University of Toledo fans might have noted recent stories on these pages telling of three football players, one of them a highly regarded quarterback, who made verbal commitments for the Rockets' 2013 recruiting class but changed their minds and headed elsewhere.
Head coach Matt Campbell said you are allowed to be both discouraged and encouraged because those are his reactions too.
"We spend a lot of time to get young men to say yes to the University of Toledo, so it's discouraging when they say yes and then go somewhere else," Campbell said. "But it's encouraging because I think it shows we are in on some pretty high caliber players."
Indeed, all three of those kids opted instead for programs in BCS conferences and two combined that with opportunities to play closer to home.
"I think, at least I hope, those things have as much to do with it as not coming to UT," Campbell said.
It depends on your perspective, I guess. When one of those stories appeared on toledoblade.com, where readers have the ability to add their comments, one person reacted by writing: "Toledo is not what it used to be in college football."
Campbell would counter that UT is more than it used to be. I would prefer to think he's correct. After all, it's not like those three de-committed to instead attend Bemidji State.
As Bowling Green head coach Dave Clawson likes to say, "A verbal commitment means you're in the lead."
But as jockeys and race car drivers know, a lot can happen before you reach the finish line.
And such commitments are even more precarious at the Mid-American Conference level, even among the top programs, because Division I-A college football is not contested on a level playing field.
When a high school player signs a national letter of intent, it has some teeth to it. A verbal commitment, on the other hand, often isn't worth the breath it takes to give one.
It gets a kid a seat at the table, but that doesn't mean he isn't still looking for a bigger table with a better menu.
A lower-level BCS team "will often get verbals and then lose those kids to an elite-level program and when that happens, we know they are in turn going to come after some of our kids," Campbell said. "And that, to me, is a reflection of how high the level is we're recruiting at."
Campbell would agree that is the continuation of a course that began under former head coach Gary Pinkel and was extended by his successor, Tom Amstutz.
"We had seven players who were already here when we came in [after the 2008 season] and who signed NFL [free-agent] contracts after this past season, and those were kids recruited by coach Amstutz and his staff," Campbell said.
Campbell is about to enter his first full season as UT's head coach, but he speaks of the Rockets' recruiting as being in the fourth year of an ongoing process that began when he arrived as the offensive coordinator under his predecessor, Tim Beckman.
"Toledo has always had great players, some of them elite players," Campbell said. "But I think four years ago we brought a new process on how to evaluate kids and put classes together that has maybe allowed us to be in on better kids more consistently. I'm talking about great players with great character that can compete athletically and academically."
The art and timing of recruiting has changed considerably in recent years. Recruits used to wait to make official visits during their senior high school seasons; now verbal commitments are made long before the senior year begins. Evaluations by college staffs have to begin during a prep player's sophomore season and during camps the following two summers.
Coaches must start early "or you miss the boat," said Campbell.
The problem for MAC schools is that it's a long trip from there to the finish line.
"And the earlier you get a commitment, the earlier you can lose the kid," Campbell said. "On the plus side, you have an earlier chance to recover. And, as far as the 2013 class, it's still early for a MAC school."
The proof? A few days after quarterback Javon Harrison de-committed to instead align himself with the University of Cincinnati, UT was able to slide to the next QB on its list and get a verbal from Logan Woodside of Franklin County High in Kentucky.
And, so, Toledo takes the lead again and the discouraging, yet encouraging process continues until a name appears on the dotted line.
Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6398.