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Why recruiting in college football has turned into a never-ending grind

Wan’Dale Robinson went from favorite son to public enemy No. 1 on Dec. 5, 2018, when he announced that after a year of being committed to Kentucky he was flipping to Nebraska . Never mind that he had his reasons, wanting to play in a more wide-open offense when, at the time, the Wildcats were uberconservative, ranking 127th out of 130 FBS teams in passing yards per game. The backlash was swift against the speedy receiver who grew up just down the road from campus in Frankfort.

Kentucky tight ends coach/recruiting coordinator Vince Marrow even caught some heat when he tweeted a half hour after Robinson’s announcement: "Good luck buddy I will be praying for you. I wish you all well."

A handful of replies to Marrow’s post have been deleted, but a few notable comments remain:

"We don’t need him"

"He’s to[o] dam[n] small anyway"

"F— em up coach"

"At the time," Marrow said, "it was not popular for me to support him."

Two years after the recruiting dustup, opinions have changed. While some coaches chose to burn bridges, Robinson’s father said, the family never forgot about Marrow’s unwavering support. So when Robinson decided to leave Nebraska in January of this year and enter the transfer portal, his father said, "It was easy to pick Kentucky just off the relationship with Vince."

And look at these two now: Marrow looks like a genius for not cutting ties, and Robinson, in turn, has silenced his critics.

It sure looked like Kentucky needed Robinson when he scored a pivotal touchdown to beat Florida at home for the first time in 35 years. Here’s to you, Mr. @wanda1erobinson pic.twitter.com/lrr3KNCvWw — Kentucky Football (@UKFootball) October 5, 2021 He wasn’t too small, at 5-foot-11, to catch 94 passes this season — the fourth most among Power 5 receivers. Two weeks ago, he was named to the All-SEC team.

Robinson’s triumphant homecoming underscores the current recruiting landscape — one that, thanks to the transfer portal, is never truly settled. Where a player signs his letter of intent is now more of a starting point. The process has turned into widespread free agency without the stability of long-term contracts. And while many coaches are concerned and looking for solutions to fix what they see as a broken recruiting calendar, change could be a long way off.

An ACC coach said staff are told in no uncertain terms not to unfollow recruits on social media.

"Don’t get pissed off when they commit elsewhere," the coach said.When Jimmy Four-Star holds up a puppy when your school’s mascot is a tiger, take a deep breath and wish him luck."Sometimes you get in these heated battles," an SEC coach said. "You can easily get mad at the kid in the end, but it’s just better to always take the high road.""With the portal," the coach added, "it’s even more important these days."Coaches never know who might come back around. For every Kenneth Walker III who chooses to transfer to Michigan State on blind faith, there […]

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