Another young man who has never been through the cutthroat world of college football recruiting has been processed. It’s not his fault and it may not even be the fault of the coaches who made him a priority recruit right up until the day they didn’t anymore.
But the lessons being taught under the current system has to stop.
Dazalin (Duh-ZAY-lin) Worsham is a wide receiver recruit from Hewitt-Trussville High School near Birmingham. For a couple of years he was considered the best recruit in the state in the Class of 2020.
He had been committed to Alabama for more than a year when he announced last week that he was opening up his recruitment. The assumption is that he’ll end up signing with the University of Miami.
So what happened? Alabama simply found players they wanted to concentrate on more than Worsham. When he wasn’t “feeling the love,” he got the message and moved on.
How can this keep happening year after year? There are two reasons.
The first is based on the same reason casinos are so successful. When customers have a bad experience at a restaurant or hotel or department store, they immediately warn all of their friends to avoid those establishments.
But patrons of a casino come back with one of two stories: either “I won a lot of money” or “I broke even.” Seldom does anyone advertise the fact that they lost.
The same is true in recruiting. If a prospect signs with a particular program, he reports to everyone how great it is. When he gets dumped by his original school of choice, he never publicizes that unpleasant experience.
Instead, he simply says he found another school and program that he likes just as much. He broke even.
The second reason this practice of dumping recruits is seldom publicized is that many high school coaches are unwilling to be forthcoming about how recruiting really works. Part of the reason for that is commendable — they don’t want to embarrass the kid any more than the kid wants to be embarrassed. So, it’s easier to simply not make a big stink when one of their players is promised a scholarship and then the school/college coach does not follow through on that promise.
The other part of the reason why high school coaches don’t make public the seedy side of recruiting is because it’s sometimes in their own best interest to not be critical of the powerful college coaches who will be recruiting their future players, and also might just help the high school coach advance his own career.
Again, these reasons make sense. But that doesn’t make them right.
The best example of a player being processed happened right here in Mobile. The results for the player and the high school coach turned out to be positive, but that doesn’t make the process right.
Darius Philon was a major recruit at Vigor High School in 2012. He was a longtime commit to Alabama and never even took a visit to another school. At the last minute, Alabama decided to sign Dalvin Tomlinson and Korren Kirven instead of honoring the commitment to Philon. Alabama wanted Philon to delay his enrollment at Alabama while he recovered from knee surgery, which was not a viable option for him.
On Signing Day in February 2012, Philon was publicly distraught by the development. He eventually signed with Arkansas.
By 2013 Philon was a starter at Arkansas when the Razorbacks visited Alabama to play the top-ranked Crimson Tide. Alabama’s director of player personnel by that time was Kerry Stevenson, Philon’s coach at Vigor.
Philon is currently living his dream in the NFL, having just signed a two-year contract with the Arizona Cardinals after being drafted by the San Diego Chargers in 2015.
Stevenson has moved on to the University of Tennessee, where he is the director of player personnel. And, of course, Nick Saban continues to build on his reputation as the greatest college football coach of all time.
So, maybe everyone won. And maybe Worsham will go to Miami and eventually live out his professional football dreams while Alabama continues to sign players who will keep the Tide in national championship contention for years to come.
But it would be so easy to make the process of recruiting a more honest endeavor. The simple answer is to allow players to sign with the college of their choice at any age. If Alabama wants to offer a scholarship to fifth graders, then let that kid go ahead and sign.
The result would not be that fifth graders would be signing college scholarships. Instead, it would lead to college coaches only offering scholarships to players who have a place on their team guaranteed.
Either that or we can all keep looking the other way when these kids are taught at a young age that adults don’t have to live up to their word.
Randy Kennedy writes a weekly column for Lagniappe and is co-host of “Sports Drive” every weekday from 3-6 p.m. on WNSP 105.5 FM, the country’s first all-sports FM station. Follow him on Twitter: @Kennedy_Randy
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