, the majority of kids commit and stick with it.

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Greg Biggins
Greg Biggins (West):

I think de-commitments have been around for a while, but last year was probably the worst I've ever seen it. A big reason is so many players committing early but then saying they still want to take their visits. The word "commitment" doesn't mean a lot to a lot of players these days, and I think a lot of the players commit early or at an All-American game just for the attention. They know the commitment won't stick but want their moment in the sun.

From a fan's point of view, I think it can definitely jade them, and I'm seeing a lot of that. When a player commits now, the reaction is obviously excitement but also, "Well, it's a long way to Signing Day, let's see if this sticks."

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Brandon Huffman
Brandon Huffman (West):

I see de-commitments becoming more and more prevalent, and even before Ricky Seals-Jones did it, it was the theme of the class of 2012. And it will only get more common. Fans will hate it if their school loses a commit, but they don't seem to complain much when their school gets a commit from another school to switch.

That's why I don't think anyone gets too comfortable with a commit until Signing Day, and the NLI is in. Guys make decisions early, not necessarily because they're pressured but because they want to make sure they have reservations at the table. The real recruiting happens in the month of January, where a guy committed to a school is often times a hotter commodity than the guy who hasn't committed anywhere.

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