In the always-fluid world of college football recruiting, there is no feeling more deflating than losing a top-ranked recruit.
With verbal commitments carrying little weight, players can change their minds at a whim all the way until signing day. For the schools that do lose a high-caliber player, their entire recruiting class is oftentimes sent into a state of flux—especially this late in the process. National signing day is merely a month away, meaning these programs have an extremely short window to land replacements.
As for the teams that land decommitted players, it serves as nothing short of an unforeseen windfall.
In other words, the commitment and decommitment fiascoes serve as the ultimate gift and curse in the recruiting process.
With that in mind, let's take a look around the nation at the top decommitments and where they may wind up on Feb. 6.
When breaking down the best decommitments in the nation, it's impossible to not start with Asiantii Woulard.
A dual-threat quarterback, Woulard committed to South Florida in February of last year, only to decommit by April. He then recommitted to the program in June...before decommitting one more time in December.
With every vacillation from Woulard came an emotional outpouring from South Florida faithful, as the scintillating signal-caller would be a massive commit for the program.
Woulard, who starred at Winter Park High School in Florida, is considered one of the more intriguing quarterback prospects in the Class of 2013. He's listed as a 4-star recruit by 247 Sports, and the website also has him listed as the fourth-best dual-threat quarterback and No. 90 overall prospect in the nation.
Though those are already lofty distinctions, Woulard's potential is otherworldly. He was a receiver for his first two years in high school before moving to quarterback, and that rawness is apparent anytime he drops back in the pocket. To put it mildly, no one is going to confuse his pocket awareness with that of top 2013 quarterback Christian Hackenberg.
On the other hand, his physical tools are undeniable. Woulard was gifted with a howitzer right arm and can fit his throws into exceedingly tight windows with a surprising accuracy for someone of his experience.
His penchant for those risky throws could get him into trouble at the next level, so it will be critical that the coaching staff at his ultimate destination doesn't rush him into the lineup.
Nevertheless, Woulard is some top-notch coaching away from being a star on Saturdays.
Most Likely Destinations (per 247 Sports): Kentucky, South Florida, North Carolina State
Perhaps Mackensie Alexander saw the writing on the wall in Knoxville well before any of us. A commit to the Tennessee Volunteers back in January of 2012, Alexander was already decommitted by March, and the result has been a wide-open recruiting process.
It just so happens that the process doesn't include Tennessee. Instead, there are no fewer than five schools with a chance at landing the brilliant cornerback prospect, including Texas A&M, Rutgers and Clemson.
Whichever school that ultimately lands Alexander should get a guy ready to contribute instantly. Viewed as a 4-star recruit by 247 Sports, the website also has him listed as the seventh-best player in the state of Florida, the fourth-best cornerback in the nation and No. 30 overall prospect in the Class of 2013.
Alexander rose to prominence at Immokalee (Fla.) High School, where he displayed a surprisingly strong ability against both the run and pass. Though he's listed at just 5'10" and 180 pounds, Alexander plays above his size, isn't afraid to mix it up in the ground game and is solid at finishing tackles.
His calling card, though, is an innate ability in the passing game. Alexander is nothing short of a ball hawk, as his quick break speed oftentimes allows him to undercut intermediate routes and his athleticism keeps him in play down the field despite the size issues.
While all interested teams will try to sell Alexander on their championship-winning ability, the key to landing Alexander may not be in the win column. Instead, it could be how teams recruit his twin brother, Mackenro, who is talented but nowhere near the level of Mackenzie.
Mackenro is a well-known monkey wrench, but one that may ultimately decide where his brother lands.
Most Likely Destinations (per 247 Sports): Rutgers, Clemson, Texas A&M, Auburn, Mississippi State
Though the USC Trojans' disappointing 2012 season certainly frustrated fans in the interim, Eddie Vanderdoes could be evidence of the effect that their struggles will have long-term. A highly-touted defensive tackle prospect, Vanderdoes committed to the Trojans back in June—when things were going well—before changing his mind in December.
