Recruiting is a journey. Be ready for some twists along the way.

Coming off the bench to emerge as a breakout star in the middle of the 2021 football season, Oklahoma University quarterback Caleb Williams raised plenty of eyebrows. While a true freshman jumping into the starting QB slot at a program like OU is always newsworthy, Williams’s recruiting journey to the Sooners is even more notable.

While Williams and another highly regarded high school quarterback had verbal offers with the Sooners, the caveat was the team would only take one of the two players. When the other QB committed to OU first, the team cooled on its pursuit of Williams, though the staff checked in occasionally.

However, Williams wasn’t ready to take “no” for an answer. Deciding that the lack of a scholarship wouldn’t deter him, Williams made it known he was willing to enroll at OU without a scholarship and walk on to the football team. When the other quarterback de-committed from OU, however, the Sooners were more than happy to sign Caleb Williams instead.

While Caleb Williams was an elite high school recruit who had his pick of premier Division I football programs, most student-athletes don’t have multiple DI fallback options. But one thing you likely do have in common with Williams is that change will likely affect your recruiting process in some way. While it may happen differently, the most common changes recruits encounter include:

• Coaching Changes

As this blog was being written, news broke that Caleb Williams’s coach at OU, Lincoln Riley, had taken the head coach position at the University of Southern California. Suddenly, every OU recruit with a verbal offer was questioning if the offer still stood, and every player who had already committed was reassessing their commitment. That also means that players who were considering OU may now be looking elsewhere. And players who might have been passed over by the Sooners may see new opportunities. As Brian Kelly bolted Notre Dame for LSU’s coaching job a day later, the same chain of events occurred at Notre Dame.

If a program that’s recruiting you has a coaching change, don’t assume the new coach will share the values of his or her predecessor. Reassess the program under the new coach’s leadership, see if their philosophy meshes with yours, and make sure that school is still the best fit for you.

It’s also not unusual for new coaches to change up a program’s recruiting strategy. If that happens, a school that was recruiting you may change its priorities and look elsewhere. Don’t take it personally. Ultimately it’s a business decision and it’s always best to focus on playing where you’re wanted and valued.

• Recruit Changes

Just as another recruit’s decommitment opened the door for Caleb Williams at OU, another recruit’s change of heart could open, or reopen, recruiting doors for you. That’s why it’s always important to keep all your options open until you’re ready to make your commitment.

Conversely, had the other QB followed through on his verbal commitment with OU, Caleb Williams would have been the one scrambling. In Williams’s case, he had enough belief in himself, and belief that Oklahoma was the right program for him, that he was ready to walk on.

Again, no two recruits or their recruiting process will be the same. But if you don’t see much interest from a school that’s on your target list, don’t cross them off entirely. Instead, keep an eye on who they’re recruiting, who’s committing, and who’s decommitting while you’re still pursuing other opportunities. You never know when that door that’s just slightly ajar will swing wide open.

• Team Changes

A college athletic roster is always in flux. Existing players can get hurt or decide to transfer. Or players may choose to go pro before their eligibility is up. However it may happen, there’s always a chance of a roster spot opening up and coaches suddenly changing their recruiting priorities.

While it’s always good advice to put more effort into the schools that are interested in you, if you do have your heart set on a particular school, be sure to pay some attention to who’s coming and who’s going on the current roster. You never know when a spot might open up or priorities may change.

• Your Priorities Can Change

There’s nothing wrong with having a dream school. But sometimes, you may get a better offer from a different school. While Caleb Williams was willing to walk onto the school he felt was right for him, you may have different priorities.

Your initial target list of schools isn’t set in stone and there’s no guarantee the schools you consider as a sophomore will be the same ones you’re weighing as a senior. There’s no shame in considering every potential offer at every level. If you decide a partial scholarship at a smaller school is a better deal for you, take the option that’s best for you. If you choose to play closer to home, take advantage of the opportunities you have. You’re expected to change as a person and as an athlete while you’re in high school. Expect your recruiting priorities to change as well.

The moral of all the above is that changes will happen, so be ready. These factors, and many others, can ultimately affect your recruiting process. Just be able to roll with those changes so that, in the end, you make the college choice that’s right for you.

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