West Virginia University football fans witnessed the unfortunate side of “verbal commitments” last week as the Mountaineers faced one decommitment and felt pressure on another.
Defensive end commit Aaron Lewis flipped to Michigan, while cornerback David Vincent-Okoli announced on social media that his recruitment was still open … for a brief time. This is the nature of recruiting in 2019 (and for quite some time before this) and the coaching staff is aware of that.
Lewis committed to the Mountaineers in April, choosing WVU over offers from Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan and many others. The decision was lauded as a victory for Neal Brown and staff, beating a trio of schools that WVU rarely beats for top recruits. At the time, Lewis stated that he would not entertain other schools, cutting off all communication with them after his commitment. That turned out to not be the case, but Brown and staff were aware that he might still take visits, including one to Michigan. He did that, one week after visiting Morgantown, and flipped to the Wolverines before the weekend was over.
Then, there was Vincent-Okoli, the newly-minted 247Sports four-star recruit that pledged to WVU shortly after officially visiting. He put on a dominating performance at camp, earning an offer, but many other “bluebloods” – Penn State, Ohio State and Tennessee – wanted him to camp and get an offer, too. Maryland offered, and numerous schools wanted him to visit.
“People keeping asking me if I’m still open for recruitment … Yes I am,” Okoli posted to social media two weeks ago.
Fans feared the worst, especially on the heels of Lewis’ decision. However, Okoli talked things over with the coaching staff and his family, and shut things down.
“I am done with the recruiting process and my final home is West Virginia University,” he posted to social media this weekend. “Please respect my decision.”
Of course, this “recruiting players elsewhere” thing goes both ways. West Virginia does it, too. The same exact day that Aaron Lewis arrived at Michigan on his official visit, West Virginia was hosting wide receiver Da’Qon Stewart on an unofficial visit. The 247Sports three-star recruit is currently committed to South Carolina and has not given any indication that he might flip, but he’s still listening to what wide receivers coach Xavier Dye has to say. He made the trip from South Carolina to Morgantown on his own dime on a random Friday, which means something.
The staff also offered three-star running back Elijah Burris well after he committed to UNC and the Mountain Island Charter (Mount Holly, North Carolina) star says he will visit Morgantown in the fall. Dutch Fork (Irmo, South Carolina) athlete Jalin Hyatt chose Virginia Tech over the Mountaineers earlier this summer, but he also says he will visit Morgantown in the fall and that he’s keeping up with Xavier Dye, who is his area recruiter.
Commitment means different things to different people in recruiting. The relationship is not binding, though, and both parties will continue to look to make sure they’re in the best possible situation. While it may sting when one player flips to another school, there’s still plenty of time before Signing Day, and it’s possible – likely – that the Mountaineers will benefit from a similar situation, too.