If you read tea leaves or interpret the recent comments of Proviso West wide receiver Kyle Prater and his coach Famous Hulbert, you understandably might come to a conclusion that Prater will de-commit from USC and sign with Illinois in February.
A few days after Prater staged a well orchestrated press conference at the Hillside school to declare for the media's benefit that he was making an oral commitment to USC, he announced that it was a "soft verbal" and he planned to continue to make a few campus visits, likely Illinois and Oklahoma, to be certain of his choice.
The plot thickened last Saturday after the Proviso West/Proviso East game when Hulbert told a Chicago Sun-Times reporter that Prater would make a final decision by Christmas. "It's a long way from being over. Circumstances brought this about," he said.
Circumstances? What didn't Prater know at the time of his decision that he knows now? And why didn't he know then? And if he wasn't so sure of his decision then, why did he call a press conference to make an announcement?
In a telephone conversation on Sunday with Greg Georgelos, a longtime Chicago-based scout for recruiting analyst Tom Lemming, Hulbert said he felt making the commitment and to continue to make visits was a way of ensuring Prater's choice with USC.
Hulbert said Prater wasn't concerned by the fact that another of the nation's top players, wide receiver/defensive back Robert Woods of Gardena, Calif., had committed to USC shortly before Prater. Woods ranks No. 10 in the nation on Lemming's top 100 list, Prater No. 35. But Prater ranks No. 2 on Rivals' list, Woods No. 9.
Hulbert, who played at Illinois and makes no secret of his desire to see Prater play at his alma mater, said he was watching tape of Saturday night's USC/Ohio State game and was wondering how USC coach Pete Carroll would use Prater since they only use two wide receivers and maybe Prater would get caught up in a numbers game.
"Hulbert wants Kyle to take other visits to be sure of his choice but it appears neither he nor Kyle is sure if USC is the right place for Kyle," Georgelos said. "Reading into our phone call, it appears Hulbert has or will be looking into the depth charts at the wide receiver position at the other schools to see if Kyle fits into their program."
Since he made no mention of a "soft verbal" at the time of his original announcement, indicating USC was the place he wanted to be, you have to wonder why Prater changed his mind so quickly. Whose advice is he listening to? And why? And will he make the right decision when he signs in February?
In his blog, Lemming said Illinois would have been a good choice for Prater because he would have an opportunity to play right away. Arrelious Benn made an instant impact as a freshman in coach Ron Zook's offense, Lemming reminded, and Prater could do the same. But Lemming cautioned that "Prater should have gone to a school where he would have been the go-to guy. And USC has has guys ahead of him who are stars."
Apparently, for one reason or another, he is having second thoughts. Fortunately for him, he has until February to make the right decision.