As recruiting continues to evolve on a daily basis, so, too, does the meaning of the verbal commitment. In the grand scheme of things, what does it really mean?
Does it mean you have found your home and if asked to sign right then and there, you’d do it? Or does it mean you have found your home for now, you know, until somebody better comes along? Or found your home for now in hopes of somebody better coming along but willing to stay if nothing does?
It’s tough for Oklahoma fans to digest when top-ranked recruits are getting snatched away at the last minute. You can’t take it personal, but that’s easier said than done.
Obviously it also works both ways. As other schools poach from OU’s top recruits, the Sooners did the same thing. Is it a good thing? Does it have to happen? The 2016 class saw a record number of decommitments, and that’s not sitting well with anybody.
“Well the fact there was a point in January, I think there was a five-day period where there were over 100 decommitments across the country,” offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley said. “The fact that a school can offer a guy a scholarship and then all of a sudden disappear and not have any accountability for it on either side. It’s a flawed system and there are people that are taking advantage of it on both ends.
“Is it those people’s fault? I’m not saying that I just think there are some ways you can do it better. However we do it, we’ve got to create more accountability from the school’s end and the prospect’s end. I think until we do that it’s going to be a little bit of circus like it is now.”
Take a look at OU’s 2016 class and get a feel of how that all happened. Erik Swenson is only a Sooner because Michigan told him a month before signing day there was no room at the inn. Four-star prospects like Zach Farrar and Mark Jackson were committed with other schools until three days before signing day.
Of OU’s signees, here is the list of guys who were once committed to another school.
*QB Austin Kendall (Tennessee)
*RB Abdul Adams (East Carolina, Michigan State)
*WR Zach Farrar (Mississippi State)
*OT Erik Swenson (Michigan)
*DE/OLB Mark Jackson (Texas A&M)
*LB Kapri Doucet (Arizona)
*CB Jordan Parker (UCLA)
*CB Parnell Motley (Maryland)
The Sooners had their fair share, especially down the stretch in losing Scout 300 prospects like Chris Daniels (Texas) and Parrish Cobb (Baylor) and the saga of Velus Jones (USC).
“I know that’s entertaining on the outside, but on the inside for coaches, for these recruits and their families, you call the family of the kid that got dropped thinks this is very entertaining?” Riley asked. “Or a school that thought they were going to get these five guys and all of a sudden they’re sitting there with nothing.
“The NCAA took away a lot of that when a few years ago when they limited how many NLI’s you could have signed. You don’t know near as much now as you used to so there’s some things that are working against each other and hopefully we can find a better solution for it.”
What is that solution? Nobody really knows. Until any changes are made, all you can really do is the play the game the best you can.
The way Cale Gundy, OU’s recruiting coordinator, has handled it might be a lot different compared to other schools. Recruiting is cutthroat, make no bones about it, but there’s still a way to find the humanity in it.
“You’ve really gotta know what you’re doing, I think," Gundy said. "I think you’ve gotta dig deep and find out who these young men are, go through their families, find out their backgrounds. You’ve gotta find out through their schools, teachers, not just coaches.
“The challenging thing is just maybe some of the outside influences that are starting to come in to our sport in recruiting that hasn’t been here over the years. The personal trainers and coaches like there are in AAU basketball.
“You better know if you really think you’ve got somebody or if there’s a doubt at all that you may not, you better have a plan.”
And you better be able to adapt to that plan. Because like it or not, decommitments aren’t going away and OU, just like any other school, is going to have to embrace the good and the bad that comes with it until something is legitimately changed.