National Signing Day is supposed to be the most important day in the life of a high-level high school football prospect. It's the culmination of years of hard work and a few months of the exhausting recruiting process.
For a guy like Cyrus Kouandjio however, that process and that decision has proven to be somewhat of a nightmare. Kouandjio committed to Auburn on ESPNU yesterday, but never sent in his letter of intent and reportedly isn't 100 percent sold on the Tigers. He will take the next few days to reconsider his decision, which means that we are in pretty much the same spot today that we were before his announcement. We have no idea where he is going to school, and I don't think he does either.
According to Elton Hayes at TideSports.com, Kouandjio went down to the wire with his decision, and ultimately went with a "leap of faith."
"What's funny is that I don't have a hat (for the announcement)," he said. "The reason being that I didn't know where I was going. Until the last second, I didn't know where I was going. I kind of took a leap of faith. For me it was a feeling thing. Alabama, Auburn, I love them both. It was ... a feeling thing. I went down to Auburn and I had a good feeling, a good vibe. So I just went with that feeling, that vibe."
Since Kouandjio has decided that Auburn might not be the best place for him, the situation has become a lot less "funny" for everyone involved. It reflects poorly on the schools involved, DeMatha coach Bill McGregor and Kouandjio himself, however unfair that may be.
He is getting a lot of negtive attention for the way he has handled this whole situaiton. But it's important to remember that this is an 18-year-old kid about to make the most important choice of his young life. Indecision is understandable.
From the outside looking in, I think the biggest problem -- and keep in mind that this is just speculation on my part -- is that Kouandjio doesn't love any of the schools he is choosing between. His finalists are Alabama, Auburn, Iowa and New Mexico, and I can see major flaws in each one. I'm basing my opinion on the answers Cyrus Kouandjio gave me when I went to interview him last week for a story at the Washington Post. You can find the video here.
Iowa has a proud football tradition, but it might be hard for a football player with other exciting options to choose a school so deep in the middle of nowhere. Cyrus spoke about its history of placing lineman in the NFL, but never once spoke about what it would be like to live at and attend the university.
When speaking about New Mexico, Cyrus said the staff was like family and that he wouldn't be afraid to go down and do his own thing. But he never mentioned anything about the team itself, and I'm sure part of him wants to compete for a National Championship at a school with a better program.
Which brings it down to the last two, and I think these are the two teams that he will be choosing between. If I had to guess, I would say that Kouandjio really wants to go to Alabama. I think he really likes Nick Saban (for some reason), likes the school atmosphere and likes the opportunity to play with his Brother. But I also think that last part, while it is certainly a plus, might be the reason for some of his indecision.
There was a section of the interview I had to cut out where Cyrus says that playing with his brother would be nice, but wouldn't ultimately be an important factor in his decision. I found that very odd for someone who seemed so close to his sibling. I know that if I was offered two jobs that were equal in all other aspects, I'd choose the one that provided the opportunity to work with my older brother. I just think he wants to do his own thing, and his own thing may have meant not going to the school that he really wanted to choose.
Because of his willingness to blaze a new trail at New Mexico, I don't think Kouandjio wanted to go to Alabama and be "Arie's little brother," or at the very least, "one of the Kouandjios." I think he wanted to go to a school where he could be his own man, but he also didn't want to abandon the things he liked about Alabama.
Enter Auburn. The Tigers came into the recruiting chase late, and probably got extra points because of how successful they were this season. Cyrus saw an opportunity to go to a school similar to Alabama while maintinaing his individuality, and decided that was what he really wanted.
I think Cyrus really wanted to like Auburn. I believe that at the time, he felt like it was the right choice. But the fact that he seemed so unhappy just minutes later reveals that he doesn't really believe Auburn is the place for him. That's why I think that he will ultimately end up at Alabama just as soon as he realizes that even though his brother will playing alongside him, he can still be his own man.
Cyrus needs to learn that while the school he chooses to attend will be a huge part of his life, it won't ultimately define him as a person. He is the one who needs to do that.