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January 17, 2012

Five-star recruits flipping their commitments

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Tom Bergeron is the Senior Editor for RivalsHigh.com. Send ideas, questions or comments to TBergero@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow on Twitter.

Perhaps coveted recruit Stefon Diggs had the right idea all along.

As he went through the week at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio earlier this month, the five-star wide receiver from Olney (Md. ) Good Counsel was known as much for his flash and dash on the field as for his recruiting process off it.

Simply put, he hadn't started - offering a list of a few dozen schools when most recruits were down to just a few if they hadn't already decided.

"I'm open," he said. "I'm still looking around."

Apparently many others at the event felt the same way - they just weren't admitting it.

It's not unusual for top recruits to change their mind in the final weeks and flip to another school. This year, however, it seems to be happening more than ever.

Four of the 31 five-star players - the most talented of the Class of 2012 - have switched schools, including two this past weekend, which sent shockwaves through the recruiting world.

Defensive lineman Ellis McCarthy, the No. 21 overall recruit from Monrovia (Calif.) High switched his commitment from California to UCLA.

Quarterback Gunner Kiel, the No. 20 overall recruit from Columbus (Ind.) East High, was expected to enroll at LSU this week but instead showed up at Notre Dame.

Earlier this winter, running back T.J. Yeldon the No. 12 overall recruit from Daphne (Ala.) High, flipped from Auburn to rival Alabama.

And offensive lineman Kyle Kalis, the No. 22 overall recruit from Lakewood (Ohio) St. Edward, switched from Ohio State to Michigan.

Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell, who has been covering the recruiting game for more than a decade, said it's a trend that is only increasing by the year.

"It's the nature of the game these days," he said. "Over the last few years we've seen so many five stars flip it has become almost commonplace."

Verbal commitments are non-binding declarations of where a top player is headed to school. They are intended to stop a recruiting process that - for top recruits such as these - have been going almost since the day these players started high school.

Nothing is official until a player signs a Letter of Intent on National Signing Day, which this year falls on Feb. 1.

And there's nothing in the rules to stop schools from recruiting kids even after they've verbally committed.

"The bigger the name, the more pressure they get from schools to flip," Farrell said.

But for as much chaos as flips cause, it's not necessarily a bad thing for the recruits. Many feel pressured to make a decision early - or make a decision that's right for others but not for them.

That appears to be the case with Kiel, who initially committed to nearby Indiana then switched to LSU before enrolling at Notre Dame this week.

Kalis admitted family pressure caused him to make his initial commitment to Ohio State.

"I was immature and impulsive when I first committed to Ohio State," he told told RivalsHigh in San Antonio. "I was so excited to get the offer and my family is all Ohio State fans, so I thought I was making the right decision at the time."

Trey Williams thought he did, too.

The five-star running back from Spring (Texas) DeKaney who was named the RivalsHigh Offensive Player of the Year after rushing for nearly 4,000 yards in his senior season, picked nearby Texas A&M early in the process.

But after A&M fired its head coach, Mike Sherman, the No. 15 overall recruit said he wanted to look around. He did, starting at A&M this past weekend. He met new coach Kevin Sumlin and liked what he found there.

"I really enjoyed myself this weekend," he told AggieYell.com, the leader in Texas A&M news. "I was 96-percent solid as an A&M commit (before the visit), and now I am solid."

Diggs is anything but.

The No. 8 overall recruit may be No. 1 in terms of personality. While other top recruits are stressing over the process, Diggs said he's enjoying every bit of it. He's in no hurry and won't necessarily decide on Feb. 1.

When asked if he would consider going to Penn State, a school that wasn't actively pursuing him, now that it has a new coach, Diggs made it clear how open he is.

"I'll take their call," he said.

He apparently isn't the only five-star recruit still answering his phone.



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