Chandler takes charge of recruiting
For Todd Chandler, it was almost too good to be true. The 6-foot, 290-pound defensive tackle, who won a national championship at Miami Northwestern as a sophomore, committed to his hometown team, the Miami Hurricanes, as a junior.
"It was really like a dream come true," Chandler said. "It was a chance to play with Marcus, Sean and my other old teammates from Northwestern."
For Chandler, it was also an opportunity to play for the team that inspired him to first try football.
"I grew up watching Miami and I always wanted to be a Cane," Chandler added. "They got me into football, and when I committed, all I could think about was being able to have the opportunity there to inspire other young football players the way that program inspired me."
As Chandler went through his senior season, something changed. He didn't hear from the Miami coaches as frequently. He still was a regular visitor at practices, but he felt more like an outsider.
A conversation with Hurricanes secondary coach Wesley McGriff left the player more uncertain about his standing with the program and why the communication had become strained.
"I was confused," said Chandler, the No. 7 DT and No. 67 overall player in the ESPNU 150. "The coaches were saying everything was good, but something was different. They were no longer acting like a team that was interested."
Chandler was familiar enough with the process through other area recruits to know that programs can drop verbal commitments at the worst time, leaving them with few options.
"I didn't understand it, and I still don't," said Miami Northwestern assistant coach Terrance Craig. "Todd did everything Miami asked him to do, and they just hung him out to dry."
NCAA rules prohibit coaches from commenting on individual recruits until that player has signed a letter of intent with the school.
Rather than take the risk with a commitment he was feeling uneasy about, Chandler took his future into his own hands.
First, he switched commitments from Miami and gave a "soft" verbal to South Florida with visits planned to other schools like Louisville and Colorado State.
"Coach [Jim] Leavitt made me feel like I was wanted," Chandler added. "They were going after me pretty hard."
Three weeks later, Leavitt was fired.
Chandler was at square one again.
"I'm excited about the schools that are interested in me and my future in college football," Chandler said. "I don't even like to talk about the Miami situation anymore. I'm looking ahead and I'm blessed to have the opportunity to make this decision."
While the player has moved on from the disappointment with the Hurricanes, it's safe to say that the feelings from those close to Chandler will continue to linger.
"I'm still hot about it," added Craig. "It's like the coaches took the eight kids from the 2007 team and never looked back. The people in the community here at Northwestern won't forget this."
Chandler began the second stage of his recruitment with an official visit to Louisville on Jan. 8. He and new coach Charlie Strong had a good relationship when Strong was the defensive coordinator at Florida and reconnected during his visit.
"I definitely had a great time and the coaches made me feel so comfortable," Chandler said. "They are headed in the right direction and they were able to tell how I could fit into their plans. I'm real close to [current teammates and Louisville commits] Corvin [Lamb] and Michaelee [Harris] too. I'd love to continue to play with them."
Chandler didn't commit, however, and took another official to Syracuse and will conclude his visits with trips to Colorado State and Florida State.
Each program has drawn his interest for a variety of reasons.
On Syracuse: "One of my relatives played ball there a while back. I really want to check out the place. I feel like they could definitely use a player like me."
On Colorado State: "It's a really nice city, a nice environment and I felt comfortable there. I like their coaching staff too."
On Florida State: "It's the tradition of FSU. I know a few of the players that are on the team and some that have committed too. They've got a good, young coaching staff."
"I think Todd can do anything he puts his mind too," added Craig. "He works hard and he brings the best out of his teammates. Many of the offensive linemen I coach have learned a lot practicing against Todd."
Chandler most recently took part in the Under Armour All-American Game in St. Petersburg, Fla., and had an opportunity to see the less stressful side of recruiting.
"All the players in the game were so much fun to be around," he said. "It was a humbling experience, really helped me remember that there is a good side to all of this and that we all just share a love of the game."
His coaches in the Under Armor game were equally impressed with his dedication.
"He's got some real talent," said veteran NFL and college assistant coach Rex Norris. "He's got good quickness and gets good leverage. He can play either the three technique or the two technique in college.
"You can tell he's got a love for the game and he's real receptive to instructions. I think he's going to make a major program very happy."
All in all, Chandler says his experiences in his senior year have made him a better person. He has his grades and test scores in order and still receives late inquiries from other programs looking to gauge his interest.
Although the chances of playing with Forston and Spence have greatly diminished over the past 12 months, he has been able to use the advice his former teammates gave him.
"They always told me that recruiting can be like a business," Chandler said. "Understand that it's your decision and you're in control of the process. Whatever school I choose is going to be the one that helps me accomplish all my goals -- athletically and academically."
Corey Long is a freelance writer in Florida.
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