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January 1, 2009

Early decisions easier for some All-Americans

MORE: Army skills competition gallery | U.S. Army AA Bowl coverage | More all-star coverage

SAN ANTONIO - Darrell Scott's phone wouldn't stop ringing one night at his home during 2007.

A call from UCLA. Then Miami. Then Florida. That was before the five-star running back whittled his choices down to Colorado and Texas.

Teammate Patrick Hall, a year behind the star running back, watched the whole circus.

Scott committed to Texas before a change on the coaching staff made him rethink his recruitment a month before from National Signing Day. Through January, Colorado and Texas engaged in a bitter recruiting battle for the nation's top running back.

By the end, Scott couldn't even stay at his high school for his signing day announcement for the Buffaloes. He announced at an ESPN Zone restaurant in Anaheim, 90 miles from St. Bonaventure High School in Ventura, Calif.

After watching Scott's recruiting spectacle, Hall decided he'd had enough of it for his own recruitment.

Three days before Scott signed with Colorado, nearly a year before Hall's own signing day, he committed to USC. There would be no recruiting controversies or constant phone calls and attention for Hall.

"I'd go to his house to eat and he'd let me listen to voice mail from coaches and took me to a couple of college games," said Hall, who will play for the West team in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. "It was exciting at first but I knew it would be me next year."

Some players don't mind savoring recruiting down to the last tick of signing day, embracing all the fawning and attention from college coaches, fans and the media.

As the No. 9 prospect in the country and the top-ranked player in talent-rich California, Hall would have commanded that kind of attention if he wanted it.

"I'm not that type of kid," Hall said.

Watching Scott spend part of his senior year in the spotlight made Hall think about how he would tackle his own recruitment.

It would be short and sweet. He took an unofficial visit to USC in February and committed on the spot.

Other than talking briefly with UCLA after the Bruins hired head coach Rick Neuheisel and offensive coordinator Norm Chow, Hall ended the recruiting process.

There would be no flurry of phone calls into January.

"I asked him if (Scott) goes through that every day," Hall said. "He told me that whatever you do make a decision early and be solid with it or you're going to get phone calls 24-7. I said I don't feel dealing with it."

Hall wasn't the only one who decided to end recruiting before the process became more dramatic in the final months.

The Monroeville (Pa.) Gateway duo of Dorian Bell and Corey Brown committed to Ohio State before the summer after watching teammate Shayne Hale wait until last year's U.S. Army All-American game to make his college announcement to Pittsburgh.

There are 31 prospects at this year's Army game who have not declared a college choice. Bell and Brown are happy they haven't been in that group for several months.

"I just wanted to get it over with," Bell said. "I had other things to concentrate on like getting my SAT score up and getting my grades up to par. I had more focus on my teammates. … There was a lot going on during the season and recruiting was just more on top of what I was dealing with. Being a captain on the team is dealing with a whole lot."

Complicating Hale's season was that teammate Cameron Saddler committed to Pittsburgh in early December.

Pitt suddenly had an on-site recruiting coordinator dedicated solely to Hale.

"When he committed, not only did the coaches start pounding on Shayne, he started pounding on Shayne," Gateway coach Terry Smith said. "I think these guys saw that and said 'We don't want to go through that.'"

Smith said his team was better for it. Gateway went 12-0 before losing in the first round of the Class 4A playoffs.

"When you're getting recruited through your senior season it gets to be a little more tough," Smith said. "Coaches pick up their intensity because signing day is near."




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