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Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Cal prep stars take wait and see approach

By Kevin Gemmell

California is the lifeblood of Pac-12 recruiting. Sure, coaches talk about putting up fences in their backyards and keeping their state's elite talent within. But the majority of the top-notch players from the conference hail from the Golden State -- Northern, Southern and everywhere in between.

So it was an interesting read in SI to see that the bulk of top-rated players in the state are holding out before making a commitment. Bravo. It would be nice to see players make their commitment after some careful consideration and then stick with it.

This trend of flip-flopping, while dramatic, gets old. There was the 11th-hour Shaq Thompson switch, for example (though Washington folks probably aren't complaining). And of course the tale of Davonte Neal, who left schools dangling (and 600 elementary school kids by the way) before finally settling on Notre Dame.

Remember the time when a player would simply call up the coach and say: "I'm coming to your school."

To which the coach would say: "OK, be ready to work in the fall."

That was it.

Of course, no California recruiting story would be complete without a Tosh Lupoi reference. Writes Steve Megargee from the SI article:
When Washington hired Tosh Lupoi away from California two weeks before National Signing Day, it sent shockwaves through the 2012 West Coast recruiting scene. The aftermath of that move is still making an impact.

"That whole thing that happened with coach Lupoi, I think it sent a message to everybody here in California that you have to wait until that point where everything's about to be finalized to make your decision," Atwater Buhach offensive tackle and Rivals100 recruit Aaron Cochran said. "Anything can happen."

Cochran should know. He's the younger brother of Matt Cochran, a 2012 three-star center who verbally committed to California two weeks before Lupoi's departure. Though he signed with California anyway, the Golden Bears lost several other coveted prospects. Among them: Sacramento Grant safety Shaq Thompson (Washington), Monrovia defensive tackle Ellis McCarthy (UCLA) and Westlake Village wide receiver Jordan Payton (UCLA). All three were Rivals100 recruits.

I was covering San Diego State when Cal defensive lineman Mustafa Jalil committed to the Aztecs, a "solid verbal" as they say, only to make his switch to the Bears. I distinctly remember someone at SDSU telling me off the record "we're going to have to work hard to keep that guy." Not hard enough, apparently. And after the switch, I remember that same person using a more explicit word.

Players are free to choose whatever school they want, but hopefully this will start a trend of giving their decision a little more thought, rather than just knee-jerking on their first commitment. And if that means waiting until signing day before making an announcement, great. That makes for better drama, anyway.