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Monday, February 11, 2013
Updated: February 13, 1:20 PM ET
What's the benefit?

By Mitch Sherman
ESPN RecruitingNation

Maybe it's the next big trend in football recruiting.

Another premier program appears set to take a hard-line stance in refusing to allow committed prospects to take visits elsewhere.

Texas is joining the likes of Michigan and Oregon -- and on a slightly less relevant scale, Georgia Tech -- in instituting a no-visit policy for its commits.

Thomas Tyner
ESPN 150 RB Thomas Tyner backed off his Oregon commitment after thinking of visiting another school but quickly recommitted back to the Ducks.

The coaches at these schools are up front with the players they recruit. When you commit to us, they say, we commit to you. And whether it's in June or January, you're with us. Want to look around? Fine, but we're dropping you.

The policy seems to make sense on the surface. After all, college programs need to guard against the recruit who simply wants to reserve his spot in case nothing better develops. And the school's pledge to the committed prospect, in theory, provides insurance. If the recruit gets hurt, the coaches say they'll honor his scholarship.

Under closer inspection, the whole thing reeks of a certain hypocrisy and arrogance -- and, in the case of Texas, perhaps a hint of desperation.

To the programs who want to fall in line behind the Longhorns in this 2014 recruiting cycle, proceed carefully.

If your school's a hot commodity, everything works fine. You've got leverage over the recruits. But as soon as something appears awry on campus -- say, the prospect of a fourth straight disappointing season after nine straight with at least 10 wins -- forget it. Leverage returns to the prospects, where it belongs, anyway, until signing day.

Really, it's up to the kids to determine the fate of these no-visit policies, because for the only time in their amateur careers, they hold the cards. Once a recruit signs that letter of intent, the college essentially owns him.

Let's face it, the real concern of schools like Michigan, Oregon and Texas is not that their classes will get bogged down with recruits reserving spots. These are desirable destinations. When kids commit to play in Ann Arbor, Eugene and Austin, they largely mean it.

The no-visit policies exist to protect the schools' investment in the recruits -- to safeguard against the possibility that prospects may change their minds, which is entirely within their rights until February.

"I'm kind of in the middle of the road on this," said new Michigan signee Dan Samuelson, an offensive tackle from Plymouth (Ind.) High School. "I think they have to be that way in order to keep their guys. But I also think they should let guys make the best choice for them."

Michigan pulled Samuelson from Nebraska, which, incidentally, got him to decommit from Pittsburgh. Samuelson didn't have the Nebraska offer when he committed to Pittsburgh, and he didn't have the Michigan offer when he committed to Nebraska.

"In that sense," he said, "I think I did the right thing."

Michigan began "sniffing around," Samuelson said, after Thanksgiving. While he was still a Nebraska commit, he made an official visit to Ann Arbor in January and switched his pledge to Michigan on the trip.

That the Wolverines pursue players from the recruiting classes of other schools while refusing to let their commits visit elsewhere displays something of a double standard.

Michigan coach Brady Hoke, of course, doesn't set policy at other schools. And if those coaches allow players to take other visits, Hoke is happy to take advantage with no trace of an apology.

Hoke's passion for Michigan shapes this policy, like so many of his views on recruiting.

"This is Michigan. Why wouldn't you (commit)?" Hoke said on signing day in response to a question about the environment in Ann Arbor that led the Wolverines to collect several early pledges from top prospects last winter en route to signing the nation's No. 6 class.

A similar sentiment exists at Oregon, where Chip Kelly's policy forced star running back prospect Thomas Tyner of Aloha (Ore.) High School to decommit for a day last fall while he considered a visit to UCLA. Tyner did not make the trip and recommitted to the Ducks shortly after. He eventually signed with Oregon.

At the time, the Ducks were the hottest thing going. Not so much, though, in January after Kelly left for the Philadelphia Eagles. The change forced new coach Mark Helfrich and his staff of seven holdovers into scramble mode.

Dontre Wilson of DeSoto (Texas) High School, who was among Oregon's top pledges, took visits to Texas and Ohio State and signed with the Buckeyes. Twins Tyree and Tyrell Robinson of San Diego Lincoln visited USC and Washington while still committed to Oregon. Fellow pledge Darren Carrington of San Diego Heritage visited Arizona.

So much for the no-visit policy.

While the Robinsons and Carrington eventually landed in Helfrich's class, which slipped to No. 26 after the loss of Wilson, Kelly's policy meant little to anyone after he bolted. The Ducks' leverage disappeared. It can happen anywhere.

Those close to the Oregon program expect Helfrich to take a softer stance than Kelly in this area.

And Helfrich can recruit just as well as Kelly -- if not better -- without the policy. He and his staff hit the pavement in January for what they called a "world tour," often visiting prospects with as many as eight coaches at once.

It helped convince heralded offensive guard Cameron Hunt of Corona (Calif.) Centennial to flip at the end from Cal. Hunt, interestingly, also visited Michigan in January.

His offers from Oregon and Michigan came only after Jeff Tedford was fired at Cal.

Dan Samuelson
Former Nebraska commit Dan Samuelson flipped to Michigan while on his visit to Ann Arbor in January.

"If the coaches wouldn't have been fired at Cal, I would have stayed committed," Hunt said last month before reaching a decision. "But I've got to do what's best for me."

Oregon also snagged defensive end Torrodney Prevot of Houston Alief Taylor, long committed to USC, on signing day.

"This is a special place," Helfrich said last week.

Yes, but Pac-12 rival Stanford is special, too.

In the case of Texas, so is Texas A&M.

And Ohio State is equally attractive to Michigan, though you won't hear Urban Meyer talk of a no-visit policy. He all but encourages his recruits to look around. Meyer believes he'll still get them in the end.

This year, cornerback Gareon Conley of Massillon (Ohio) Washington decommitted from Michigan in November to take other visits. He committed to Ohio State in December and signed with the Buckeyes, even after Michigan continued to recruit him.

Offensive guard David Dawson of Detroit Cass Tech decommitted from the Wolverines and took a visit to Florida in October. He later returned to Michigan's class.

"One thing that you have to understand about that policy," Hoke said on signing day, "every situation is a little bit different."

In other words, Michigan will bend its rules to best suit the program, to look out for itself.

Recruits should do the same.

No matter the policies, the pre-signing day open market dictates the volatility of recruiting. Coaches can pressure recruits from now until next February, but kids are going to sign with the schools that fit them.

And isn't that best?