Commits negotiate social media

Twitter, Facebook give fans inside glimpse but sometimes get unwieldy

Updated: January 28, 2013, 6:19 PM ET
By Chantel Jennings | WolverineNation

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Social media has been a double-edged sword for the recruiting world.

On the one hand, the idea of giving fans access to the news they clamor for seems like the best idea out there. On the other hand, giving 15- to 17-year-olds free rein at the rate of 140 characters a post on Twitter or unlimited space on Facebook seems like a time bomb.

[+] EnlargeLogan Tuley-Tillman
Drew Russell/IntersportLogan Tuley-Tillman touched off a firestorm with a rather incendiary Twitter photo.
For Michigan fans, this year has been a mixed bag of social media experiences.

Quarterback commit Shane Morris (Warren, Mich./De La Salle) has more than 21,000 Twitter followers and 5,000 Facebook friends. He has given recruiting fans an inside look into the mind of a top recruit. With tweets ranging in topic from his all-boys school to picking on his younger brother to posting photos of Ohio State's bowl game shirt (a blank white t-shirt), fans have felt closer than ever before to an incoming player.

Early enrollee offensive lineman Kyle Bosch once posted a photo of his post-workout meal (including five different types of meat, a bowl of soup, a banana, bread and pudding), while others give insight into the type of people they are, such as wide receiver commit Csont'e York (Harper Woods, Mich./Chandler Park Academy) when he tweeted, "Let your actions speak so loud they can't hear a word that leaves your mouth."

They are the kind of windows into recruits' lives that no one except the player himself can provide.

But there are also major downsides to that kind of attention. Morris, after a year and a half of intense attention, shut down all media interviews this month. The poster child of the 2013 Michigan class will remain silent until he gets to Michigan. Meanwhile, several commits have shut down their Twitter accounts at least once during their recruitment because of negative comments.

The most obvious downside on social media was seen through decommitments. Players such as offensive lineman David Dawson (Detroit/Cass Tech) and cornerback Gareon Conley (Massillon, Ohio/Washington) received unabashed messages from "fans" following their decommitments, responses far worse -- according to Dawson -- than how Brady Hoke or any Michigan coach ever reacted.

But it's not isolated to just the Michigan fandom. The Wolverines picked up commits from other schools whose fans also showed their displeasure behind avatars and user names.

When cornerback Delano Hill (Detroit/Cass Tech) flipper from Iowa to Michigan, one person tweeted, "Hope Delano Hill tears acl at Michigan. #loser #liar." And when cornerback Reon Dawson (Trotwood, Ohio/Trotwood-Madison) changed his allegiance from Illinois to Michigan, he, too, received a backlash from Fighting Illini fans who had previously embraced him.

Reon Dawson, who received even more criticism from Ohio State fans for committing to his state's rival school, said he did his best to ignore the haters.

"It happened but I just took a positive turn to it," Dawson said. "I just said, 'I have to do what's best for me but I appreciate your opinion.' I really didn't go off on anybody."

Perhaps the Twitter fiasco that received the most attention happened last May when 2013 offensive line commit Logan Tuley-Tillman received a mailing from Ohio State. The Michigan commit posted a photo to Twitter of him burning the letter and immediately was inundated with responses, everything from congratulations to death threats.

""It's the biggest rivalry in sports," Tuley-Tillman told WolverineNation at the time. "It's sad that grown men and women get like this over a picture."

And the responses didn't stop on Twitter or Facebook. More than 5,000 comments were posted on the article when it ran on ESPN.com. To put that in perspective, that's on the same level of comments that were garnered when Texas A&M freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel won the Heisman Trophy or when Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis announced his retirement in early January.

It wasn't all negative. One commenter, an admitted Ohio State fan, said he or she liked the post and how it showed the intensity of the rivalry. However, what made their post different was the consideration taken for what the rest of the comments given for Tuley-Tillman.

"As for the trash that wrote negative things to this high schooler," the user wrote, "they would never say it to his face, so it simply makes them look weak and idiotic. All of their tweets/comments should be made public so they can get a taste of it."

The general consensus among recruits is that they must understand they will hear from fanbases on all sides and they can't put too much stock into any. And several commits and prospects have turned peoples' hate words into something that can help push them.

"I got a lot of that. & But I'm going to work hard and do what I have to do. I can appreciate the fans' opinions," Reon Dawson said. "People said that they don't think I can play at Michigan, but that just gives me motivation to prove them wrong."