Add Dominic Walker to the names of recruits who spurned Nebraska and aren’t soon likely to be forgotten by Husker fans.
Walker was a commit for the Huskers’ 2013 recruiting class for about one month. He had decommitted from Vanderbilt shortly after taking an official visit to NU, and then picked Nebraska over Florida State in late December. He looked to be on board…until he took a late official visit to Auburn.
Over the last week on Twitter, Walker chewed on this decision in a variety of ways, including pitting NU and AU against each other in a video game. He eventually picked the Tigers, and relayed to the Orlando Sentinel that Husker coaches weren’t happy when he delivered the news. From the story:
It was hard for Walker to make that call to Nebraska on Friday, but he knew he had to do it. He said he didn’t handle the Vanderbilt situation as well as he could have back when he decommitted from the Commodores in October and he wanted to make sure and do the right thing this time.
Even his mom was afraid for him when he made the call to head coach Bo Pelini and his staff on Friday.
“It was a very tough decision. They were [mad]. They were very mad. But I thought I had to call them like a real man should,” Walker said. “But yeah, they were mad. Coach Pelini said, ‘Best of luck, you’re going to need it.’ “
Wide receivers coach Rich Fisher also was in on the call.
“Coach Fisher said, ‘I can’t believe you,’ ” Walker said. “It was really awkward.”
This story got picked up by several national sports Web sites and will undoubtedly be a topic of conversation on Monday’s talk shows.
Pelini and Co. can’t say anything about Walker. If they could, they might have a decent defense for their displeasure. Let’s look quickly at some of the statements Walker made in the week before his decision.
On. Jan. 20, he tells Auburn’s Rivals’ site that his visit went better than he thought it would and that he was 75 percent sure he’d play with high school teammate Tony Stevens for the Tigers.
On Jan. 21, Walker tells Huskers Illustrated in the afternoon that Fisher and offensive coordinator Tim Beck were “mad” and “didn’t understand” why Walker had visited Auburn and said he was going to switch. Later that night, he told HI that Pelini and Fisher weren’t mad during their in-home visit.
“They were just discussing things and we were going over things,” he said. “We went over things that Nebraska can offer that maybe Auburn can’t.”
Meanwhile Walker tells Husker Online that the visit is a smashing success and he’s “100 percent committed” to NU. Walker explains how Nebraska coaches compared and contrasted the two schools.
“They talked about their past history and how they’ve always been winning at least nine or ten games every year and they are just missing a few pieces,” Walker told HO. “Auburn is kind of a rebuilding program right now and Nebraska already has everything, they are just building on what they have.”
On Jan. 23, he tells the Auburn Rivals site that, after the Tigers’ in-home visit, he’s back to 50/50, and part of it has to do with the negative recruiting Nebraska apparently employed two days before.
“They were trying to bring up the bad things about why I shouldn’t go to Auburn,” Walker said. “They were trying to tell me the bad things — trying to persuade me why I should go to their school. But I didn’t understand that. They can say anything, but it’s been two or three years since Cam Newton and nothing has happened.”
Walker’s intimating that Pelini and Fisher suggested Auburn could be in NCAA trouble. And the Tigers could – although not from the Cam Newton drama from 2010. In late 2012, the NCAA started investigating Auburn and two of its assistant coaches. From the story:
“Sources told Yahoo! Sports in September that the NCAA has been investigating the recruitment of 2012 Auburn signee Jovon Robinson, whose Memphis Wooddale High School academic transcript was found to be forged and was subsequently declared ineligible in August to play this year at the school. The Memphis Commercial Appeal reported in August that a guidance counselor at Wooddale admitted creating a fraudulent transcript and resigned.
Robinson declined comment to Yahoo! Sports through a family member in September. He is not enrolled at Auburn this semester.
In addition to the academic issues involving Robinson, sources told Yahoo! Sports the NCAA has investigated whether a Wooddale P.E. teacher, Rhonda Wilkinson, provided impermissible benefits to the player during his recruitment, including transportation to the Auburn campus on at least one occasion. Wilkinson is an Auburn graduate and fan – her vehicle and home are extensively decorated with Auburn memorabilia.”
According to Walker, new Auburn assistant/former Tiger QB Dameyune Craig – who recruited Walker at Florida State – gave the prospect what Auburn’s Rivals’ site calls “the honest answer.”
“Coach Craig was real honest, he said if ‘I knew Auburn wasn’t anything but a clean, outstanding program, I wouldn’t have taken this job,’” Walker said.
Walker continued: “He has a great way with words and all he did was preach the positive about Auburn, he didn’t say anything negative about Nebraska.”
But some Auburn coach did. How do we know this? Because Walker told ESPN so after he made his decision on Jan. 25.
“They were asking me why I would leave the southeast, where the weather is nice, to go somewhere where it’s so cold,” Walker said. “And then they told me how far it would be for my family to drive to the games, and I shouldn’t subject them to driving so far on those icy roads when I could play in the SEC and be much closer to home.”
Icy roads…yes, that’s not negative at all.
What’s misguided about the backlash toward Pelini is this: He’s been criticized – rightly, at times – for not being pushy enough in recruiting. He gives prospects ample to room to commit or not commit. Rarely does a player leave his official visit having made a pledge on the spot, and that’s because Pelini often asks the kids to sit on it and be sure.
Walker’s one time to make a choice without losing a year to transferring is right now. If a kid wants to decommit several times, he can, and there isn’t much a coaching staff can do, other than apply guilt, to stop him. But when Walker accuses Nebraska of stabbing Auburn in the back — only to conveniently forget the ol “icy roads” tactic until after he’d flipped his commitment — shows the kid was sending significant mixed signals after his official visit to Auburn, and that he ultimately wasted a full month of Nebraska’s time.