Every college football fans knows the prevalence of flipped commitments around National Signing Day. Still, knowledge is no protection against the shock that sets in when it’s your team losing a highly touted prospect whose pledge once seemed so secure.
Last week, SI.com’s Zac Ellis looked at nine major recruits who could spring a late decommitment this year. With the drama of National Signing Day 2016 just two days away, let’s take a look back at some of the biggest flips ever on that day.
Dante Fowler, DE, Florida State to Florida, 2012
Fowler caught just about everyone off-guard on signing day when the four-star defensive end picked Florida after confirming his pledge to Florida State just five days earlier. The longtime Seminoles commit took several trips to Florida amid reported concerns about playing time in a loaded Florida State recruiting class but appeared set to stick with the ‘Noles. Will Muschamp’s perseverance ultimately paid off as Fowler announced on national TV that he’d join the Gators instead. As its 2013 national championship proves, Florida State had plenty of talent without Fowler, but he became a key piece of Florida’s defense and earned first-team All-SEC honors in 2014 before becoming the No. 3 overall pick in the 2015 NFL draft.
T.J. Yeldon, RB, Auburn to Alabama, 2012
The law of averages suggests Auburn should lose an equal number of surprise decommitments to Alabama as the Crimson Tide lose to the Tigers. That hasn’t be the case, with Yeldon’s flip between the Iron Bowl rivals just one recent example. Though technically not on signing day, Yeldon’s switch from the Tigers to the Tide had a similar impact because, as an early enrollee, he was nearly on the Plains when he announced a change of heart on Dec. 18, 2011. Yeldon’s flip came just before the recruiting dead period, and weeks later, he was an Alabama student. The four-star recruit became an instant sensation with the Tide, rushing for 1,108 yards as a true freshman on Alabama’s national championship team.
Shaq Thompson, S, Cal to Washington, 2012
Cal’s 2012 recruiting class appeared to be loaded with defensive talent before assistant coach and ace recruiter Tosh Lupoi bolted for Washington in January. Five-stars Eric McCarthy and Arik Armstead flipped to UCLA and Oregon, respectively, while Thompson, the No. 1 safety recruit in the country, opted to follow Lupoi up the West Coast to the Huskies. The Golden Bears had only won Thompson’s commitment a month earlier before he flipped to Washington the Monday before Signing Day. He went on to become an All-America linebacker with the Huskies and a first-round NFL draft pick while Cal suffered from a porous defense.
Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Auburn to Alabama, 2011
As the No. 2 overall prospect and No. 1 offensive tackle in his class, Kouandjio became the crown jewel of Auburn’s recruiting haul when he picked the Tigers on ESPN, setting off roars from the Auburn faithful. One thing was missing, though—Kouandjio’s letter of intent. It finally arrived three days later, but to the offices of Alabama, where Kouandjio joined his brother, Arie, who signed with the Tide in 2010. Kouandjio later said he simply wasn’t sure on signing day but had just come off of a convincing visit to Auburn the previous weekend. After settling on Alabama, he helped the Tide win two national championships and became an All-America.
Brent Calloway, ATH, Auburn to Alabama, 2011
In the ultimate twist of the knife, Calloway appeared to offer Auburn a huge recruiting victory over rival Alabama only to take it away. The four-star recruit originally pledged to Alabama in June 2009 but decommitted from the Tide at the start of the U.S. Army All-American Bowl on Jan. 8, 2011. By the fourth quarter of the game, he was an Auburn commit. It wouldn’t last, though, as family disagreement caused Calloway to reconsider his decision again. In the leadup to signing day, Calloway left town before settling on Alabama and faxing in his letter of intent. His career with the Tide didn’t last long, as Calloway was dismissed from the team in 2013.
Pat White, ATH, LSU to West Virginia, 2004
White was not a highly regarded recruit coming out of high school, and his future position at LSU was unclear, with a switch to wide receiver possibly in the cards. That helped create the opening for West Virginia and then-Mountaineers assistant coach Rick Trickett, who never relented in his pursuit of White and ultimately won him over on signing day. Losing White didn’t cost the Tigers much as they won a Peach Bowl, Sugar Bowl and national championship during his tenure at West Virginia. But the flip worked out fantastically for both the Mountaineers and White, who led West Virginia to three 11-win seasons and two Big East titles.
Lorenzo Booker, RB, Notre Dame to Florida State, 2002
An early recruit to commit on national television, Booker, the top running back prospect in his class, helped ensure the method would stick by providing a surprising twist. Despite reports the morning of his announcement that Booker was headed to Notre Dame, he picked Florida State over the Fighting Irish and USC. Booker didn’t live up the hype for the Seminoles, gaining 2,389 yards over four seasons.
Eric Dickerson, RB, Texas A&M to SMU, 1979
What really happened to Dickerson’s famous Pontiac Trans-Am? The highly touted running back was seen driving a new Trans-Am around the same time he committed to Texas A&M. When Dickerson flipped to SMU on signing day, the car seemed to disappear, the alleged work of a bitter Aggies fan, legend has it. According to Dickerson, the car was a gift from his grandmother that he later sold to a friend. Whatever the true story of the car is, Dickerson’s flip altered the course of a player who developed into a star for the Mustangs before becoming a Hall of Fame NFL player. Dickerson rushed for 3,045 yards with 36 touchdowns in his final two seasons at SMU and went No. 2 overall in the 1983 NFL draft.