While Gator fans sweated out the flip flop recruitment of the two Demarcus’ this weekend, HailFloridaHail has been on top of the story. The back and forth drama of Demarcus Robinson’s recruitment would make a good book.
In case you’re unaware of the story, Demarcus Robinson is a four star wide receiver from Fort Valley, Georgia who had been committed to the Clemson Tigers since last summer. The Gators had been recruiting him for well over a year and he was certainly one of the top wideouts on the Gators board. Though he committed to the Tigers, the Gator staff never stopped recruiting him. After some other top recruits had dropped the Gators, the staff turned up the heat on Robinson getting him to schedule an official visit the last weekend before the “dead period”, a two week window surrounding the holidays where coaches are not allowed to visit and cannot initiate contact with a recruit.
What happened next was legendary. First, the Wednesday before his official to Florida, Robinson decommitted from the Tigers and pledged to the Gators tweeting that he was done with recruiting. Of course that set off a scramble between two coaching staffs, his high school head coach, and his mother, leaving Gator fans rejoicing and Tiger fans scratching their head. The Gators had an in-home visit that Wednesday and the Tigers went in-home the next evening. Robinson arrived in Gainesville for his visit and everything appeared all good for the Gators. However, that Saturday night his high school head coach made statements to a Tiger website that his recruitment wasn’t done and that he would sit down with Demarcus on Sunday night when he arrived home and they would make a decision between the two schools. The coach implied that he felt the Clemson staff had Robinson’s best interests at heart moreso than the Florida staff and that he would try to steer Demarcus towards Clemson.
By Monday morning, the head coach announced that Demarcus had chosen to stick with his original commitment and had flipped back to the Tigers. The coach is the key player in this whole drama. For whatever reason, the coach seemed to be steering things with Demarcus and continued to make public statements on his behalf. Through numerous statements to Clemson and Gator websites he implied that the Gator staff was being less than honest and that he didn’t trust their intentions for Robinson.
The drama continued over the next three weeks with Clemson sites claiming ownership and Gator sites implying the recruitment was not over. Of course, neither staff stopped recruiting him. After the Sugar Bowl, and the end of the dead period, the Gator staff turned up the heat once again. And so did the Clemson staff. Clemson was selling him on being the next Sammy Watkins, the Gators were selling him on being “the guy”. With the oh so public knowledge that the Gators needed some playmakers at wide receiver, the staff was trying to convince him that he was the top receiver on their board and the guy they need to make this offense go.
After the Sugar Bowl upset, the story was that the Gator offense had turned him off and he was all Tiger. There was a sentiment, though, that he wanted to be a Gator all along and was letting the coach have his say but in the end would enroll at Florida.
When he arrived in San Antonio last week for the start of Army All American practices, he was sporting a Florida Gator cap and announced that he was uncommitted and would be making his decision between Clemson and Florida during the game on Saturday. That alone set off a firestorm on college team message boards and among recruiting analysts from numerous sites. These are the things that bring millions into the coffers of team pay to read websites. At this point, many felt he was likely to pick the Gators.
By Friday night, statements were made to multiple recruiting analysts that he would not be announcing during Saturday’s game. By Saturday night, his high school coach was once again announcing that he would meet with Demarcus on Sunday night after he returned from the game and rather than making an announcement, Demarcus would simply enroll in the school of his choice on Monday. At this point, the feeling was back towards Clemson.
By last night, the story was that he was huddled up with his high school coach and weighing the pros and cons of each school and that Demarcus was still undecided. Most importantly, his mother, who had been pushing him to Florida, was driving back from San Antonio and would not let him make a decision until she arrived. Advantage Florida. Both teams fans were nervous because both staffs were starting to push hard for James Clark, a Florida receiver who the Gator staff had been slow playing waiting on Robinson’s decision.
Clark was actually on campus at Florida on Sunday and Will Muschamp went ahead and pulled the trigger making Clark the offer he’d been waiting on. Many felt this was an impromptu strike against the Clemson staff who had been turning up the heat on Clark, as well, in case Robinson spurned them. With both staff’s pushing hard for Clark, fans were nervous thinking that neither staff felt good about their chances.
If all that wasn’t enough to give fans extreme heartburn, a wildcard was thrown in the mix on Saturday night as Robinson announced a top THREE of Clemson, NOTRE DAME, and Florida and said that Clemson was first, ND was second, and Florida was third. Notre Dame? A school he had considered early on but hadn’t given any significant attention to in over six months. That led fans to assume that with Notre Dame playing for the BCS championship and with a tug of war going on between his coach and his mother and the two school camps that, perhaps, Notre Dame had snuck in as “third party alternative” and might shock the world, so to speak.
So by Sunday night the word was that both staffs felt confident, yet both staffs felt nervous. No, really, depending on who you listened to he was definitely going to enroll at Clemson AND he was definitely going to enroll at Florida. The latest word on Sunday night that I personally felt was most reliable was that he was publicly, i.e. to his coach and Clemson sites, leaning towards the Tigers, but that the Gator staff was supremely confident that he was coming to Florida and that the Clemson staff was certain he was not coming. That is the reason for the big push for Clark.
By Monday morning, as fans from both schools nervously awaited news on team websites and twitter, ESPN radio reported that Robinson was on his way to Gainesville to enroll at UF. Speculation was rampant all morning. Was the ESPN report premature conjecture? By 11:30 am eastern, however, Demarcus posted on his twitter account,
“#Gatornation here I come”
And just like that Gator fans were high fiving each other and posting good luck messages on his twitter account.
It’s stories like these that help make the recruiting business a billion dollar industry and the whole reason why internet media heavyweights like ESPN, Yahoo, CBSSports, and others have paid huge amounts to buy into it. For Gator fans that have been significantly snakebit the last several years by recruitments such as this it was a joyous end to an otherwise strange story.
This is why analysts tell fans that recruiting is not for the feint of heart. It’s a wild ride so strap yourself in and enjoy.