Bizarre now the rule, not the exception

With Signing Day in the rearview mirror, what have we learned? Well, if you have followed recruiting for even a couple of years now, not a heck of a lot. Despite the various things that occurred that bordered on the bizarre, you have or either will learn that the more things change, the more they stay the same. In recruiting, bizarre isn't the exception, it's the rule.

Florida fans lament during Signing Day, because #2 running back C.J. Spiller opted for a career with the Tigers of Clemson rather than the Gators down in Gainesville. You could almost hear Florida fans crying from here in Lincoln.

This following the fact that Florida ended up with one of the top two recruiting classes in the entire country.

And they are still complaining.

That's a little bizarre

Penn State, a team languishing in mediocrity just a couple of years ago, scores the top recruit in the country last year in Derrick Williams and this year, all they do is grab an even better class, while taking
Pat Devlin's "loyalty" to Miami
ended with exodus to Happy
players from other schools. Miami commit QB Pat Devlin said Miami was where he planned on being, despite the changes with some assistant coaches. He did end up changing his mind, though, opting to head to Happy Valley. Bani Gbadyu, an east coast linebacker "solidly" committed to LSU, changes his mind as well, joining Joe Paterno at Penn State. And running back Bret Carter told Virginia no thanks, changing his mind, heading to the home-state team.

Two years ago this team couldn't keep anyone in state much less get those super stars from out of state and now everyone wants to go to Happy Valley.

That's a little bizarre

And on a local level, Compton junior college safety Ashlee Palmer, who had already signed a letter of intent with Nebraska, sent his scholarship papers to the University of Washington and the Husky staff hailed this is a great get for them.

The problem is, Nebraska still thinks he's theirs, while Palmer says he's wearing purple.

That's a little bizarre

Welcome to recruiting and yes, it's where bizarre is the rule, not the exception

If you are just joining the recruiting world, you probably think this is just darn strange and how can kids change their mind like this, act like this and what are schools doing still recruiting kids that are already committed to someplace else?

If you haven't heard the saying "Nothing is official until the signature is on the dotted line", well, now you have, but thanks for the last example of the unique nature of recruiting talent, not even that is always applicable.

It prompted head coach Bill Callahan to quip about the entire Palmer situation, as he addressed a throng of fans at the Lincoln version of the Big Red Recruiting Dinner that Ashlee has now signed his fourth letter of intent and will be heading to the University of Mississippi.

Despite scoringt one of the best recruiting
classes in the country, Florida fans still
lament over the loss of RB, C.J. Spiller
Humor aside, those who have followed recruiting for even just two years has learned that the word "commit" is almost as humorous in collegiate circles as the word "promise" is in political ones.

It would seem even Yogi Berra never followed high school recruiting, because even when it's over, it's still not over.

Super DB Jai Eugene commits to Michigan then changes his mind and heads to LSU. Of course, LSU wasn't invulnerable to the "bug", South Hot 100 wide receiver Londong Crawford telling the Tigers "seeya", because he was going to be a Razorback instead. If that wasn't bad enough, defensive end Marcus Tillman opted out of his pledge to LSU, deciding instead to go to Ole Miss.

Four-star cornerback Patrick Robinson changes his mind, going to Florida State, telling the recruiting-happy Gators good-bye. The Gators, while they finished with one of the best classes in the country, wasn't done losing players, four-star athlete Damian Williams dumping them and becoming a Razorback himself.

Of course, USC couldn't go without taking a couple of their own, getting running back Kenny Ashley from Mississippi State and safety/linebacker Alfred Rowe from Oregon State.

Oh, and yes, Nebraska lost Josh Freeman to Kansas State, Rulon Davis to Cal and most recently, Ashlee Palmer to Washington. But, of course, that last one has yet to be finalized officially.

For those of you that don't remember, Nebraska hasn't gone without grabbing some of their own from other schools:

• Tight end Justin Tomerlin was supposed to head to Michigan State.
• Offensive tackle Lydon Murtha was on his way to Minnesota
• Offensive lineman Ryan Schuler was a commit to Oklahoma
• Offensive lineman Chris Patrick was headed to Purdue
Joe Dailey was headed to Syracuse

Oh, and while he wasn't a commit, possibly the biggest upset in Nebraska recruiting history was when Oklahoma was beat out by the Huskers for the one and only Turner Gill – the man that really put recruiting on the map in Lincoln.

What's funny about all this seemingly monumental increase in kids changing their mind, it seems to correlate with the increase in the popularity of recruiting. Now, the question you have to ask is are there really that many more kids changing their mind or do we just know about them all, because the coverage is so comprehensive?

Regardless, the effect of recruiting and its popularity amongst the masses around the country has made recruiting the next big thing. It's not quite the NFL Draft, but before ESPN, the NFL Draft wasn't much either.

It's not the sport that makes it mean something, it's the coverage that makes the sport.
Former Husker Turner Gill really put
recruiting on the map in Nebraska
when the Huskers beat Oklahoma for
his services.

Red Grange put the NFL on the map, because he was fun to watch. And in what was a new age of television, his presence and the excitement that he sponsored everywhere he went, helped to build what has become one of the most popular sports in the world.

