Campus Corner

Signing Day: Flipping isn’t just for houses

Updated: 2014-02-05T12:19:35Z

By TOD PALMER

The Kansas City Star

— There is no honor among thieves nor college football coaches, apparently.

National Signing Day has arrived again, which means there are bound to be a few twists and turns throughout the day as the whims of 18-year-old kids shape the fate of a multi-million dollar industry.

It’s called flipping, the practice of trying to convince a recruit to back off a verbal commitment and switch to a different program.

It’s also a common and growing practice as well as something of a Southeastern Conference tradition, so Missouri fans should get used to it.

“When it comes to flipping prospects, coaches’ jobs are to put together the best roster they can, to evaluate the best players with the personality and the right fit,” ESPN national recruiting director Tom Luginbill said. “And coaches — whether you like it or not — they’re going to battle to the very end. Until that pen hits paper, in their opinion, all a verbal commitment is is an indication who they have to beat on a prospect.”

The Tigers lost a couple commitments to the flip, including Berrien Springs, Mich., defensive end Jhonathon Williams. He committed to Missouri in September, but changed his mind two months later when Notre Dame offered and he saw a chance to stay closer to home.

Sticking close to home also prompted Sickles High School (Tampa, Fla.) offensive lineman Zach Hudson to reverse course after committing to the Tigers and pledge his talents to South Florida instead.

There also have been double-flippers. DeSmet offensive lineman Andy Bauer from St. Louis famously flipped to Mississippi in March only to re-commit to Missouri in November.

Until the faxes pour in Wednesday morning, the Tigers will continue to wring their hands a bit, particularly with respect to safety prospect Tavon Ross and defensive end Rocel McWilliams.

“I’m sure Missouri will be sweating until that fax comes across the fax machine Wednesday morning,” ESPN.com senior writer Jeremy Crabtree said of Ross.

Ross, a standout athlete from Cochran, Ga., committed to Missouri in August, but a strong senior season helped spike interest in his services. He took visits to Georgia and Miami, Fla., in recent weeks.

“Georgia has not given up and there’s a lot of pressure on a kid when you’ve been committed to an out-of-state school and suddenly the big dog comes knocking on your door,” ESPN.com senior writer Jeremy Crabtree said. “You see it all the time in Florida when Florida or Florida State go after a kid who’s already committed somewhere else.”

That’s what happened with McWilliams, who got a late full-court press from the Gators.

“Rocel says all the right things and says, ‘I’m solid with Mizzou,’ but he’s another one you probably want to make sure and watch,” Crabtree said.

Of course, the flip — often a product of players committing too early, Luginbill said — is a tactic Missouri also uses to its advantage.

“In the South, when you’re recruiting against the Alabamas, the Georgias, the Floridas, the Florida States, the LSUs, whatever, so many of those kids have a tendency to flip from school to school to school to school,” Crabtree said. “That’s part of the way of life and the culture in the SEC.”

The Tigers snagged Florence, Ala., defensive end Walter Brady from Middle Tennessee State last Saturday and have their sights set on a few other players who’ve committed elsewhere.

DeSean Blair — a Louisville commit from Jacksonville, Fla., who is ranked 96th in the nation at wide receiver by Rivals.com — remains on Missouri’s wish list.

The Tigers also convinced another player from Jacksonville, Cincinnati commit Spencer Williams, to visit last weekend. He’s a 6-foot-4, 230-pound defensive end, the kind of project Missouri defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski has a knack for turning into a NFL Draft-worthy player.

To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to tpalmer@kcstar.com. Follow him at twitter.com/todpalmer.

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