The College Football Coaching Carousel's Major Impact on Recruiting

Tyler DonohueNational Recruiting AnalystDecember 3, 2015

Mark Richt, left, moves on from Georgia after 15 seasons in Athens and is reportedly headed to Miami.
Mark Richt, left, moves on from Georgia after 15 seasons in Athens and is reportedly headed to Miami.Associated Press

Like clockwork, there comes a point every year at which college football's frantic coaching scramble and the frenzied final stretch of a recruiting cycle intersect.

We're here. 

A multitude of Power Five job openings and widespread speculation about the men who could fill them continue to command national attention. Meanwhile, now less than nine weeks shy of national signing day, high school prospects are forced to sort through rumors and uneasiness at they attempt to find their ideal collegiate fit.

"This is why I am glad I am waiting until signing day [Feb. 3] to make my decision," 5-star Alabama recruit Ben Davis told Bleacher Report this week. 

Davis, the nation's No. 1 inside linebacker in composite rankings, is a prime example of a player who has plenty to consider based on recent coaching moves. The son of all-time Alabama tackles leader Wayne Davis remains engaged in several ongoing recruitments, including three with programs where a prominent recruiter pursued him as a Crimson Tide staff member this time last year.

Auburn linebackers coach Lance Thompson and LSU defensive coordinator Kevin Steele left Alabama last offseason, continuing to target Davis with new regimes. Now Crimson Tide defensive coordinator Kirby Smart is set to become Georgia's head coach, according to Chip Towers of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, giving the standout defender further familiarity at a university that was already on his radar.

"Me and Coach Smart have a great relationship," Davis said.

Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart is expected to take over as Georgia's head coach.
Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart is expected to take over as Georgia's head coach.Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

Program prestige and positional roster needs undoubtedly play a pivotal role in the recruitment process, but mutual trust between players and staffs are ultimately built on relationships. Those personal ties are currently being strained in different corners of the country, and outright severed in some cases.

Al Golden's midseason dismissal at Miami cost the Hurricanes multiple longtime commitments. USC lost a pair of top-tier linebacker prospects in October when Steve Sarkisian was fired. 

Those programs are among the few who've identified replacements to this point.

The Trojans opted to retain interim coach Clay Helton on a permanent basis, resulting in an overwhelming positive response from recruits.

"He's the ultimate players' coach," 4-star wide receiver Josh Imatorbhebhe told Bleacher Report's Damon Sayles. "He treats every player special, down to the players who aren't on scholarship. His players love to play for him, and I can't wait to play for him, either."

Miami moved quickly to secure veteran Georgia head coach Mark Richtaccording to Peter Ariz of CanesInSight.com, landing a former SEC mainstay who spent the past 15 seasons in Athens. 

Again, the reaction from recruits was swift and certainly promising for a Hurricanes program that hasn't won a bowl games since 2016 prospects were in third grade. Linebacker Shaquille Quarterman, the team's top-ranked defensive commitment, captured the moment well:

And then of course there's the recruiting class Richt leaves behind at Georgia. It's a top-10 talent haul with several elite uncommitted athletes still in the mix.

Texas running back Devwah Whaley, who committed to the Bulldogs on Thanksgiving, quickly has cause to reconsider his decision.

“I didn’t see this coming at all,” he told Bleacher Report's Sanjay Kirpalani"Yes, it does shake things up."

Another player impacted by the change at Georgia is blue-chip quarterback Jacob Eason. A Bulldogs pledge since July 2014, the 5-star prospect was on a flight to Florida less than 48 hours after Richt's fate became known in Athens:

Gators head coach Jim McElwain welcomed Eason to campus this week, just days after fellow Elite 11 finalist Feleipe Franks committed to Florida. The in-state standout previously spent 17 months as a member of LSU's class before backing off that verbal pledge last week when it appeared Tigers head coach Les Miles was moving on.

However, following a Nov. 28 victory over Texas A&M, LSU athletic director Joe Alleva announced Miles would remain in Baton Rouge. That declaration seemingly occurred too late in regards to recruiting, as the Tigers suffered three decommitments during this span of uncertainty.

Fast-forward just one week and Franks is now one of Florida's crown jewels in the 2016 class. Though a coaching change that actually did occur could further impact his future outlook. 

Franks was succinct when asked how he felt after learning of Eason's trip to The Swamp.

“Not good,” he told Chris Kirschner of SEC Country.

Despite rampant speculation that Les Miles was done at LSU, he will remain in Baton Rouge.
Despite rampant speculation that Les Miles was done at LSU, he will remain in Baton Rouge.Chris Graythen/Getty Images

While some situations have begun to settle, vacancies remain at Missouri, Virginia, Rutgers, Syracuse, South Carolina and several other FBS universities.

It's important to note that finding the right head coach is only the first step of a sometimes messy process as programs shift toward a fresh start.

Coordinators and assistants will be reevaluated, replaced in high volume and poached by other universities. This ambivalence creates a precarious situation for coaches who are supposed to sell a long-term vision to high school students on behalf of an employer that may not retain them.

It's very difficult for any college coach to genuinely recruit young athletes to a school while expecting that fortune-altering phone call from another program. Wins aren't the only thing hanging in the balance for assistants who have families relying on their financial success. 

Plenty of these recruiters have one eye toward the exit door during a period that requires constant focus on recruiting. It's human nature, and if players can sense that shift in attitude it can open the door for them to explore alternative options before locking into a letter of intent.

As the coaching carousel gains momentum, more will continue to hop on, negotiate multimillion-dollar contracts and make teenage prospects' heads spin. When the dust settles on national signing day, expect numerous notable recruiting classes to look markedly different due to newand lost—leadership.

 

Tyler Donohue is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports. Follow Tyler via Twitter @TDsTake.