Auburn (Calif.) Placer football coach Joey Montoya has never had a player like ESPN 150 defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes in his program before, but he now knows why recruiting can be an overwhelming process.
Vanderdoes took a step back Thursday night by decommitting from the USC Trojans, and Montoya was not at all surprised by the decision.
"It's definitely been overwhelming for Eddie, just the fact that he's been pursued heavily by a variety of different people," Montoya said. "That's what he loved about being an early commit; he had time to catch his breath a little bit when recruiters laid off. But now that that's off the table, recruiting is going to start up again. He's handled it very well. It's been an overwhelming process but special at the same time."
Montoya, a young and energetic coach who bounces around the practice field motivating his players with a whistle in hand, admits he might never get another four-star athlete to suit up at Placer. That alone has made the highly publicized recruitment of his star lineman unique.
"We've never had anything like him here," Montoya said. "He's handled it very, very well, from just talking to reporters and recruiters. He's handled it far better than most kids his age would handle this. It's been a growing experience for him and throughout the process he's remained humble. It hasn't gotten to his head one bit."
The 6-foot-3, 300-pound Vanderdoes originally committed to USC in July but always intended to take his official visits. He took a trip to UCLA the weekend of Nov. 23, and despite thoroughly enjoying the other Los Angeles school, he remained committed to the Trojans. Vanderdoes then officially visited Washington on Dec. 14 and re-opened his recruitment after returning home from Seattle.
"From a college standpoint, he wants to weigh out his options without feeling guilty for looking at other schools," Montoya said. "Decommitting allows him to do that and take his visits. USC is still obviously in his top four, but this allows him to be more open to all the possibilities."
Montoya knows what Vanderdoes is looking for in a school.
"He wants to get an education, and he wants to compete at the highest level," Montoya said. "I know he has big football goals, but his main goal is to do what is going to be the best for his future, for life after football. He has a legitimate chance of playing at the highest level, but he still wants something to fall back on. ... He's going to play this thing out until signing day, but not because he wants the attention. He just needs time to make the best decision."
Vanderdoes is expected to officially visit Notre Dame the weekend of Jan. 11, followed by a final trip to USC on Jan. 18. He will announce his decision on national signing day.
"In my honest opinion, it's a three-way tie between USC, Washington and UCLA," Montoya said. "Cal and Notre Dame have been in the mix as well, even though Notre Dame came in a little late. All schools have been consistent in contacting Eddie and talking to me."
Although losing a commitment hurt, Montoya said the Trojans are very much in the running for the No. 4-rated defensive tackle.
"Coach O has been here a ton," Montoya said. "They want him bad but have also told us they're not afraid of a challenge. The USC coaches have encouraged him to take his visits, and as soon as he's back, they've followed up on it. They know USC sells itself. The football program can offer him a special opportunity. The USC tradition and network they have at the school is great, too."
Crosstown rival UCLA might be the dark horse, Montoya added.
"Angus (McClure), the defensive line coach, has been around a ton," Montoya said. "He's a very good guy. I think his father-in-law actually lives in Auburn, so he knows this area very well. I know Eddie had a phenomenal time with his family when they took their visit to UCLA. All of that plays a big role in the recruiting."
Montoya will join Vanderdoes in San Antonio next week for the Jan. 5 U.S. Army All-American Game. Although Vanderdoes didn't face a player of his size during the season, his coach is confident the lineman will shine in a competitive environment.
"He'll be just fine," Montoya said. "He'll prove why he's one of the best players at his position."