Despite originally signing with Notre Dame, Eddie Vanderdoes will play for UCLA. (Ed Szczepanski/USA Today Sports)
By Gabriel Baumgaertner
Before signing his National Letter of Intent on Feb. 6, Eddie Vanderdoes found himself in a familiar predicament among top prospects who remain uncommitted until National Signing Day; he was undecided. He was once a "soft" commit to USC before changing his mind. Several of the nation's top programs relentlessly pursued the player who some considered to be the best prep defensive tackle in the country. After a very public and windy recruitment that included late official visits to Alabama, Notre Dame, USC and UCLA, Vanderdoes finally made his decision.
At his commitment ceremony at Placer High in Auburn, Calif., Vanderdoes donned a Notre Dame hat, which surprised the masses. Most analysts expected UCLA to land his signature, and rumors spread of opposing coaches calling UCLA's staff to congratulate it on its courtship of one of the nation's premier players. Notre Dame somehow scored the mammoth defensive tackle's signature and (temporarily) staged one of the major coups of the 2013 recruiting cycle.
Just less than four months later, Vanderdoes is leaving the Fighting Irish before ever stepping foot in South Bend. Vanderdoes formally announced he will transfer to UCLA, but that Notre Dame did not release him from his National Letter of Intent. As a result, he cannot play as a freshman and will have four years to play three seasons.
The decision caps another bizarre recruitment -- and serves as the latest example of natural teenage indecision thrust into the public eye. Like many prep stars, Vanderdoes was particularly active on Twitter (he even appeared to trademark his handle @EV4) and would frequently banter with fans and fellow players about his eventual decision. While his feed remains full of pro-Notre Dame material, he stopped using the social media service on March 7.
Hailing from a remote gold-mining town 30 miles north of Sacramento, Vanderdoes seemed like an unlikely candidate to sign with a distant powerhouse such as Notre Dame or Alabama, but those two schools were considered viable candidates for his signature. His high school coach, Joey Montoya, compared Vanderdoes to Ndamukong Suh, and Vanderdoes' strong performance in the U.S. Army All-American Game only bolstered his stock. He would have made a strong push to start for four years on a Notre Dame defensive line that recently lost Kapron Lewis-Moore, but he will instead practice for a year before bidding for a starting spot at UCLA.
The transfer only furthers Notre Dame's nightmarish offseason which has included (but is not limited to) the Manti Te'o fake girlfriend fiasco and the departure of starting quarterback Everett Golson.
While losing a year of eligibility is a hiccup in Vanderdoes' path to Westwood, the 6-foot-3, 310-pound behemoth shouldn't be written off. He may very well return to the headlines once he takes the field in 2014.