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Wednesday, February 1, 2012
Payton's wild recruiting experience

By Tim Haddock

Jordan Payton
Oaks Christian's Jordan Payton went from committing to USC to Cal to Washington and signing with UCLA.

In the span of 48 hours, Oaks Christian wide receiver Jordan Payton switched commitments from Cal to Washington to UCLA. Before that, as a junior, he verbally committed to USC.

He told a third of the schools in the Pac-12 Conference that he was going to play football for them.

He is one of the top recruits in the country, a talented receiver who can also play defensive back. He is tall, 6 feet 3, and fast, ranked 15th in the nation at wide receiver by Scout.com and Rivals.com. He was the 29th-ranked wide receiver in the nation by ESPNU. He would have been a valuable piece to any college offense.

But he might have become a victim of a relentless recruiting process that demands high school players make decisions before they are ready.

“It’s crazy, but the people have to understand this process is crazy,” Payton told the Los Angeles Times on Wednrsday. “You’re giving an 18-year-old kid a decision of a lifetime. I wanted to make sure I made the right decision.”

That decision left some coaching staffs and fans in the Pac 12 a bit upset.

By the end of signing day, Payton’s Twitter account had been disabled. He wasn’t taking phone calls for interviews and only talking to a few close friends and family once he committed to UCLA. ESPNLosAngeles made several attempts throughout the day to reach Payton to no avail.

Payton’s crazy day actually started last month, when he was all but obligated to declare where he was going to play in college during the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. He told a nationally televised audience he was going to Cal. After reconsidering his decision to go to USC as a junior, colleges across the country began recruiting Payton hard.

He had offers from Notre Dame and Michigan in addition to Cal. Even after he said he was going to Cal, Payton still made a visit to Washington. Two of the coaches who recruited Payton to Cal were plucked by Washington coach Steve Sarkisian, but Payton decided he wanted to follow the coaches.

He again told a nationally televised audience on ESPNU on Tuesday that he was switching his commitment to Washington. But that commitment lasted a little less than a day.

Oaks Christian coach Bill Redell said immaturity played a part in Payton’s decision to go to UCLA after verbally committing to three other schools beforehand.

Redell placed some of the blame on the college coaches and the recruitment process as well.

“Colleges today, nobody pays attention to commitment,” Redell said. “If the colleges don’t pay attention to it, kids don’t pay attention to it.”

When USC began recruiting Payton, Redell said, it was by Pete Carroll and his staff before the NCAA sanctions took away scholarships and banned the team from playing in bowl games or in the postseason.

After Carroll left USC to coach the Seattle Seahawks in the NFL, Payton was recruited by Cal, plus other schools.

On Tuesday, Payton said he was changing his commitment from Cal to Washington. Redell said the two coaches who recruited him to Cal influenced Payton’s decision.

“Then he slides up to Washington,” Redell said, “because of his feeling toward those two guys.”

But that commitment lasted less than a day. On Wednesday, Payton decided to ultimately sign with UCLA.

“I think he wanted to go to UCLA all along,” Redell said. “But UCLA didn’t get into the picture until late.”

Payton wasn’t the only recruit to change his mind on national signing day. Alemany’s Jerico Richardson, a UCLA commit, changed his mind Wednesday and ended up signing with Nevada.

Inglewood’s Devian Shelton was another recruit who changed his mind, ending up with USC after committing to Oregon State.

West Covina’s Chris Solomon decided on Nevada after giving Colorado his verbal commitment.

A high school football player having a change of heart on national signing day is nothing new. But a player changing his mind three times in about a day just might be a first.