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Don't blame Dwayne Haskins for leaving Maryland, because 'verbal commitments' are very stupid

Spare Maryland's four-star decommits the moralizing about "keeping their word." College football is a cutthroat world, and these are high school students making the biggest calls of their lives.

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Dwayne Haskins isn't coming through that door, and neither is Keandre Jones.

Maryland's four-star 2016 quarterback and linebacker commits are both gone, swept up by Urban Meyer's recruiting machine at Ohio State. In one fell swoop, the Terps have officially lost their most important recruit in ages, Haskins, and a linebacker who figured to be crucial for DJ Durkin's defense for at least three years, or however long he remained in college until leaving for the NFL. Now, neither is coming to College Park.

Depending on your expectations for Maryland, this ranges from "really bad news" to "a catastrophe." The Terrapins were one of the worst-quarterbacked teams in FBS history last season, and fans had already tagged Haskins as a savior. Without him, the odds of Maryland winning a Big Ten title in the next five years go down sharply. With him at Ohio State, they're even closer to absolute zero than they already were. So it's an enormous blow.

Haskins is on Twitter. Jones is not. And that's probably a good thing, because a couple of idiots are are surely going to take the Haskins news and shred him for "not keeping his word." Haskins will face online harassment. This would be wrong no matter who Haskins is, but the fact that he's a teenage high school student makes it outrageously off base.

"Verbal commitments" aren't and shouldn't be real, and that's not the players' fault.

Haskins committed to Maryland eight months ago, while Jones did more than a year ago. Back then, Randy Edsall was Maryland's head coach, and neither player – particularly Jones – had quite the national profile he does today.

Of course, prospects can't actually give their signatures to schools until National Signing Day in February of the year of their enrollment, so everything up until then is totally non-binding. That's how it should be.

College football coaches, many times, are the most powerful men these high school athletes have ever met in their lives. Many of them are the best-paid public employees in entire states, and they run programs that bear more resemblance to presidential administrations than football teams.

When these coaches meet with high school players – usually 15, 16 or 17 years old – they promise a lot of things. The first thing they promise, oftentimes, is that they, the coaches, will stick around at the school for as long as the recruit is there. That's a load of crock, of course, as coaches can either be fired or bolt for other jobs in a heartbeat. Players don't have that luxury, as they become bound by restrictive NCAA transfer rules as soon as they set foot on campus.

Coaches also promise players other things. Maybe that's playing time at a specific position, or maybe it's a vow to run a specific offensive or defensive system tailored to that player's skill set. Maybe it's dangling scholarship offers for that player's friends from high school or a job offer for an old coach. College coaches have a million levers of power.

Coaches also want answers. They pressure recruits to give them verbal commitments as soon as possible, to demonstrate just how much they want to play for said coach's program. Some coaches, like Edsall, threaten to pull scholarship offers from any prospect who officially visits another school after giving a pressurized verbal commitment. (To his credit, it doesn't appear that Durkin has done this. It's a crumby thing to do.)

It should surprise nobody that high school athletes, who've been pushed into making even the decisions they're most sure of at the time, can have second thoughts with the biggest decisions they've ever had to make in their lives.

It was probably hard for Haskins and Jones to decide on a college their first time around, and it was probably even harder to decide to leave that pledge behind to go somewhere else. But they're just players in a rigged game.