On Tuesday linebacker Reggie Spearman became the first member of Tim Beckman's first recruiting class to change his mind. After committing to the Illini in August, Spearman went on a trip to Iowa last weekend and enjoyed the trip so much that he decided he needed to rethink a few things.
Namely whether or not Illinois was the place for him.
Now, as you'd expect with a team that's 2-8 and playing far below the expectations most of the fan base had for it, a player decommitting is one of the first signs of the apocalypse. Since the news broke I've seen fans on message boards and Twitter start with the "only the first of many" and the "here we go, this program is a joke."
But do they have an actual reason to worry, or are doomsday prophecies just a way of relieving tension?
I'm inclined to believe it's the latter, and that while there's always a reason to worry about verbal commitments before signing day -- verbal commitments are only as good as the paper they're written on after all -- one player changing his mind is usually just one player changing his mind. No more, no less.
Even when Spearman gave his verbal in August Spearman was talking out of both sides of his mouth. In one breath he called his commitment to Illinois a "no-brainer" but in the next breath he made sure to mention that he still wasn't done with his recruitment.
"I'm going to let this recruiting process play out like I wasn't committed," Spearman told OrangeandBlueNews.com. "I'm still going to take some unofficials and I'm going to take all five of my official visits. I haven't even visited Minnesota or Houston yet, so I am definitely going to visit those places as soon as possible."
As for the rest of the 2013 class, I don't think the performance on the field really has an impact on the decisions most of these kids make. I mean, let's try to remember that Spearman just changed his mind after witnessing Iowa lose at home to Purdue up close and personally. Iowa may be the only team in the Big Ten playing as terrible as the Illini are, yet that didn't stop Reggie from wanting to go there.
The truth is that most recruits have the attitude that they're going to change things once they show up on campus. Illinois might be losing now, but it's only because they aren't there yet.
So worrying yourself about future defections doesn't actually accomplish anything. Spearman is the first. He might not be the last.
But this is what happens when you put your trust into a high school kid. It's just part of the territory.