Lane Kiffin's loss will ultimately be the massive gain of another lucky coach. Vanderdoes spent his hype-forming days at Placer High School in Auburn, Calif. where he emerged as arguably the best defensive tackle prospect in his class.
Considered a 5-star recruit by 247 Sports, Vanderdoes is also the No. 12 overall prospect in the nation, and he's the second-best recruit in the state of California and at defensive tackle. If his play in high school is any indication, the pride of Placer High shouldn't have any problem putting his small town on the map.
Vanderdoes is listed at 6'5" and 302 pounds, meaning he's got the body to withstand collegiate punishment already and the frame to pack on even more strength. He also has a great initial burst off the ball and wreaks havoc inside the backfield against slower guards. While he'll face stiffer competition at the next level, it's the combination between size and strength that truly makes Vanderdoes stand out.
Lateral quickness is a bit of a concern, but it's a relatively minor one. Vanderdoes has just about all the tools necessary to be an instant contributor on whichever campus he eventually calls home.
Most Likely Destinations (per 247 Sports): USC, Notre Dame, Washington, UCLA, Alabama
Speaking of football programs on a downward spiral, the Auburn Tigers cannot be happy about the loss of Reuben Foster. The 5-star linebacker transferred to Auburn High School prior to his senior season and seemed to represent a massive coup when he switched his commitment from Alabama to Auburn last July.
By December, however, the wheels had fallen off of the Tigers program and Foster was once again on the open market.
It's not hard to see why many teams are desperately trying to get into the running for Foster now that he's left Auburn. He's a Saturday-ready inside linebacker who's considered the best player at his position and in the state of Alabama. If that wasn't enough, the folks at 247 Sports also list him as the ninth overall prospect in the Class of 2013.
I'll avoid wading into hyperbolic waters, but Foster has all the tools to be a star at the next level. Listed at 6'1" and 240 pounds, he is an absolute wall of muscle who spent his high school days dominating inferior competition.
He's a perhaps the hardest-hitting linebacker in the entire class, but couples that with great wrap-up technique as well.
With a 40-yard dash time of 4.6 seconds, Foster also has the top-end speed necessary to cover the entire field and make up for teammate mistakes.
Essentially, Foster is a classic middle linebacker prospect. That means he's not going to wow anyone in pass coverage, but that can be worked on over time. Based on raw physical skills alone, Foster should contribute instantly next fall.
Most Likely Destinations (per 247 Sports): Auburn, Georgia
Robert Nkemdiche may be last on this list, but he's the exact opposite of least. A 5-star defensive end, losing Nkemdiche is arguably the biggest disappointment of the Clemson Tigers' 2012 season.
After committing to the Tigers in June, Nkemdiche withdrew his consideration from the school in November, much to the delight of the remaining ACC schools.
It's nearly impossible to find consensus among recruiting rankings, but there are very few across the nation that don't have Nkemdiche as their best player in 2013. The folks at 247 Sports are not one of those outliers, as they rank him atop every list possible and actually grade him out as a perfect 100 on their points scale.
For those who have watched tape on Nkemdiche, that work ethic won't be remotely surprising. Despite overpowering strength at 285 pounds, Nkemdiche plays with an unstoppable motor that continues through the whistle—even on plays that avoid his side of the field.
In passing situations, it's nearly impossible to avoid Nkemdiche. He has an explosive first step off the ball, and his combination of strength and quickness becomes exceedingly difficult for opposing tackles.
As expected with someone with Nkemdiche's physical gifts, he'll need to work on his fundamentals at the next level. Too often, he plays up high and relies on his athleticism and strength to get the job done.
Like Mackensie Alexander, familial ties may play a huge role in Nkemdiche's ultimate commitment. His brother, Denzel, currently plays for Ole Miss, and the Rebels have emerged as a possible favorite in recent months.
With LSU and Alabama offering a chance to compete for national championships every season, tugging on Nkemdiche's heart strings may be the only way he signs a letter of intent with Ole Miss.
Most Likely Destinations (per 247 Sports): Ole Miss, Alabama, LSU