For most coaches, having a player committed means holding a spot for them – treating them like a teammate; most recruits feel the same way. There is, however, that grey area, when a player is committed, but still interested in seeing what other programs have to offer. It's a slippery slope for everyone involved. Coaches recruiting those "committed" players have to continue to check up on them – pursuing them as if they are still on the open market. Recruits, on the other hand, are playing a game of chicken – seeing what else is out there and hoping not to get hurt or dropped by the school to whom they have pledged their allegiance.
That's not what always happens, however, as many players like to flirt with other programs to see what they can offer – a process which aggravates State's head coach.
"If a guy is truly committed, if I'm going to hold that scholarship for him, then that means he's not visiting anywhere else. If he's visiting (other schools) that means I'm visiting (other prospects). So it works both ways.
"Verbal commitments, most of the young men really mean it," said Bulldog nemesis and current South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier. "Then a few think, well, if I commit early and get hurt I have one to fall back on. Who's to say what's right or wrong."
Spurrier equates the recruiting game to dating. Just because you are dating a girl does not mean that you are going to marry her.
"I always relate to it like if you got a girlfriend in the summer before your senior year," Spurrier said. "In February of the coming year she may not still be your girlfriend. It's like schools. You know, sometimes they look pretty good to you, then six months later they don't look so good."
"You treat it like you treat your girlfriend," said former Habersham Central wide receiver and current Georgia Bulldog Tavarres King. "You are in a relationship with the school you are committed to. I wouldn't want them to tell me something that's not true. I wouldn't want them to tell me that they are going to take me, and then they don't."
King committed to Georgia in May of 2007. His after-school press conference tipped off a recruiting tear the Bulldogs have rarely accomplished, grabbing nine commitments in seven weeks. Still, the Bulldogs also got a couple of de-commitments in that time. Running back Martin Ward and offensive lineman B.J. Brand both decided to look around more, and ended up going elsewhere.
"I expected some de-commitments to happen because we had so many so early," said Brandon Boykin, a Georgia signee and former Fayette County star. "I also think that some of the kids who are firmer are looking at it for more than just football. Maybe some guys are looking for publicity – for me that got old."
"Guys are fickle. A school might look good one time and then not so much the next time they visit," said Virginia lineman Bobby Massie, who ended up not signing with anyone after failing to qualify. Massie thinks players like Brand and Ward commit too early and then have to back track.
"I think de-committing happens when guys commit too early," he said. "If you de-commit, I guess it's not a really big deal because it's not signing day. But if you give a school your word, they are trusting you. It's a big thing to commit. I just think players get real high on one school being in the moment, and they may re-think it after that."
Spurrier agrees, saying that many of the players should think their options over before letting a program know that they are comfortable committing.
"I think they all should sort of change… wait and make their commitments after the season," said the head coach. "But that's not the way they do it."
Still, other players, more firm in their commitment to a program, think being committed is just like being signed.
"I am solid. I am not going to go to any other school. I am a Bulldog – that's it," said former Cardial Gibbons defensive end and current Bulldog Jeremy Longo. "To be committed is your word."
Still, Longo admits that some in the game look at the term "committed" different from the way he does.
"The way recruiting is now I think it means different things to different people," he said.
Kentucky coach Richt Brooks has a plan to solve all of the wishy-washy back-and-forth of being committed or not: an early signing period for college football the way college basketball has. Brooks knows that most coaches in the SEC are not in favor of an early signing period, but he thinks it would help a school like his.
"Obviously there's a pretty strong feeling in our league that most of our coaches are not in favor of an early signing date, which I have been on record as saying I am in favor of," Brooks said. "De-commitments probably happen more to a school like Kentucky, that's a middle of the road team in our league, or has been in recent years, or below that."
That is not necessary, said Croom, if players understand completely what being committed to his program is all about. Being open and honest, he insists, is the best way to get players to commit and stay that way.
Longo had that same sort of understanding with the coaches at Georgia before he committed to become a Bulldog.
"They put no pressure on me. They told me to do my thing," Longo remembered. "They wanted to make sure that when I committed, that I was committed. They didn't want me to take other visits to other schools. They have to go out and recruit if you are not solid."
"Generally most of high school kids keep their commitments," Spurrier said.
That hasn't prevented Spurrier, like most other head coaches, from recruiting players committed to other schools. Boykin said he got recruiting letters, including some from South Carolina, long after he'd committed to Georgia, but he keeps them in a special spot – an old shoebox.
"It is a big decision because it affects the rest of your life," Boykin said. "Being committed means that I am 100 percent sure that I want to go there. If you commit I don't think you should back out – it should be your only choice. I made it known that I was going to Georgia, and I think that stopped a lot of the other schools from continuing their recruiting of me."