In the wacky world of college football recruiting, it’s not over until it’s over. And then it still might not be over.
As a sophomore, Deshaun Watson, now the state’s top college prospect, publicly announced his intentions to sign with Clemson, but many colleges act like it never happened.
Gainesville High School, where Watson plays quarterback, has been a popular stop for college recruiters this spring. Clemson has visited with the five-star prospect within the past month, along with representatives from Georgia, Alabama, Ohio State, Georgia Tech, Auburn, LSU, Oregon and Florida State, among others.
“I think the main thing is, he’s one of the top quarterbacks in the country, so I don’t expect any school to stop recruiting him, especially this early,” 247Sports.com’s Gerry Hamilton said.
“I’m of the belief that until a guy signs, you recruit him, especially if that guy is still taking calls and somewhat open to the process even though he’s committed. I definitely think you continue to recruit those guys, especially someone as talented as Watson.”
It’s just normal business in recruiting, and nothing personal against Watson or Clemson. The runner-up schools believe he’s pledged to Clemson, but they also believe there’s a chance they can change the rising senior’s mind before February’s signing day.
“I think it’s the day and age, and culture of recruiting and all the de-commitments,” Rivals.com’s Mike Farrell said. “It’s not over until it’s over. Until they get a signature, people aren’t going to quit on a kid like that.”
These days, it’s common practice for colleges to continue recruiting a kid after he’s committed elsewhere.
“I think some of (the college coaches) believe that they’re such good recruiters that they can change a young man’s mind,” Milton High coach Howie DeCristofaro said.
Sometimes the persistence works, sometimes it doesn’t. This past year, Milton featured two high-profile seniors who had many twists and turns in their recruiting journey.
Defensive end Carl Lawson committed early to Auburn, then began to look around after the Tigers fired the coaching staff. After touring both Clemson and Tennessee, Lawson stuck with his original choice. Meanwhile, running back Peyton Barber committed early to Ole Miss, but switched to Auburn on signing day.
One of Milton’s top players for 2014, running back Treyvon Paulk, committed to Tennessee in March, but that hasn’t prevented other schools from flirting or offering scholarships.
“I think with the way kids are wired these days, they don’t really make their final decision until late in the process,” DeCristofaro said. “Most of them want to take their trips, want to make sure to see everything that is out there, and then make their decision.
“I think most commit (early) just because it feels good at the time. Then all of sudden, they get more offers and change their minds. It’s like ‘Maybe I need to see what’s out there a little more.’”
Lovejoy High coach Al Hughes isn’t sure what to make out of the blatant pursuit of kids committed to other colleges. He reminds scouts all the time when his players are committed, but it’s as if they won’t listen.
“I do know it causes some hardship,” Hughes said. “It’s something you got to have a plan for and something you’ve got to be able deal with. I guess you’ve got to take each case on an individual basis, depending on what the circumstances are with each kid.
“I just know those guys (recruiters) have to make a living, too. I understand that. I really don’t know what to think about the whole deal yet.”
At Gainesville, Watson has repeatedly stated that he’s “100 percent committed” to Clemson, but it hasn’t slowed anything. Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo watched practice last week, while Alabama, Ohio State and Auburn also made appearances.
“They know,” Watson said. “Right when they come in, they say ‘I know you’re committed to Clemson. I just wanted to come by and check you out. If anything changes, I want to be the school that’s behind (Clemson).’
“They know my situation. They don’t want to pressure me on anything. I’ve never heard a school say, ‘Try to come to (our school) and diss Clemson.’ So they know my situation, and they don’t pressure me to change my commitment.”
Last month, Watson told reporters that he planned to take all five official visits as a senior. A couple of weeks later, he changed his mind and said he would visit only Clemson.
After being showered with attention by scouts during spring practice, Watson was considering a couple of unofficial visits this summer, but hadn’t made a final decision.
“I think everybody is trying right now to get him on campus while they still believe that he’s open,” Hamilton said. “I think the big thing for Clemson is to keep him committed by the start of next season.
“I think there’s a pretty good chance … some schools will fill that position during the summer at camps. That will take some of the schools out of the equation (because they) move on to Plan B at quarterback and take their guy.”
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