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USC attempts to pry away BYU commit

01/30/2014, 3:00pm PST
By Craig Malveaux

Mission Hills linebacker Fred Warner takes official visit to USC on eve of signing day.

Mission Hills Fred Warner sacks Bakersfield's quarterback Asauni Rufus.

In April, Fred Warner withdrew himself from the football recruiting market.

Certain of his choice, the four-star Mission Hills High senior linebacker declined dozens of scholarship offers, committing his collegiate career to Brigham Young University.

It was a snug fit. The school in Provo, Utah, is his mother’s alma mater, appealed to his LDS faith and offered him a unique opportunity.

Then, USC piqued Warner’s interest. The traditional Pac-12 powerhouse axed head coach Lane Kiffin and promoted Ed Orgeron.

“Coach O impressed me,” Warner told the U-T.

Months removed, and with a scholarship on the table, USC continues to court Warner with intentions of prying the San Diego Section Defensive Player of the Year from the hands of BYU before Wednesday’s National Signing Day.

On Thursday, Warner opted to visit the USC campus.

“There’s a classic example we use here for these situations,” said Greg Biggins, national recruiting analyst for FoxSports/Scout.com. “You’re engaged to your fiancée, whom you’ve committed to, but continue to court other girls.”

In Warner’s case, though, his dream school became a very late option. When the dust finally settled at USC, the Trojans offered him a scholarship after he’d already committed.

“It’s a businesslike approach,” said ESPN.com reporter Blair Angulo, who covers USC football recruiting. “(Fred) is assessing every option. He’s making sure he does his due diligence and chooses a school that best fits him.”

Warner isn’t alone. His situation is a microcosm of the recruiting world, where schools attempt to manipulate, persuade and then swipe already committed recruits from other programs before the annual signing day.

“When it comes to recruiting, ethics is a foreign concept,” Biggins said. “It’s a dog-eat-dog world. Recruiters fabricate. They’ll make stuff up and negatively recruit against other schools in contention. It’s very shady.

“Is it accepted? Yes. There isn’t a single school, BCS school, Ivy League and in between, that doesn’t recruit other schools’ commitments.”

To them, a “no” or “not interested” screams “try a different sales pitch.” And a commitment simply means “for right now;” even a red streetlight flickers green again.

The trick is to convince a recruit that the grass could be greener elsewhere. And if a committed recruit entertains the pitch, and agrees to visit a school, there’s a chance, no matter how small.

“It’s a backup plan sometimes,” Angulo said. “You always hear those crazy stories that a kid is switching his mind at the last minute, which leaves schools scrambling. Schools have to continue to build up options and backup options and backup options to those options to ensure that they get guys in their class.”

While school “A” is in the ear of a committed recruit from school “B,” school “B” could be in the ear of a recruit from school “A” and so forth.

It’s a vicious cycle.

“That’s how football recruiting is. I don’t want to use the word epidemic, but a verbal commitment means absolutely nothing,” Biggins said. “For some kids, they just want to have fun. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience where a kid gets wined and dined and taken out. He eats food and drinks and has pretty girls thrown at him during the weekend, so why not? And if you really like what you see, you may switch.”

However, in some cases, such as with La Jolla Country Day’s four-star offensive tackle Jordan Poland, schools recruit because of major changes.

Initially a USC commit, Poland, an Arizona native, opted to leave for the Wildcats once Kiffin and the coaching staff were replaced.

“The primary driving factor was the coaching change,” said Cody James Martin, a senior writer for Wildcatauthority.com. “(New USC coach) Steve Sarkisian never had an eye for Jordan, so there was little communication between him and the school and it didn’t seem like a fit for either party. So, then, Arizona jumped in and heavily recruited him.”

As for Warner, a decision lies ahead. After his USC visit, he will visit BYU again this weekend. Come Wednesday, maybe he sticks, maybe he doesn’t.

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