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October 24, 2012

Different approaches for different coaches

MORE: Rivals250 | 2015 QB plans Bama visit

With the recruiting process seemingly a year-round undertaking, early commitments can be fickle.

That has forced coaches to develop strategies to deal with prospects who make a pledge, but then look around.

Some coaches have firm stances -- the rule being if a player commits, no other official visits are allowed.

Others, such as USC coach Lane Kiffin, have a more accommodating approach. Kiffin said he sees it as an opportunity for recruits to experience new things, probably confident that the Trojans offer enough for them to not change their minds.

"I don't discourage it at all," Kiffin said. "I have a rare stance on it. I just think some of these kids never have an opportunity like that. To fly around the country and visit different places and meet new people whether it's other recruits or other coaches.

"I let our kids go visit all over the place, our commits. I know that's rare nowadays. I don't think it's my job, I don't think I'm in a position to be limiting kids' abilities to take free trips around the country and see different parts of the country and meet new people."

That is a particularly curious position in light of recent news surrounding USC commits. Four-star safety Max Redfield recently visited Notre Dame and is now seriously considering the Irish.

Four-star cornerback Chris Hawkins was on the same trip to South Bend and took a close look at Notre Dame before deciding to stay 100 percent committed to USC.

Many other USC commits are expected to take visits before signing day.

If Kiffin put the kibosh on commits taking visits, though, that could end any speculation or significant worry that the recruiting class USC boasts today -- the top-rated one according to Rivals.com -- could see some defections. For Kiffin, it's the price of doing business.

Oregon coach Chip Kelly doesn't seem to have such a lenient approach.

Highly regarded running back and longtime Oregon commit Thomas Tyner recently de-committed from the Ducks because he wanted to take other visits -- UCLA seemed of particular interest -- but then re-committed about two days later without going on any trips.

Kelly is certainly not alone in if not dissuading, definitely not encouraging, his commitments to consider other options.

Clemson has a pretty tight no-visit policy. Texas commit A'Shawn Robinson has visited Florida State and plans to see USC and Alabama but the Longhorns' staff frowns upon such actions. Michigan is no-nonsense when it comes to commits taking trips. Oklahoma is the same way. Georgia Tech, too.

Many other coaches have a zero tolerance policy, or something close to it, for prospects who claim they're committed but take visits, often to rival programs.

"We talk to our guys about what a commitment is," Kelly said. "We're going to make a commitment to you it's the same thing as us not pulling a scholarship when you make a commitment to us. There's got to be a two-way street. I think our players understand what being committed means here."

Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said his stance on allowing committed players to take visits has adapted over time and that's it's taken a "harder line" recently.

One reason could be because players commit earlier, get curious and want to see other places.

But that could cause disruptions in the formation of the recruiting class and after all that hard work a coach could end up with nothing to show for it. All because a player was wooed on another trip or made a snap decision.

"When a guy wants to commit to us we make sure that he understands what that means," Rodriguez said. "If you have a guy who's committed to you but he's making a bunch of visits to other places you wonder if he's truly committed or just interested. That's the key for us.

"If a guy is taking it to have fun and he tells you that up front that's one thing but if they're taking the visit they must have some kind of interest in another school and that puts you in a tough situation because you may have dropped some other guys or moved off some other guys and then all of a sudden you lose this guy in the end."

If Rodriguez had his druthers, Arizona's commits would not visit anyplace else. That might not be possible since Rodriguez has 25 pledges this recruiting class, many are still being recruited by other schools and there is a lot of juggling involved there.

Being on the inside helps, too. From the head coach, to the assistant coaches recruiting specific players, to recruiting coordinators on down, there is a lot of communication about recruits, what they might be thinking and where everything stands.

A de-commitment might be surprising to outsiders, but within the program it's something that might be sensed a little earlier.

Since coaches talk with prospects often, or their coaches, or those close to them, there is a little better sense of what's really going on.

"Most of the time, you know as a coach there aren't as many surprises when guys de-commit as people think," Rodriguez said.

"If a guy is committed to you and he's visiting other places and all of a sudden he changes his commitment or something like that, I don't know why a coach would be surprised because he's visiting other schools so there aren't as many surprises as you'd think."

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