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Friday, June 09, 2017

Penn State Just Lost One of Its Top Recruits

James Franklin is on a roll in Happy Valley.

Penn State has resurrected its football program.

Perhaps they even have a chance to develop a bona fide NFL star QB some day.

Well, that was until the nation's top dual threat quarterback pulled out of his oral commitment, saying all the right things, but that he committed too early and needs to re-think the process. 

And perhaps that's as it should be.  The kid is 17 or 18 and the teenage brain isn't full developed and his thoughts and hormones might be swirling about this, that and the other thing, from football and dreams of stardom to girls, cars, even academics.  The question is whether that brain really is capable of synthesizing all of the information to make the best decision for him, a decision that could be a gateway to fame, fortune and the risk of all sorts of debilitating future injuries.

I remember an article decades ago, an article in which Lefty Driesell, the old Maryland hoops coach, was interviewed.  He was asked about recruits who committed early, and to the writer's astonishment he said that he loved it when recruits committed early (by this he meant, committed to other schools).  The incredulous writer asked why.  To which Driesell responded, "Because then I know who I've got to beat."


And that's what happened here and probably happens in every other case where a young man commits early and has yet to sign a national letter of intent.  Commit to Ohio State?  Well, then you have to defeat Urban Meyer.  Tough to do?  Sure.  But suppose you know that he's sweet on a rising junior quarterback from Columbus or Cleveland, a kid who projects better than you?  Would the rival school use that to their advantage?  Why not?  Because if that potential also-ran at Ohio State could be a game changer say, at Indiana, then what do the Hoosiers have to lose? 

Schools should keep their recruits close but ask them not to orally commit publicly.  But perhaps the price of the commitment from the school is the player's public declaration that he's going to XYZ so that every other school backs off.  Perhaps, but if that's the case, then other schools might come at this player harder knowing that perhaps they can offer things that the school he just declared for cannot. 

The winners?  The losers?

It's hard to know.  So much effort goes into recruiting, and unless your Alabama it can be an inexact science.  Some kids don't get better, some get homesick, some don't know how to handle life on their own and party too much and some run into too much competition at their own position.  Many leave; some transfer in. 

And yet. . . I still think of what Lefty Driesell said. 

And laugh about it, too.  So many adults and institutions spend so much time and money to pursue high school sophomore and juniors with the hope that they will get a commitment when they are seniors. 

Imagine having your livelihood depend on the caprices of a teenaged brain. 

Imagine you are the one with the teenaged brain, either overconfident about your abilities, nervous about the snake oil salesmen or skeptical about whether any recruiting coordinator cares about anything other than what you can do on the football field. 

High-class problem?  Or, a situation borne equally of hope and desperation?


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