published Sunday, February 6th, 2011

Commitment means 'target'

No gentlemen's agreement in SEC recruiting

Linebacker Brent Calloway signed with Alabama last Wednesday after committing to the Crimson Tide two years ago and then to Auburn last month.

Receiver Nickolas Brassell and linebacker C.J. Johnson signed with Ole Miss but once were Mississippi State commitments.

College football prospects committing to more than one school or committing to one school and signing with another no longer provides shock because of the frequency, but what if such scenarios could be eliminated? Alabama coach Nick Saban said this past week that he has lived in such a world.

"When I was in the Big Ten, we all had a gentlemen's agreement that if a player made a commitment, we stopped recruiting them," Saban said. "If there was a guy committed somewhere and he called you, then we contacted the other school and told them, so they knew. That way everybody could manage their business better.

"In the Southeastern Conference, when a guy commits, that just makes them a target. It isn't like that everywhere in the country. It's really not, but it is that way here, so we expect it."

ESPN analyst Jamie Newberg was asked if a gentlemen's agreement ever would work in the SEC. He could not immediately respond because of laughter.

"That's nice fiction in the SEC," Newberg said. "In good theory, maybe people on the outside can look in and say, 'Why can't they do that?' Those people just wouldn't understand what recruiting is like in this league. It will never happen. Never. Never. Never.

"It's open season until that fax machine has that letter-of-intent signed, sealed and delivered."

Brassell and Johnson were among six Mississippi State commitments who bolted since the start of December, leaving Bulldogs coach Dan Mullen with his own interpretation of just what commitments and decommitments really are.

"A decommitment in my mind and in the media's mind is different," Mullen said. "A commitment in my mind is someone that is always going to come to Mississippi State, and if you are visiting other schools, then that means you are not committed, in my opinion."

When asked what should be the term for a prospect who commits yet continues to take visits, Mullen said, "I don't know. Maybe a reservation."

Perhaps nobody summed up this year's recruiting process in the SEC better than LSU coach Les Miles. After a signing day in which the Tigers did not endure a single surprise, Miles said, "That was a surprise in many ways."

Roberson's ride

Alabama defensive end signee Jeoffrey Pagan of Asheville, N.C., who committed to Florida and then Clemson, then reportedly was leaning to Georgia before choosing the Crimson Tide, provided an eventful recruiting saga. He was almost as entertaining as new Florida cornerback Marcus Roberson.

Roberson, who's from Fort Lauderdale, committed first to Texas Tech, where uncle Otis Mounds is the new cornerbacks coach. When asked last month by the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal if he had committed to the Red Raiders, Roberson said, "Yes, but I'm still open."

The 6-1, 170-pounder was committed to Auburn early last week for several hours before entering national signing day undecided and then picking Florida.

Roberson took his official visit to Gainesville on Jan. 21, and he was hosted by Janoris Jenkins. Several hours into the visit, Jenkins was arrested for marijuana possession.

Not that shabby

Florida did not assemble one of Rivals.com's top five SEC classes for the first time since 2002, when Ron Zook had just replaced Steve Spurrier.

The Gators had 16 commitments in early December, when coach Urban Meyer announced his resignation, and wound up with 19 in Will Muschamp's first haul following Friday's announcement by Palm Beach Gardens dual-threat quarterback Jacoby Brissett. Muschamp said the Gators could have signed as many as 25 but that he preferred quality over quantity.

"We did a nice job of securing the class we had," Muschamp said. "We had to re-recruit all of those guys because of all of the changes, the mass changes with our staff."

The Associated Press

Alabama football coach Nick Saban said there was a gentlemen's agreement when he was at Michigan State that prevented the Big Ten from the chaos that the SEC currently experiences in recruiting.

Florida has seven early enrollees, including the touted quarterback-tailback tandem of Jeff Driskel and Mike Blakely. The Gators signed a strong secondary group and were not expected to fare overly well on the defensive front after signing Ronald Powell, Sharrif Floyd and Dominique Easley last year, three of Rivals.com's top seven prospects.

Where the Gators struck out was at linebacker after being in good shape last summer with Stephone Anthony (Clemson), Lamar Dawson (Southern Cal) and Curtis Grant (Ohio State).

The parting shot

Mississippi State's signing class paled in the various rankings compared to rival Ole Miss, which had a consensus top-20 crop, but Mullen provided the Jackson Clarion-Ledger with this nugget:

"I thought we did pretty well. I guess we'll find out next Thanksgiving, just like the last two Thanksgivings."

about David Paschall...

David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...

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