'Tis the Season for Decommitments on the College Football Recruiting Trail

Damon Sayles@@DamonSaylesNational Recruiting AnalystDecember 15, 2015

New Georgia head coach Kirby Smart has lost a couple of commitments in the 2016 and 2017 classes but scored a big win when quarterback Jacob Easton, the nation's top-ranked pro-style quarterback in the 2016 class, reconfirmed his commitment to the Bulldogs on Tuesday.
New Georgia head coach Kirby Smart has lost a couple of commitments in the 2016 and 2017 classes but scored a big win when quarterback Jacob Easton, the nation's top-ranked pro-style quarterback in the 2016 class, reconfirmed his commitment to the Bulldogs on Tuesday.John Bazemore/Associated Press

December: the month for the holidays.

This year, it's been December: the month for decommitting.

We're only halfway through the month, and recruiting has seen its fair share of 2016 and 2017 players backing out of their college pledges. From 4-star running back Devwah Whaley parting ways with Georgia to 4-star quarterback/athlete Tristen Wallace flipping from Ohio State to Oregon, the Internet has been buzzing with recruiting news.

Imagine how things would have been on social media if 5-star quarterback Jacob Eason flipped from Georgia to Florida on Tuesday. The nation's top-ranked pro-style quarterback, a longtime Georgia commitment, had been considering a flip to Florida after the firing of coach Mark Richt but announced Tuesday morning that he would stick with the Bulldogs and new head coach Kirby Smart, per Kipp Adams of 247Sports.

Recruiting meltdown avoided, at least at quarterback for the near future for Georgia. The Bulldogs still have to cope with losing Whaley, 3-star cornerback Malek Young and 2017 quarterback Bailey Hockman, the nation's No. 3 pro-style quarterback in his class.

In the minds of many recruiting purists, once a player commits to a program, he should stay committed. This simply isn't the case for some of the athletes nationwide.

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The big question is, why? Why is there so much turnover happening as we conclude 2015? There are a few reasons.

It's no secret that verbal commitments often come without an athlete taking official visits—or, in some cases, unofficial visits. Once those visits are taken and an athlete gets a feel of another program or two, that could mean bad news for the program he was committed to.

Commitments also can happen with one coach at the helm, and a decommitment can follow if said coach loses his job. Such was the case with Whaley.

"I didn't see this coming at all," Whaley told Bleacher Report following the news of Georgia firing Richt, who now is the head coach at Miami. Whaley, when asked if the move could make him reconsider his commitment, then added, "Yes, it does shake things up."

And it did. He decommitted a week after Richt's firing.

Georgia hasn't been the only SEC school dealing with the gut punch of losing pledges. Tennessee lost two commits in 3-star defensive tackle D'Andre Christmas-Giles and 2017 quarterback Hunter Johnson.

Christmas-Giles is a rising run-stopper who could have helped the Volunteers. Of the two, however, Johnson arguably was the bigger loss, as he is the top-ranked pro-style quarterback in his class. Johnson flipped his commitment from Tennessee to Clemson.

When Scott Frost left his position as Oregon's offensive coordinator to become the head coach at Central Florida, it made an impact on 3-star quarterback/athlete commit Seth Green, a longtime Ducks commit who flipped to Minnesota.

Athletes want to play for the coaches they build relationships with. Recruiting purists won't like that, assuming athletes should want to play for the school name across their chests. But in many cases, it doesn't work that way.

There are several other situations where athletes are looking elsewhere because of coaching changes. But then there are the decommitments involving those recruits who simply have a sudden change of heart.

It happens. Ask quarterback Nick Starkel, an Elite 11 finalist who parted ways with Oklahoma State on Sunday—and ultimately received some nasty tweets about it.

"We're just kids," Starkel said. "We do things that aren't always 'approved' by older people. That doesn't mean a 40-year-old man should say hateful things to us on Twitter. It cracks me up." 

Starkel picked up a UCLA offer on Tuesday, which could mean great news for Bruins fans. Quite the opposite for Oklahoma State fans, who not only lost Starkel but also junior college defensive end commit Tramal Ivy this week.

It depends on the athlete, but facts are facts: Decommitments happen for all sorts of reasons. And as we prepare for the latter days of December, there could be a few more athletes who decommit.

Here's to a smoother December not only for the athletes making difficult decisions, but also to the coaches doing their parts in keeping them committed.

Damon Sayles is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand, unless otherwise noted. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite ratings. Follow Damon via Twitter: @DamonSayles