Some fans hate it. Many recruitniks revel in it. But the waiting game is often an unavoidable fact of college recruiting. Cardinalmaniacs™ waited more than two years for what they thought was going to be Ekom Udofia's heralded college commitment on national TV two weekends ago during the U.S. Army All-American Game. Udofia was first offered by Stanford back in December 2002 when his older brother, Udeme Udofia, was visited in his home by Cardinal coaches as part of his recruitment. The elder Udofia signed with Stanford two months later, which immediately set off speculation that the Card had an early trump card in the race to land the elite Arizona pass rusher.
But Stanford fans understandably lowered their expectations and raised their blood pressure when Udofia hurriedly told The Bootleg the morning of the All-American Game, just hours before he was set to announce on NBC, that he had to delay his decision. The environment in San Antonio (Tex.) that week was not likely one conducive to a Cardinal commitment, with a bevy of recruits and commits considering or headed to USC and Miami. Other than Udofia, there was not another recruit selected for that game who was contemplating Stanford.
The Scottsdale (Ariz.) Chaparral High School standout is not sharing what decision he might have announced that day had he followed through with his plans to declare a commitment during the live televised broadcast, but he says his mind was muddled to the point that he could not go through with it.
"I just wasn't ready for a decision," Udofia explains. "I didn't want to announce something on national TV and have to possibly take it back later."
The four-star defensive tackle has now set a new date for his public announcement. Udofia will appear on ESPNews on February 1, the day before Signing Day, and reveal his college choice at that time. He is currently scheduled to appear at approximately 2:50 PM Arizona (Mountain) time on the cable network. That is 4:50 PM in Coral Gables (Fla.) and 1:50 PM in Los Angeles and Palo Alto.
Udofia says he is still down to a final three of Stanford, USC and Miami. The one school that appears to most be on the rise is the National Champion USC Trojans. They had been at or atop Udofia's list since his junior year of high school, but the SoCal power suffered a big blow when defensive line coach Ed Orgeron left L.A. for the head coaching position at Ole Miss. Orgeron was a big favorite of the recruit, for both his infectious energy and his track record of developing NFL talent. Losing Orgeron was tantamount to losing Udofia... until Pete Carroll hired Green Bay Packers defensive line coach Jethro Franklin. The delay in Udofia's decision allowed the newly-hired Franklin to make a debut in-home visit to Scottsdale.
"I got along with him. I really liked him a lot," the recruit reveals. "He's really enthused about coaching at USC. He did all the talking; I didn't have to ask much. He says I would play the nose [tackle] and that I could come in and compete right away for a spot."
Miami is still applying their full-court press and talked to Udofia just yesterday on the phone with the 6'1" defensive lineman.
"They said, 'You know how we feel about you. As soon as you know your decision, let us know.' They say I just need to make sure it's my decision and to be sure of what I want to do," the recruit recalls.
That commentary from the 'Canes is clearly aimed at the family influence in the Udofia household that pushes the focal defensive tackle toward The Farm.
"It's obvious," Udofia offers. "My brother goes there. My sister went there and is trying to get into medical school there. My family values Stanford, but it hasn't really affected me during this process. I have to do what's best for me."
Though the Cardinal have been sliding down to an underdog position, with several signs and sources pointing toward USC and Miami, the fretting fans of Stanford can hold on to one source of optimism: they will have the final in-home visit when assistant coaches Tom Quinn and Dave Tipton trek to the Grand Canyon State this Saturday.
"That will be my last in-home visit and I'll hopefully have my decision a day or two after that. Then I can announce on February 1," Udofia declares. "They're supposed to come in with a presentation and film and break everything down."
Here are the positives Ekom Udofia currently views for his three favorites, which have them in his final consideration:
Miami - "I probably came off the most impressed with that official visit. I had a really good time, and they have a very close team that sticks together. I feel I could come in there and compete as a freshman to get time."
USC - "They're the two-time defending national champions, and with 16 of their 22 starters coming back, they'll probably win again. But two of the six lost are defensive tackles - Shaun Cody and Mike Patterson. I feel I have the ability and opportunity to fill one of those spots and play right away."
Stanford - "They're a team who could be a lot better than what their record showed this last year. Five of their losses were by an average of four points. They really just need to change a couple small things, and suddenly they are 9-2 and going to a big bowl game. Plus they have the education, and I could play with my brother and possibly be with my sister."
Udofia certainly did not want to delay his announcement on January 15. That was a plan he had held for many months, so it is evident that he is conflicted about what is turning into a difficult decision for him. You might think the pressure of a commitment and announcement in just six days would leave him stressed and frenzied, but Scout.com's #10 defensive tackle in the nation and #65 overall player is a surprisingly cool customer, under the circumstances.
"I'm a little closer but I'm still deciding," he shares. "I'm trying not to think too much about it. I'm waiting for that gut feeling to come and tell me which place is right."
One reason he is not putting all his mental energy and time into this decision is the recovery and rehabilitation of his broken leg and ankle. In a game in October, Udofia suffered an awful injury that left him with a torn up ankle, plus breaks in four places on his fibula. He recently emerged from his cast, and Monday he had his first session of physical therapy. At this point Udofia is allowed only to walk on a treadmill, but he says he is so far ahead of progress that he might be jogging sooner rather than later. At the time of his injury, the Chaparral standout was facing the possibility of taking a redshirt his freshman year as he continued his rehabilitation, but his timeframe has since moved up months.
Udofia added a good deal of weight while he was in a cast and wheelchair, reaching a peak of 355 pounds at one point, but he has been hard at work and already has shed 20 pounds to a current weight of 335.
"My body looks real good right now. Honestly, I look as good as when I was playing at 310," he opines.
For the next week, however, our eyes and attention will be on Ekom Udofia's college decision. The two schools who lose out on his services on February 1 may need rehabilitation of their own. We will continue our best efforts to stay abreast of all Udofia's latest thoughts and developments and keep you informed all the way through U-Day.
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