So is it true, is Jones having second thoughts?
"It's not true," Jones said. "I don't know where that's coming from. I'm solid, I'm going to Michigan next fall."
Well, that seems clear enough.
But where do such rumors start? Part of it comes from the sheer number of scholarship offers some big time programs throw out there. Some schools have offers to over 100 kids at any given time. With that kind of volume, recruits could get the idea that their slot might not be as solid as they once thought — and coaches might even tell them as much, especially if the kid is talking about taking visits to other schools.
Charlie Weis at Notre Dame has been known for his strict stance on kids committing to Notre Dame. If a prospect takes visits after verbaling to the Irish, his scholarship could be in jeopardy. As Weis once famously said, "If they're looking, we're looking."
Some programs continue to recruit above their present commits, much like a recruit is free to take visits after a verbal. If a player comes along the program likes better, the verbal commitment they have to the original player is just as solid as that prospects verbal; in other words, nothing's guaranteed until that LOI is signed.
To a point, such flexibility makes sense for programs. After all, what guarantee is there that a prospect will not just get fat and happy after their verbal, or pack up and head elsewhere because the grass looks greener?
And the same goes for a prospect. What if the sales job they fell for in the recruiting process doesn't match their experiences after a verbal? Or what if a coach leaves the program in the middle of December?
The risk for coaches, of course, goes to the integrity of the program. If scholarships get yanked simply because a "better" prospect comes along, what does that say about the organization? How could any recruit feel their scholarship is safe if it might get yanked because the staff pulled the trigger on them too soon?
Recruits must also be wary of the implications of decommitting, but they are, after all, teenagers doing business with enormous institutions. Slack can be cut.
In short, verbals are indications that both parties intend to honor their commitment, but, as unofficial agreements, they also give both parties flexibility.
That's why coaches like Spartan head coach Mark Dantonio describe the recruiting process as an art, not a science. When talent on the field is the driving force behind who to offer scholarships to, it becomes a difficult task for coaches to juggle the best players ("plan A" kids) they might have a legitimate shot at landing, and therefore offer, with those prospects coaches tell to be patient and wait ("plan B" kids) because other players are ranked ahead of them.
Take a player like Shamari Benton, for example. He's been a "plan B" kid for Michigan State and other Big Ten programs for some time now, told by various coaches they love his film and attitude, but other players are ranked higher, so a scholarship offer would be premature. With the spectacular success of Michigan State's recruiting this year, and allotted scholarships nearly exhausted, there is simply no more room for Benton.
In years past, Benton might have gotten an MSU offer sometime in the fall, maybe after his senior season as the clock ticked closer to signing day. His patience might have been rewarded as MSU's "plan A" kids went elsewhere. But this year, with the success the Spartans have had early on, such a scenario appears highly unlikely.
If a coach waits too long and things don't pan out with the studs he had at the top of the list, however, he might miss the chance to land those "plan B" guys who took an offer somewhere else because they were too tired or scared to wait for the coach to make a decision.
But if a coach is worried about filling the available slots he has, maybe he takes a "plan B" kid prematurely. Then what happens if a "plan A" kid says he wants in and the coach has no room anymore?
It is talent, after all, that is essential to coaches meeting their goals. Does he boot a "plan B" kid, helping his program in terms of talent, the most important ingredient to success? Or does the coach honor his own verbal and stick with the "plan B" kid out of a commitment to integrity?
But if a coach has suspect integrity, he better be at a program that can recruit itself, because landing talent becomes awfully difficult when kids and their parents can't trust a program.
In the end, recruiting is a delicate balancing act. For a player like Teric Jones, maintaining balance can be tricky when committed to a program that has made dozens of offers to other prospects.
And for a program like Michigan State, the art comes in being able to anticipate where your resources might be best spent. So far, Dantonio appears to be a natural with the recruiting paintbrush.