July 27, 2006

Robertson decision goes down to the wire

If anyone asks you why you follow football recruiting so closely, tell them about defensive end Travian Robertson from Laurinburg (N.C.) Scotland County. Robertson is a Rivals100 rush end who played only four games as a junior but is the prize in a heated recruiting battle between Clemson and South Carolina. And until he announces his decision Thursday at 5 P.M. EST, no one seems to know which one he'll pick.

The battle for Robertson has been like a prize fight with each program landing stunning blows only to see their opponent fire right back unfazed. Whatever hat Robertson chooses, it will be interesting to see if he sticks with that decision until Signing Day. A verbal commitment here isn't etched in stone by any means.

So who will get that commitment? It's a very tough call just days removed from this being a knockout win for Clemson. South Carolina assistant coach Brad Lawing was recruiting Robertson for North Carolina last year before he took the job with the Gamecocks. Robertson initially favored South Carolina in this battle because of his strong relationship with Lawing. But Clemson doesn't give up that easily.

Clemson assistant coach Billy Napier, quickly establishing himself as one of the nation's best young recruiters, has also forged a strong relationship with Robertson and Travian and his father decided to take an unofficial visit to Clemson last week before making his decision. Robertson had not met Tommy Bowden on his earlier trip to Clemson, but heading into that visit he listed the Tigers as his leader, something that surprised many.

Robertson's visit went off without a hitch, earning a "10" rating from the defensive end, and there were rumors that he silently committed to Bowden and Napier before leaving campus. Case closed and story over, right? Wrong. Lawing and South Carolina don't give up that easily either.

Farrell's Forecast
Here's how I came up with South Carolina. Assistant coach Brad Lawing has been recruiting Robertson longer than anyone else. Robertson favored South Carolina until Clemson came on strong. In this case I think Robertson goes with his first instinct and picks the Gamecocks. Throw in the apparent offer to his buddy McKnight and I'm thinking Garnett & Black. That's all I have to justify my prediction, that's how close this one is.

Forecast: South Carolina

Confidence Level: Medium

-- Rivals.com National Analyst Mike Farrell

Lawing convinced Robertson to take one more look at South Carolina and the 6-foot-4, 230-pound rush end took an unofficial visit to Columbia on Tuesday. The Gamecocks also offered his defensive line teammate, Byron McKnight, earlier this week, clearly an incentive for Robertson to choose the Gamecocks. Following that visit it seems that no one really knows which school Robertson will choose on Thursday, including his father.

"He doesn't tell me much, which is a shame," said Tony Robertson, Travian's father. "Well actually it might be for the best that I don't know. I don't think Travian has decided yet either. I don't have a preference at all; I just want him to pick the place where he's most comfortable."

So how do you make a forecast on this one? Sources from each side feel confident but are still worried. South Carolina led early, Clemson led most recently. Robertson's last visit was to South Carolina, his best visit was to Clemson. And both Lawing and Napier are excellent recruiters.

This is the kind of battle that makes recruiting so much fun to follow. It's also the kind of decision that will lead to euphoria for one set of fans and a meltdown for another. And if I get it wrong? Watch out.

As recently as Tuesday I had Robertson as a lock for Clemson based on his visit there over the weekend. But now, everything has changed with the Gamecocks getting that last chance to talk to him in person. With that and the offer to his teammate, I'm going to go with South Carolina. But there's little doubt that this one could go either way.

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