Willingham's Scorched Earth, Aftermath of Bad Recruiting Classes for UW

cfb360 .comSenior Analyst IOctober 6, 2008

(www.cfb360.com - www.ndnation.com)

I just snicker when I hear commentators talk about Tyrone Willingham needing more time at Washington. More time for what? To kill Husky football for the next five years?

If Willingham's allowed to continue he's going to deliver a death knell recruiting class to the Huskies. Babbling idiots like John Saunders and Mark May keep talking about Tyrone needing more time for his recruiting to take hold. They forget that it's already taken hold. It is what it is and what it's always been.

Washington had a good recruiting class last year. Not elite. Not great. Just a good class. It finished anywhere between 14th and 24th in the country depending upon which service you use.

That class followed two straight recruiting classes by Willingham that didn't crack the top 25. And the only reason last year's class was good was because there were so many in state recruits that were high caliber. That won't be the case this year or in most years.

Consider this fact: over the last three years Willingham has recruited exactly four four-star or higher players from outside the state and only three are with the team.

One great player a year from outside the state? That wouldn't cut it at Texas, Florida or USC which are loaded with in state talent. Washington is not. To succeed you have to get at least some of best kids from around the country.

But that folks is as good as it gets under Willingham. Woof, woof.

Currently the Huskies have the 86th ranked class after losing their best player (who decomitted last week).

Willingham is about to do to the Huskies what he did to ND and Stanford before him.

For those who didn't follow Notre Dame closely back at the end of Willingham's tenure, the most frightening element wasn't the prospect of another mediocre to bad season, it was the recruiting abyss we were staring into.

In Willingham's second season at Notre Dame he recruited one of the worst overall Notre Dame classes in decades. In this third season, he was doing it again, only this time it looked even worse. Two classes that were all but bereft of linemen.

When USC and Michigan are piling up top ten class after top ten class, that dog won't hunt.

Worse still was the fact that Willingham didn't expect things to get much better on the field, which would have ensured three straight bad recruiting years; a virtual death penalty that Notre Dame wouldn't have recovered from 'till this day.

What made all of this maddening to Notre Dame fans was that Willingham wasn't even trying, he simply expected recruits to come to him. Recruiting analyst Tom Lemming labeled Willingham and his staff outright lazy. Willingham would wait and wait to evaluate and offer kids while other coaches mounted full court presses.

Charlie, while still coaching the Patriots, wasn't able to do much to turn that second class around, but finally put together a top 10 class his second year and has followed that up with two top 5 classes including last year's number one recruiting class.

But the die had already been cast. Last year Notre Dame had exactly two offensive linemen in its junior and senior classes.

That's unheard of... or maybe it isn't... read on.

Willingham left Notre Dame with over five million dollars in payouts (he was still the highest paid Notre Dame coach last year btw) and then proceeded to scorch ND's reputation, letting John Saunders float charges of racism while Tyrone played the big man.

So that's Notre Dame. Scorched and burned. Millions out the window and a black hole in recruiting that's taken Notre Dame to its lowest depths in decades. That scorched earth is finally turning to fertile ground and the Irish are coming back from the dead.

None of this surprises Stanford followers who also felt the black hole of Willingham recruiting, twice.

Willingham created his own black hole back in 1996 when he failed to recruit one offensive lineman that year.

None. Zero. Zippo.

Willingham went 5-6 and 3-8 the next two years and almost got fired. But a 8-4 run against a depleted Pac 10 in 1999 (he was 7-1 against the Pac 10 and 1-3 outside of the Pac 10) saved his job before a third losing season in four years in 2000.

Willingham had his best year in 2001 finishing 9-3 (another down year for the Pac 10.) But pain was coming as Willingham's recruiting sowed the seeds for failure again leaving Teevens with what the San Francisco Chronicle called "rampant inexperience on the offensive line" in 2003.

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Said the Chronicle, "A line that couldn't run block, couldn't protect the passer and couldn't stand up to more experienced defenses at virtually every turn. "

Hmmm... sounds like Notre Dame in 2007.

Here's the Stanford 2003 preview from SI: "The Cardinal is hurting on the offense line with only one experienced returnee in three-year starter Kirk Chambers, the left tackle. Kwame Harris' early departure for the NFL complicated an already dire situation, and now Teevens will have to rely on a host of unproven players, including seven redshirt freshmen."

Sound familiar Domers? What happened?

Willingham's recruiting left Teevens with only... drum roll please... TWO upper class offensive linemen out of fourteen on the team.

In other words, he created the exact same problem at both schools.

Predictably, Teevens (not that he wouldn't have failed anyway) bombed in his second year in the same way Notre Dame did... just slightly worse than Weis's 3-9 last year. What we've learned is that both coaches were playing with a very unstacked deck due to negligent recruiting. Stanford followers speculated that Willingham got out just in time.

It's no surprise to anyone that Willingham led the charge to impose restrictions on coaches' travel. It saved him from having to compete on hard work.

The thing we Domers learned is that Willingham only cares about Willingham. He poisoned the well in every conceivable way upon his departure from Notre Dame. He left a media mess, a recruiting nightmare and a financial albatross.

It didn't have to be that way either. If he fired Deidrick he could have stayed (something he did anyway when he went to Washington.) He didn't and that turned out to be the best thing that has happened to Notre Dame football in years. It's taken four years to cleanse the stench of losing and divisiveness. 

Much like Washington now, Notre Dame's players were just plain quitting in games.  That attitude takes a long-long time to change.

But now the Huskies are facing the same Willingham imposed virtual death penalty. A null recruiting class following one decent and two mediocre classes will hamstring the Huskies for years.

And if you thought Willingham didn't work hard on the recruiting trail before, you ain't seen nothing yet. A lame duck Willingham won't be able to take the insult of rejection. Remember Tyrone only cares about Tyrone and recruiting takes a lot of groundwork.

Recruiting isn't microwave popcorn ya know.

Most Domers think that Willingham's a self-important con artist who talks in strange platitudes that sound smart when you first hear them, but upon reflection make little sense and mask his lack of understanding of the issues. I used to think his stern looks had meaning, now I just view them as funny faces he makes when he's clueless. 

At Stanford he opined what he would do with Notre Dame's players. At Notre Dame he wondered what he would do without the restrictions. Lack of performance was always someone else's fault. I have no idea where he goes from here, but I believe that if he had an offer to go to another school with a good golf course nearby, he'd be on a plane already.

But after scorching the earth from South Bend to Seattle, it looks like this time the jig's up. When he leaves, don't expect it to be pretty. At Notre Dame he took people down with him and some reports claim he's already done that with Todd Turner at the Dub.

As AFCA president, Willingham may yet have another surprise in the works.

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