Although it can be very frustrating to fans and coaches when a committed player changes his mind about his college destination, it is an ever-growing part of collegiate football, and for Bearcat football fans, the Michigan Wolverines have been a proverbial “thorn in their side” for years.
In 2008, Patrick Omameh changed his commitment from Cincinnati to Michigan the day before National Signing Day, and UC fans have had to watch the Ohio product start 29 consecutive games for the Wolverines. Two years later, Wyoming High School’s Jibreel Black decommitted from the Bearcats and pledged to Michigan less than two weeks before signing his letter of intent. Even though the true sophomore hasn’t been able to crack the U of M starting line-up just yet, he has lettered twice as a back-up defensive end and a special teams player.
As difficult as it may have been to lose those two excellent prospects, UC fans got some measure of revenge on Saturday afternoon when Caleb Stacey from Oak Hills High School announced via Facebook and Twitter that he had switched his commitment from Michigan to Cincinnati.
Bearcat Lair spoke at length with Stacey on Sunday afternoon so he could explain his change of heart.
“I realized that Coach Jones is doing something special here,” said the local star. “I also realized I could play big time college football right in my backyard. There was no need to go away, and that’s pretty much what did it.”
Despite taking himself off the market by making an early commitment to Michigan ten months ago, the 6-foot-4, 296 pound offensive tackle still managed to accumulate fifteen offers including ones from BCS schools like Boston College, Illinois, Indiana, North Carolina State, USF, Wake Forest and West Virginia.
Often times, these types of “flips” are due to a school pursuing a prospect, but Stacey made it clear that was not the case in his situation.
“UC never recruited me while I was committed. I actually had this feeling about a week ago. I believe it was Friday when I talked to Coach Coombs (UC assistant coach) and talked to him and told him how I was feeling. Yesterday I went down and talked to Coach Jones for about two hours about me possibly becoming a Bearcat. I told him I was in but wanted to do it the right way.”
The “right way” meant Stacey needed to call Michigan and inform them of his decision before making his change of plans public.
“I called them yesterday (Michigan staff), but he understood. He was upset, but they understood.”
Although Stacey didn’t get really serious about changing his commitment until last week, the thought started to bud in mid-November.
“I started thinking about it during the West Virginia game at Paul Brown Stadium,” he said. “I know we didn’t come out on top, but I started thinking I might be able to help my city down the road somewhere. That’s when it started to sink it a little bit. My family and I are very excited about my decision to stay home.”
Bearcat fans would be hard pressed to remember many local stars that have spurned offers from more traditional football powers like Michigan, Ohio State and Notre Dame to cast their lot with UC. Stacey is very aware of that fact and hopes his pledge will make some others look at Cincinnati football differently.
“I hope I can become the poster child for more players staying in Cincinnati to play their college football. Kids don’t need to go away to play big-time football. I still remember something Coach Jones told me when I was down there for a Junior Day. He said the grass wasn’t always greener on the other side. It made me think.”
Although some project the high school left tackle to play inside in college, that might not be the case at UC.
“It’s up in the air right now,” said the senior. “I think there’s a chance I could start out at right tackle, but in the USA Under-19 National Team, I’ll be playing center. I think we’ll try right tackle, but I could also play center or guard (at UC).”
Stacey has never played center in a game, he has been working on his snaps in recent weeks.
The Oak Hills star leaves this Friday to begin practicing for the event. The game will be played on February 1 (National Signing Day) in Austin, Texas. St. Xavier’s Steve Specht will be Stacey’s head coach, and Colerain’s Tom Bolden will be an assistant on the USA staff. Despite being in the Lone Star State, Stacey still plans to sign his letter of intent on National Signing Day.
“I’ll be signing down in Texas, and CBS is supposed to cover it. Hopefully, it will also be a big day back in Cincinnati.”