Recruiting is no different in that it has become what it has become today, due to the fact that someone decided to take what was a few individuals covering it, but limiting their medium to magazines and pay-by-the-minute telephone numbers, to something that became what it was from the internet, but now permeates all of mainstream media.

Now there are TV specials about signing day. There are two and three hour-long radio shows all about who signed where and why. There are networks like ESPNU, whose very existence rationalizes even more coverage for where prep players decided to compete at the collegiate level.

That's a little bizarre as well, isn't it?

I was at the Lincoln version of the Big Red Recruiting Dinner and at our table were a few gentlemen, all in their 50s or above. Two of them said that they didn't go to the internet and what they knew about this class they got from the newspapers.

That's the way it used to be and I can only imagine what a scramble it was for newspapers to cover the recruits. Nowadays, it's a click here, a click there and you are inundated with more information than you can possibly put in any daily publication.

Heck, in my own world, where much of what we do here at Big Red Report has to do with recruiting, in the space of one year we have seen direct evidence of just how popular recruiting has become.

Last year we did one radio show and we covered the signing day press conference at the University of Nebraska. This year it was three live radio shows, one taped radio spot, two live TV shows and a few quotes for some publications around the country. Oh, and we had to find someone to cover the press conference, because nobody else had the time.

We can sit here and say that it's because of the job we do and we'd like to believe that's the case, but we also know that as the internet becomes a bigger deal, the bigger recruiting coverage will become.

I can't tell you how many times I have watched Mel Kuyper talk over videos, speculate about what a collegiate athlete will do in the pros and if this was a good or bad pick up for any particular team.

It's already happened on a certain level with high school recruiting and you can bet any amount of money you want, it's going to get that way someday.

Already combines are national news and when a kid that nobody knew about blows up at a combine, coming out with 20 offers when going in he had none – it doesn't take long before a name nobody talked about, is suddenly this multi-starred prep player that is coveted by fans around the country.

Evaluation Period, that time when college coaches can roam the country, scoping out talent from coast-to-coast, where these coaches go and when makes front pages on the internet and even makes little sidebars in the same mainstream publications and mediums that didn't even look twice at stuff like this not even three years ago.

And let's not even get into the summer camps these schools have, that they have had for decades now, once just something schools do each year, now literally an event in some areas of the country, Lincoln especially.

When Harrison Beck the commit came to the first annual QB Academy at Nebraska, he was hot stuff, unorthodox in his style, Brett Favrian in his mind-set and it didn't take long before a state grasped his name and he was a celebrity all the way up to the day he stepped onto campus as an official member of the big red.

Yes, he's a celebrity even now

Some Nebraskans already knew about Ryan
Mallet even before he entered his junior
year of high school.
Ryan Mallet, a quarterback, who just as a sophomore was at that same camp Beck attended, wowed everyone to the point that they have known about this kid since that time and everyone knows his name now. He's the next……………


Not even five years ago these kids would all be relative unknowns until they put on the uniform of the college of their choice and stepped onto the field. And if that wasn't in a role as part of the two-deep or better, maybe not even then.

It's gotten to the point that people no longer talk about recruiting as much as they did, commenting about it as if it's this interesting but ultimately futile thing to follow, because it's all speculation and what in the world can anyone really know or expect of a kid that isn't even old enough to vote.

When Moses Malone went straight out of high school into the professional ranks, people started to really take notice that the prepsters of the world were potentially stars, if someone were just willing to give them a look.

No, nobody liked the idea, because these were all still kids, but the worm had turned as they say, and people starting taking notice of the best high school basketball players in the country.

Pretty soon prep-schools turned up by the dozens, then hundreds and then shoe companies got involved, and what do you know, movies were being made about recruiting prep basketball players from around the country.

Is it any surprise that eventually it would trickle down to the most popular team sport in the country?

It has, but it's not a trickle anymore. In fact, some might argue that the sport of football has overtaken basketball when it comes to just how many people are interested in the prep-level of that particular sport.

I'd say you can almost bank on that being the case.

As it is, if you are a newcomer, what you have seen isn't the birth of a new form of expression for the ultimate diehard sports fan. It used to be, but not anymore. It's football recruiting and it's becoming as big as the sport of college football itself. One leads to the other and it was only a matter of time before high school football players started becoming as famous or even more-so than those players that are already at the level they are set to attain.

No, football recruiting hasn't had its Lebron yet. Ron Powlus had similar hype, but it was so over exaggerated at times (Beano Cook said he would win three Heismans), people thought it was more a joke than reality.

They will, though.

There will come this player that will be so good, so promising, so considered to be that automatic "star", they will redefine what a prep football star really is.

When that happens, this interest that has turned into somewhat of an obsession will ascend to the ultimate level of sports enthusiasm:

Just another thing

Yeah, believe it or not, when something is considered "normal" or carries as much importance in a conversation about sports as any other aspect, it has fallen into the realm of respectability and credibility.

It's not there yet, but very soon it will be and you the person that might just be latching into this new fangled thing, will talk about it with the same interest that you talk about the college team you follow so avidly.

Ten years ago, that would have been considered damn bizarre?


It's the rule

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