To commit, or not to commit, that is the question

Donte Deayon’s front-row seat for Summit High School football teammate Devon Blackmon’s three-year courtship by everyone from the Pac-12 to the SEC apparently left a lasting impression.

Deayon verbally committed exactly one scholarship offer into his recruitment.

From the parade of college coaches through the Summit campus to the higher-intensity home visits prior to Blackmon’s commitment to Oregon less than a month before national signing day, Deayon saw no reason to endure the stress after Boise State offered the rising senior defensive back a scholarship this summer.

“Devon used to tell me how frustrating it was not knowing what to do,” Deayon said. “And you could see it translate to the field. It was a lot to handle and you could see it translate to the field. Sometimes he wasn’t all there.”

Facing the decision to commit early or navigate the in-season recruiting frenzy in hopes of a better offer is becoming a more common dilemma as the competition between college coaches forces earlier scholarship offers despite the inability to make anything official until February of a player’s senior year.

The easy solution is to eliminate early offers. The reality is that early offers are not only increasing in number, they’re being delivered sooner.

Decisions for Deayon and Summit teammate Jamaal Williams, a running back who committed to BYU on July 6, were made easier this summer in that they weren’t waiting for any bigger, better offers.

Williams, in particular, was no-so-subtly eased into his commitment by a condition to the offer of his school of choice. BYU, one of a handful of offers that included Boise State and Utah, informed the 6-foot-2, 180-pound rising senior that it was going to sign one running back and one running back only this year.

“BYU told him he was their No. 1 guy,” Summit head coach Tony Barile said, “but they said, ‘We have a big camp coming up, and if another running back gets offered and they take it, then our one spot is gone.’

“There are some people who are limited by their early offers, but Donte and Jamaal each knew they were the No. 1 choice of the schools that offered them. If they wait until October, they may get offers from USC and UCLA, but instead of being the first choice of Boise State or BYU, they’re the second choice of those schools.”

The Pac-12 offers are beginning to roll in for Colony linebacker Robert Wagner, whose six include Arizona and Arizona State. While he would prefer to commit prior to the start of his senior season in September, Wagner is confident he’s developed significantly since the college scouts viewed him last year, and is prepared to entice more schools with his play in the fall if necessary.

“You never know who’s going to want you after they see some more game film,” Wagner said. “When you’re not committed, you’re gonna play harder to try and prove something to those teams that haven’t offered you. But you’ve got to be focused to deal with all that during the season, because it’s a lot to handle.”

Upland receiver Kenny Lawler, perhaps the highest-profile recruit in the Inland Valley this year, is enjoying the best of both worlds.

The 6-3, 180-pound senior-to-be verbally committed to Arizona State in February, but readily acknowledges that the commitment is a soft one and he’s still open to other options. His strategy is paying off.

“I couldn’t even count how many coaches were contacting me before, and it’s hard to focus when it’s like that. It even gets into your class work,” Lawler said. “Now there’s probably 10 coaches total and it’s all through e-mail. Those are the coaches I want to talk to, and I’m still open to those schools.”

The dilemma isn’t confined to players. High school coaches balancing their attempts to run a successful program with looking out for the collegiate future of their pupils are faced with a number of conflicting issues.

While Colony’s Wagner may enter the season uncommitted, teammate Bryan Harper issued a verbal pledge to Washington this summer amidst offers from UCLA, Arizona and Colorado, among others.

Colony head coach Matt Bechtel sees both sides of the coin.

“If your No. 1 school offers you, absolutely you should jump on it,” Bechtel said. “But I’m not a fan of the early offers. I wish my guys didn’t have the option to commit early. Personally I think guys should go through the process and take their trips because it’s effecting the next four years of their life.

“With Bryan Harper, he needs to stay hungry and stay humble, and if I see him going through the motions this season, I told him I have no problem calling up (Washington head coach) Steve Sarkisian and telling him what kind of player he’s getting.”