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October 26, 2012

Around the West: Parsons parting ways

MORE: Around the Mid-Atlantic | Around the Midwest

Each Friday throughout the fall, Rivals.com is breaking down the West Region recruiting scene with news, notes and analysis. Here is the latest from Rivals.com recruiting analyst Rob Cassidy.

News and Notes

Four-star tight end Mitchell Parsons parted ways with Colorado on Wednesday night after a few months of openly looking around. Parsons called the split a "mutual decision." A better description of what happened, though, is a game of recruiting chicken.

The Buffs, of course, lost.

According to Parsons, CU assistant coach J.D. Brookhart told him that he would not be considered a committed recruit as long as he planned to visit other campuses and weigh his options. Parsons, the No. 2-ranked prospect in Colorado, chose freedom. Already, representatives from Vanderbilt, California, BYU and Washington have been in touch. Arizona State may get in the mix as well.

Parsons will take an official visit to Cal on Dec. 7 and set other visits following his senior season at Parker (Colo.) Chaparral. Where he's leaning is uncertain at this point, but his relationship with CU appears over for good, as the possibility of a re-commitment is remote at best.

It's rare that a highly recruited junior has a heavy recruiting lean. They usually overuse the phrase "wide open" and enjoy the love that comes along with it. South Jordan (Utah) Bingham tight end Dalton Schultz is the rare exception. More than a full year before he'll have to worry about making a verbal commitment, the 2014 prospect seems stuck on Stanford. The minds of high school kids change quickly, but the Cardinal is in the best possible standing with one of Utah's top players. Schultz possesses the necessary academic track record to make things official if he chooses to do so.

Lane Kiffin delivered a strong no-comments during this week's Pac 12 conference call. The USC head coach was discussing his philosophy of encouraging his commits to visit other schools as long as the last trip on the docket is to USC. Asked whether or not he sees the widespread practice of restricting visits for committed players as "hypocritical," Kiffin's response said more than the sum of its words. You could almost hear the grin on his face forming.

"I'm not going to answer that for obvious reasons," he said.

The upcoming weekend is a huge one for Arizona from a recruiting perspective. The Wildcats are coming off a 52-17 slaughtering of Washington and are set to host roughly 25 recruits for Saturday's contest with USC.

The list of official visitors is comprised of players from Georgia Military College. The most striking names on the unofficial side of things are star juniors Bryce Dixon, Jalen Brown, Cameron Denson and Andrew Mike, a group that holds a combined 40 scholarship offers. A batch of Arizona commits including Anu Soloman, Nate Phillips and Devin Holiday also plan to attend.

Underclassmen Watch

QB Randall Cunningham Jr., Las Vegas Bishop Gorman High School: Yes, he's the son of NFL great Randall Cunningham. He'll make his own name soon enough, though. As a junior, Cunningham has seen limited action as the backup to Arizona commit Anu Soloman, but he'll be the star of the show next season. Gorman head coach Tony Sanchez isn't one to gush over his own players for the sake of gushing, so the fact that he's blown away by Cunningham's ability says something. The 6-foot-5 quarterback has one of the strongest arms in the region. And, according to Sanchez, he rattled off a 4.5 40-yard dash at a preseason practice.

DE Qualen Cunningham, Chandler (Ariz.) Hamilton: From one Cunningham to another (no relation). A defensive end at powerhouse Chandler Hamilton, Qualen Cunningham is an intriguing prospect because of both his skill set and his age. The 2014 defensive end already shows flashes of greatness and carries six scholarship offers. The kicker is the fact that he's young for his class. At just 15 years old, there's no way to put a ceiling on the upside of the 6-foot-3, 220-pounder.

What I'm Thinking

With Texas' program in a slight state of confusion and struggling (by Texas standards) on the field, you have to wonder what four-star cornerback Cole Luke is thinking. If ever there was a time to use Mack Brown's age and somewhat unstable situation as ammo against the Longhorns on the recruiting trail, it's now. And you can bet schools are taking aim in this case.

It's nearly impossible to gather information from Luke, who says less than Harpo Marx. He doesn't tell those close to him much about his recruitment, but Notre Dame and Oklahoma have to like their standing.

Luke's high school head coach, Steve Belles, played quarterback for Notre Dame in the 1980s and has the Irish mascot tattooed on his lower leg. Add that to the fact that Luke built a solid relationship with the Irish coaching staff long ago, and the path to South Bend seems sufficiently paved.

That said, Luke's last scheduled official visit is to Oklahoma this weekend. The Sooners are especially dangerous when they have the last word.

There's a pair of one-time prized recruits looking for a second chance at Arizona Western Community College. Wide receiver Markeith Ambles (USC) and tight end Cameron Clear (Tennessee) departed their previous schools unceremoniously and are now being recruited for a second time.

Clear was dismissed from Tennessee after being charged with felony theft (a laptop). Ambles, a former five-star, parted ways with USC because of academic issues and repeated violations of team rules. My take is that each is worth the risk. Both Clear and Ambles are hyper-talented football players that can help any number of FBS teams win games. If it doesn't work out, so be it.

Think about it. When was the last time anyone blamed a school for giving a player a second chance? Should either land in trouble, the blame, as always, will be placed solely on the shoulders of the player. Fans will describe him as a "screw-up" and everyone will move on.

It's low-risk, high-reward.

Schools courting Clear include Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Ole Miss. Ambles is being pursued by Illinois, Iowa State and Mississippi State among others.

The more I talk with Scottsdale (Ariz.) Desert Mountain quarterback-wide receiver duo Kyle Allen And Mark Andrews, the more I think they'll attend the same college. This isn't a case of chummy teammates being recruited by some of the same schools. Andrews and Allen have been self-described "best friends" since kindergarten and openly discuss playing together at the next level. Both will be ranked among the top ten prospects in Arizona. They currently share five common scholarship offers.

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