Roche changes gears again

The recruiting world was shocked at the about-face that Brian Roche gave last month when he appeared ready to commit to Virginia. We settled in since then with the new reality of his longer recruiting timeframe and widened list of candidate college choices. Once again, we are hit with a shocking change in direction...

I have said it before, but if you blink, an entire recruitment can pass you by. Just a week ago, elite offensive tackle Brian Roche from Don Bosco Prep in New Jersey was set on a course for a prolonged recruitment that would take him well into January. He was looking to take some unofficial visits this summer that would educate him such that he could narrow his 30+ offers down to a managable list of 8-10 schools. He planned to take five official visits in December and January after his senior season wraps up; then make a final commitment. Stanford was a highly probable school to make that cut and get an official visit. With a 1280 SAT and 3.6 GPA, Roche was certainly an admissable kid.

But you blinked. Now it has all changed. All it took was one day that Roche spent on the campus of Rutgers with head coach Greg Schiano.

"Coach Schiano kind of surprised me on my visit," Roche said. "How many head coaches spend 10 hours with a recruit? And he was with me every minute. It's not like he dumped me with an assistant. As a matter of fact, he sent everyone but the secretaries and the strength coach home."

To put that in perspective, keep in mind that college coaches are not yet able to make an in-home visit or any kind of contact that is not on their own college campus. One phone call has been allowed, and twice you could go to the recruit's school to make an evaluation, though without carrying on a conversation with the kid. Until the fall, there frankly is very little opportunity to put a personal stamp on a recruit, looking him in the eye. That is why unofficial visits are so golden. Then you can hold a kid's hand and sing Christmas carols with him through the Quad. In the case of Rutgers, the in-state school was able to make a tremendous impact given this opportunity, and it has completely reworked the way Roche now views his favorites and his recruitment.

"You want to go where you're wanted," he explains. "And in New Jersey, coming from where I do, I know that I'll be taken care of. I know I will always get at least a fair shot to play. Other places in the country, I might get overlooked for the in-state kid or the kid from somewhere that gets recruited more than North Jersey."

The old adage in recruiting is that kids need to feel the love, and Roche told us for our last report that he was being recruited the hardest by Rutgers and Miami (FL). Now that he feels such a strong tug toward his state school, the Canes have the best and maybe only shot to knock Rutgers off the leaderboard.

"After what Schiano did, I kind of want to see if a huge program could beat them out," Roche said. "If they can't, then I will probably wind up at Rutgers. I guess the way I should put it is that Stanford and Miami could both do the same thing - challenge what Rutgers just did - but Miami is closer and recruiting me harder so I decided to take that visit first. Then I'll take the Stanford trip if necessary."

The key question, then, becomes what is necessary for the Card to receive that unofficial visit that was originally to take place this weekend. Ironically, it looks like it may take Miami blowing Roche's socks off as well. As a Stanford fan, you want to root for the Canes to give a great visit to the offensive tackle in July.

"Now it's really between Miami and Rutgers," the focal recruit declares. "Stanford, North Carolina, Wisconsin and Boston College are behind them. Stanford is No. 3 and if neither Rutgers nor Miami is a clear choice for me after my Miami visit, then I will be taking a trip across the country."

That is not a promising outlook for the Cardinal coaches, and moreover they are unlikely to have a chance to change their fate in time. They cannot place a phone call to Roche until Sept. 1, and they are not allowed to visit and even wave at the recruit this summer. Their only tools right now are letters, emails and phone calls to the coaches at Don Bosco. But do not count on a New Jersey high school to help a college 3,000 miles away against Rutgers. Not for a second.

We are left with one parting comment by Brian Roche as he contemplates his next moves in the next few weeks that could end or prolong his recruitment:

"Honestly, if I really thought Stanford could match or come close to what Coach Schiano has put out for me - the total package - I would probably take a trip out there," he said. "But I think it would be hard for an out-of-state program, especially one across the country, to do that. If they gave me that indication, I would be going there instead of Miami."

The game is on. We'll keep our eye on it and keep you posted with the next twists and turns in the fascinating and surprising recruiting saga of Brian Roche.

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