“Flipping” or switching college commitments seemed to be an unofficial sport for Georgia’s top high school football players this year.
Out of the state’s 200 seniors that have signed with FBS schools (formerly known as NCAA Div. I-A) or will sign by later this spring, more than 50 switched their commitments from one college to another at least once during the recruiting process.
It’s a mind-boggling number of mind changes, and likely to increase in future years.
“I think what you’re seeing is just natural,” said Rusty Mansell, recruiting analyst for 247sports.com. “You’re seeing more kids get offered earlier, and you’re seeing more kids commit earlier. You’re going to continue to see this pattern. I don’t see it changing. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if you saw it more in the next cycle of kids.
“Schools are offering earlier because others are. Most colleges understand that they’ve got to offer early to get in the game with a top prospect. And the kids are making their decisions before they go out and see multiple schools. I think this is a trend you’re going to see more of in future years.”
While it appears that indecisiveness is on the rise among elite prospects, it’s ultimately the colleges that are to blame for the troubling trend. The colleges offer earlier, pressure young prospects to commit earlier, and then leave longtime recruits in limbo when they fire or hire coaches.
This year, Alpharetta High School led the state of Georgia with five seniors switching their FBS commitments before signing scholarship papers earlier this month. Alpharetta coach Jason Dukes isn’t proud with the unusually high number, but he is happy that each kid eventually found his best destination.
“Each situation was different, and each kid did it for his own reasons,” Dukes said. “Quite honestly, I believe with every one of those kids that made a change, with the exception of maybe one, I think they are going to be happier with the decisions they made at the end.”
Here’s a breakdown of the Alpharetta quintet:
- Naim Mustafaa, linebacker: The son of former Georgia Tech football star Najee Mustafaa (formerly named Reggie Rutland) backed off his longtime commitment to Georgia only days before enrolling at Oklahoma State in early January. This was the only switch that surprised Dukes. “I think he just went out there and felt happier. He had a change of heart.” Mustafaa may also have been influenced by the abrupt departure by the assistant who recruited him for Georgia -- Rodney Garner, who was hired as Auburn’s defensive line coach in December. There were also NFL rumors swirling around Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham. “You know how it goes: There’s just as much negative recruiting as there is positive recruiting,” Dukes said. “Grantham is a good coach, and you know when they are recruiting against a school, they’ll say, ‘OK, that guy is your defensive coordinator now. Is he going to be there in four years? Is he going to see you graduate?’ You know, kids listen to that sometimes. Rodney Garner left. In a business that is about building relationships, sometimes when you have a crack in the relationship part, things can happen.” Note: There were also rumors that Mustafaa flipped because he couldn't enroll early at UGA. Said Dukes, "I think he would've been able to get into Georgia early. There was never anyone who told me definitively that he wouldn't have been able to start midyear at Georgia, too. I really don't understand how he would've been able to get into Oklahoma State midyear and not Georgia midyear. I honestly believe it might've just been a change of heart."
- Joshua Dobbs, quarterback: The longtime Arizona State commitment was one of the state’s biggest surprises on signing day, switching to Tennessee. “It was just a situation there with the coaching change at Tennessee played a big part in it. In the beginning, (former coach Derek) Dooley didn’t recruit Joshua. Arizona State was one of those places that he went early and had a good feel about it … I think the distance thing, after taking several trips out there, and after taking some trips to some other places that were closer, I think it became more of a factor than he anticipated. When you play in that conference, your home games are far away, and your away games are far away from home, too.” Dobbs being so close to his parents, including his mother who is in a wheelchair, could have also influenced the decision.
- George Adeosun, offensive lineman: He was one of this year’s feel-good stories. Adeosun was a late bloomer who only played 50 snaps on varsity as a junior. After his senior film was distributed to scouts in early January, Adeosun attracted 10 quick offers, including Oklahoma, Purdue, Georgia Tech and Arizona State. Adeosun de-committed from William & Mary in mid-Janaury and signed with Virginia over Georgia. “It was just a better opportunity for George,” Dukes said. “You can’t blame the kid for flipping from William & Mary, which has a great academic environment and good football environment, to Virginia, which offers the opportunity to play on the Division I level and also get a world-class education.”
- D’Von Isaac, defensive lineman: “This was an unusual situation, and UAB tried to put me in the middle of it, which I didn’t appreciate,” Dukes said. “Basically, D’Von went there (UAB) on a visit and liked it, and committed. His parents told UAB they were going to take another visit to Western Kentucky, and they weren’t trying to hide anything at all. They were 100-percent upfront about it. The coaches that were recruiting him at UAB, including the head coach, said that it was OK. Now they weren’t happy about it or jumping for joy but they said it was OK. However, when they are on the way to the official visit, they call and basically say if this kid steps foot on campus, we’re basically going to pull his offer. To me, that’s not the way you do business … I told them I’m going to communicate with the parents but I’m not going to be the one to deliver the bad news. They needed to call them and let them know what changed. So they did. It really not only turned off the parents, but the kid as well. That’s the reason he changed to Western Kentucky.”
- Blake Rowlinson, wide receiver: He switched from Troy to Yale due to academic opportunities.
Dukes has vast experience in recruiting, not only as a coach but also a player. He was an offensive lineman at Richmond Academy who went through the recruiting process himself and signed a football scholarship with Georgia Tech.
How did Dukes handle all the recruiting madness with so many flips in one year? College coaches, parents and players were pulling at him in all directions. Alpharetta has 11 seniors headed to play ball in college. How does he manage it?
“You’ve just got to be as truthful with the coaches as you can,” Dukes said. “If you don’t know where a kid’s head is at, or you’re not sure where a kid is thinking about going, you’ve just got to be truthful with the colleges and explain it to them. And then, you have to do a good job managing the process with the players and parents. The thing that players need to understand is that in this business, and you don’t get very far burning bridges. You never know exactly how things are going to turn out. Things might be great at the school you eventually go to. But look at it, how many coaching changes were there this year? How many are there going to be next season? So the guy who was your head coach or the assistant who recruited you, guess what? There’s a big chance he might not be there next year or the year after. There also might be a situation where things just don’t work out at the place you’re at. You might have to call one of those other coaches you built a relationship with during the recruiting process.
“I try to express to my parents so they understand – coaches get their feelings hurt because they invest a lot of time and energy into recruiting these young men. But they have to understand, these decisions they make are business decisions. And just like young men are deciding where they want to go and they’re going to have to disappoint some people, there are some coaches out there that have been recruiting a kid for a year and a half. Then all of sudden, you’ve heard it before, they stop calling a kid. So it’s a double-edged sword. A coach gets mad and says ‘Why is this kid going on another visit when we’re committed to him?’ The truth is, if there was a guy they didn’t think they could get before but all of sudden he’s no longer jazzed about the place he’s committed to and he calls up and says ‘Hey coach, I’m interested in coming to your place’ … if he’s a good enough athlete, they’re going to take that kid and have to call up the other kid and disappoint him. I’ve seen it all.”
Click HERE to see a detailed list of the state's D1 prospects who flipped at least once