When high school athletes start getting attention from college programs, they begin a long journey of courtship, hype, and disappointment that is the recruitment process. Seemingly overnight, they go from being normal kids to young adults, tasked with mapping out a future that impacts not only them but their families, coaches and millions of sports-obsessed fans. It’s a decision that will structure the rest of their lives and unlike the average high school senior applying for college, the entire country is watching. Players swear allegiance to a program only to change their minds months later and it sends the college sports world into a tizzy. The decision simultaneously causes outrage and jubilation across fan bases and excitement or disappointment for coaches. But for the athlete in question, they are stuck treading in a turbulent sea of anxiety, stress and distraction.
Just ask Eddie Vanderdoes, a top defensive lineman prospect that de-committed from USC on Thursday night.
Vanderdoes had been a Trojan commit since July, but now wants to reopen his recruitment process. This had been something weighing on his mind for weeks though, and he felt that he could not go forward with USC if he was not 100-percent sold on the program.
“I had to make sure it was what I wanted to do because it obviously opens up a can of worms,” Vanderdoes says of his decision to de-commit. “They [The USC coaching staff] didn’t want me to de-commit, they wanted me to take my time.”
The six-foot-three, 307-pound Placer High senior met with USC’s coaches weeks ago to tell them of his plan, though it was kept under wraps until after Christmas. “They came for my in-home visit, it went great and it was then that I told them I was gonna de-commit. They were very respectful of the decision,” he says.
With a little over a month to go until National Signing Day, the pressure is on even more for him to make the “right” decision. Vanderdoes knows it, which was all the more reason for him to make the tough call with USC.
“As it gets closer to Signing Day, it gets crazier and crazier. It’s not like when you’re a junior and still getting used to the hype,” said Vanderdoes.
“Now its like, ‘Am I sure this is where I want to spend the next four years of my life, and then the next 50-60? I need to know that before I can say where I am going to go,” he said.
“It’s tough being 18 years old and having to make a decision that impacts your whole life.”
And what a decision he has to make.
USC is still in the mix for Vanderdoes, with UCLA, Notre Dame and Washington also garnering significant interest.
Each school offers him a variety of things that appeal to him, which makes his final decision that much harder. The academic clout the Trojans, Bruins and Fighting Irish tout impresses him, and the fact that the Huskies graduate the second-highest amount of athletes is not lost on him either. The tradition of USC and Notre Dame speak for themselves, but UCLA and UW are on the rise and he is equally as excited about the possibilities they bring. But the ability to play early–and in the most appealing scheme–are really what has these four programs high on Vanderdoes’ list.
USC, Notre Dame and Washington play with varying degrees of four down linemen, the system he has been groomed and primed in up to this point in his career. UCLA on the other hand runs a base 3-4, which traditional thought would suggest does not appeal to a guy to Vanderdoes because it typically features less of a strong rush up front. He visited Oregon earlier this year, which runs a similar set, and the Ducks did not pique his interest much.
But UCLA’s? Theirs is different, he says.