5 Coaches in Dire Need of a Strong 2015 Recruiting Class
Colleges covet head football coaches who portray a favorable image on the field and in the recruiting spectrum. Effective game plans can lift a program, but the foundation of sustained success is laid when teams consistently secure and cultivate prospects.
Each year, several coaches find themselves surrounded by mounting pressure to produce beyond the scoreboard by bringing in a much-needed wave of incoming talent. We examine five unique situations that feature team leaders in need of impressive efforts between now and signing day 2015.
Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.
Sonny Dykes (Cal)
Whether you blame it on Sonny Dykes' system or the roster he inherited, his first season in Berkeley was an unequivocal failure. The Golden Bears managed just one win—over FCS opponent Portland State—during a 2013 campaign that featured eight double-digit defeats against Pac-12 foes.
Cal featured promising true freshman quarterback Jared Goff, who showed signs of progression during a challenging fall. It's always a good thing to feel like you're secure at the quarterback position for a few years, but the Bears won't rise in conference standings without substantial improvement in several phases of the game.
Cal put up an admirable fight for a commitment from 5-star junior quarterback Josh Rosen, but the Southern California standout pledged to UCLA last week. Dykes is still searching for the first member of his 2015 recruiting class, and that effort doesn't get any easier with momentum moving in the right direction for Stanford, USC and the Bruins.
The program has struggled to command interest in the state's southern sections that routinely produce Pac-12 stars. Dykes must make inroads in these regions, especially with Arizona, Oregon and Arizona State now routinely prying away players.
Cal could also look beyond state borders for top-tier talent. Possibilities include Texas prospects Carlos Strickland (wide receiver) and Tyreik Gray (running back), along with Georgia offensive lineman Zach Giella.
Will Muschamp (Florida)
Will Muschamp has a long road ahead as he attempts to reclaim faith from Florida's expansive fan base. The Gators won 11 games and reached the Sugar Bowl in 2012, his second year as head coach, but the thrill was short-lived.
Last season, the team experienced an alarming crash in conference standings and struggled to compete on a weekly basis. Florida lost its last seven games, including an embarrassing home defeat against Georgia Southern.
The Gators finished 3-5 against SEC opponents for the second time in three seasons, making the 2012 campaign look like a relative outlier during Muschamp's tenure. Detractors will say he reached the Sugar Bowl with Urban Meyer's recruits leading the way.
Florida needs an infusion of talent on both sides of the ball but specifically must make strides on offense. Muschamp landed 4-star North Carolina quarterback Will Grier and dynamic in-state receiver J.C. Jackson in the 2014 recruiting cycle, but failed to keep his grips on coveted Miami running back Dalvin Cook.
The 5-star recruit flipped his commitment to Florida State on New Year's Eve, strengthening the Gators' fierce rival. Muschamp must continue to make improvements to the offensive attack with this latest crop of available playmakers.
The team already holds pledges from 3-star Florida pass targets Tristan Payton, Camrin Knight and Deondre Farrier. The Gators are firmly in the hunt for 5-star Fort Lauderdale quarterback Torrance Gibson, Tampa receiver Deon Cain and Orlando running back Jacques Patrick.
Kyle Flood (Rutgers)
Rutgers is preparing for a significant leap in competition this season, courtesy of a move to the Big Ten Conference. The Scarlet Knights open the inaugural conference campaign Sept. 13 against Penn State and will face consistent speed and power the program hasn't encountered in previous years.
Unfortunately for head coach Kyle Flood, the team struggled to make a recruiting splash on the verge of its long-awaited transition. Rutgers saw its 2014 class unravel late in the 2013 season and struggled to piece it back together before signing day.
The Knights' class ranked 60th nationally in 247Sports' composite ratings. Several premier prospects who initially committed to Rutgers ultimately altered their course and will play elsewhere.
Receiver Saeed Blacknall (Penn State), safety Kiy Hester (Miami), running back Jonathan Hilliman (Boston College) and receiver Adonis Jennings (Pittsburgh) each decided to decommit and attend schools outside of New Jersey, their home state. Florida cornerback Lamont Simmons (USC) and Michigan quarterback Tyler Wiegers (Iowa) also backed out of their verbal pacts with the program.
The untimely recruiting turbulence leaves Rutgers searching for answers in this current recruiting cycle. The Knights must be able to secure top in-state talent like linebacker Manny Bowen and cornerback Karrem Ali, who will have plenty of opportunities elsewhere.
The Big Ten is calling and Rutgers can't afford roster erosion.
Brady Hoke (Michigan)
Brady Hoke's win totals have dwindled during the past two seasons. Since capping off his first campaign as Wolverines head coach with a Sugar Bowl victory, Michigan is a pedestrian 15-11 overall and 9-7 in Big Ten action.
The team's 2014 recruiting efforts started strong, featuring commitments from 5-star New Jersey defensive back Jabrill Peppers and dominant in-state receiver Drake Harris. However, Michigan was unable to muster late momentum and missed out on key targets like defensive end Da'Shawn Hand and running back Jeff Jones.
The 2014 class finished 20th in 247Sports' composite rankings. Concerns about the current recruiting cycle crept up this winter when 5-star recruits Damien Harris (running back) and George Campbell (athlete) decommitted from Michigan.
The Wolverines also whiffed on 5-star quarterback Josh Rosen last week. The UCLA commit chose the Bruins just a few days after touring Ann Arbor with Michigan's coaching staff.
Hoke continues to search for a passer, including 3-star Maryland prospect David Sills. Expect Michigan to dedicate significant resources toward the recruitment of Ohio linebacker Justin Hilliard and Minnesota defensive end Jashon Cornell, a pair of 5-star defenders who've each spent time at Michigan in past months.
Charlie Strong (Texas)
It may seem unfair to stack more pressure upon the shoulders of first-year Texas head coach Charlie Strong, but the former Louisville leader knows exactly what he signed up for in January. Expectations are always immense in Austin and Longhorns fans are itching to erase the brushes with mediocrity that defined Mack Brown's final years.
Texas is accustomed to getting who it wants, when it wants while recruiting within the state. That dynamic has certainly undergone significant changes in recent years, as programs at TCU, Texas Tech and Texas A&M continue to make strides on the national scene.
The Aggies' success should be particularly troubling to Strong. Texas A&M secured a top-five 2014 class and sits atop early 2015 rankings with nine total commitments.
Texas is ranked fifth nationally, but more than half of the team's commits pledged prior to Strong's hiring. It's time for him to flex his muscles on the recruiting trail, where he's landed just one 4-star prospect this year (Houston offensive tackle Toby Weathersby).
If the Longhorns aim to retain a grip on in-state dominance during this cycle, it must start immediately. Strong faces significant battles with neighboring rivals for 5-star Texas prospects Kendall Sheffield (cornerback), Damarkus Lodge (receiver) and Malik Jefferson (linebacker).
The university hopes to see a return on its new investment before Strong's first season kicks off. How he fares as a recruiter this summer will say plenty about the program's current status.