Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Under new management
By JC Shurburtt
It was a wild offseason with many of the nation's top programs making coaching changes. With one week until national signing day, here's how some of these programs are faring under new leadership:
New coach: Butch Jones
Jones, who came over from Central Michigan, has quickly hit the recruiting trail and has a good class coming in this year. The new Bearcats staff was able to keep four-star receiver Dyjuan Lewis (Indianapolis/Pike) and top-20 OG Clint Shepherd (Eaton, Ohio/Eaton) in the fold.
Florida State Seminoles
New coach: Jimbo Fisher
The moment it was announced that former coach Bobby Bowden was retiring and Fisher was taking over, the Seminoles went on a tear, getting commitments from several of the top prospects in the country, including five-star CB Lamarcus Joyner (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./Saint Thomas Aquinas) and five-star ILB Jeff Luc (Port Saint Lucie, Fla./Treasure Coast), the nation's top prospects at their respective positions. The Seminoles are waiting on defensive end Corey Lemonier (Hialeah, Fla./Hialeah), athlete Christian Green (Tampa, Fla./Catholic) and linebacker Christian Jones (Winter Park, Fla./Lake Howell) down the stretch. They have a good shot at the clean sweep, plus a few potential surprises.
New coach: Joker Phillips
Phillips was already on staff and the coach-in-waiting, so it wasn't surprising when he was named head coach. Still, any time there is change there is potential for a hiccup in recruiting. But this class is a typical Phillips class, with plenty of under-the-radar prospects who could blossom, including three-star running back Raymond Sanders (Stone Mountain, Ga./Stephenson).
New coach: Charlie Strong
Long considered one of the nation's top recruiters while at Florida, Strong has made an immediate impact in recruiting, and the Cardinals have one of the top classes in the Big East. Strong and staff hit the state of Florida hard and are the current team to beat for four-star defensive tackle Todd Chandler (Miami/Northwestern) and are in the mix to possibly swipe Kadron Boone (Ocala, Fla./Trinity Catholic) from Texas Tech. Boone will decide on national signing day.
Marshall Thundering Herd
New coach: Doc Holliday
Marshall might not be in a BCS conference, but it's intriguing because of the hire of Holliday, who is one of the nation's top recruiters. He took the job and immediately started getting commitments, including six players who were committed to other programs. Four-star receiver Darius Millines (Delray Beach, Fla./American Heritage), three-star receiver Fred Pickett (Pahokee, Fla./Pahokee) and three-star safety Travis Bell (Belle Glade, Fla./Glades Central) all de-committed from West Virginia, where Holliday recruited them before heading to Marshall. Receiver Jazz King (Duncan, S.C./James F. Byrnes) could be a steal. There is also a chance that King's former teammate, Clemson quarterback Willy Korn, an ESPNU 150 prospect in the 2007 class, could end up transferring there.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish
New coach: Brian Kelly
Kelly and the new Irish staff were able to salvage several of the current commits, including four-star receiver Tai-ler Jones (Gainesville, Ga./Gainesville), who is skilled enough to step in and play early in South Bend and was excited about Kelly's bringing his high-scoring system from Cincinnati. Notre Dame is still involved with a few blue-chippers in four-star offensive tackle Matt James (Cincinnati/St. Xavier), four-star defensive tackle J.R. Ferguson, Christian Jones, four-star safety Dietrich Riley (La Canada, Calif./St. Francis) and five-star OT Seantrel Henderson (Saint Paul, Minn./Cretin Derham-Hall). The best chance the Irish have to land a player from this group is James, who is down to Notre Dame, Ohio State and Cincinnati. He'll make an official visit to South Bend this weekend.
South Florida Bulls
New coach: Skip Holtz
Holtz and his staff are going to be able to recruit well at USF. If the majority of the current group highlighted by four-star Todd Chandler ends up signing with the Bulls, it will be a good first effort. Moving forward, this program should be able to compete more and more for the top talent in the Sunshine State, something former coach Jim Leavitt was able to start doing more frequently toward the end of this tenure in Tampa.
New coach: Derek Dooley
After Lane Kiffin suddenly departed for USC after one season in Knoxville just a few weeks away from signing day, Dooley took over in a tough situation. The good news for the Vols is that several of their top prospects, like four-star offensive tackle Ja'Wuan James (Suwanee, Ga./North Gwinnett) and ESPNU 150 defensive end Corey Miller (Duncan, S.C./James F. Byrnes), enrolled early and elected to stay in Knoxville. The Vols are back in the mix to land in-state ESPNU 150 offensive lineman James Stone (Nashville, Tenn./Maplewood) and got a huge commitment when Under Armour All-American and four-star receiver Justin Hunter (Virginia Beach, Va./Lakes) de-committed from LSU and pledged to Dooley's Vols.
Texas Tech Red Raiders
New coach: Tommy Tuberville
Though the Red Raiders did lose some offensive linemen and could lose four-star receiver Kadron Boone, the class remains pretty solid for Tuberville and his staff. The bottom line here is that the Red Raiders under Tuberville, much like they were under former coach Mike Leach, will evaluate well and bring in enough players to remain a factor in the Big 12 South. Holding on to a solid class this year is a good start.
New coach: Lane Kiffin
The Trojans are in great shape to land former Tennessee wide receiver commit Markeith Ambles (McDonough, Ga./Henry County), but perhaps the biggest development down the stretch for Kiffin and his all-star staff is that they could have a legitimate shot at landing offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson. Kiffin is scheduled to have an in-home visit with the nation's top lineman Wednesday night and there is a feeling around the Trojans program that things are going well with Henderson and that USC could be closing in on Ohio State. Offensive line is one of the Trojans' biggest needs this recruiting cycle. Kiffin & Co. also have done a good job shutting down the recruitment of committed players.
New coach: Mike London
London has a sterling reputation as a recruiter. The first thing he did was add quarterback Michael Strauss (Miami/Gulliver Prep), who is already enrolled at UVa. London also has a chance to hang on to elite prep school tackle Morgan Moses (Fork Union, Va./Fork Union Military Academy), but Ohio State could snag him away. Bigger picture is London should help the Cavaliers in the talent-rich Tidewater area of Virginia starting with the Class of 2011.
Any minute now
Running back Lache Seastrunk (Temple, Texas/Temple) is reportedly ready to announce his decision any time now. Most believe he will select Oregon, barring anything unexpected. He is a good fit for the Ducks' spread offense, and if indeed he does commit to Oregon, it will be a great example of the Ducks' national recruiting reach under Chip Kelly.
Allen to leave Tide to become a Tiger?
Clemson has put itself squarely in the mix for ESPNU 150 athlete Keenan Allen (Greensboro, N.C./Northern Guilford). Allen, who has been committed to Alabama since the fall, is considering the Tigers now because Clemson has offered his brother, former Buffalo quarterback Zach Maynard, as a transfer. Allen and Maynard both visited the school last weekend.
North Carolina got a big commitment when in-state defensive end Kareem Martin (Roanoke Rapids, N.C./Roanoke Rapids) committed to the Tar Heels over Virginia Tech and Duke. The 6-foot-6, 230-pounder was one of the best prospects at the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas in December. ... Matt Brown (Allen, Texas/Allen), who probably will switch to TCU from Arizona, is an excellent quarterback prospect who is a good fit for the Horned Frogs' system. He's the type of player Gary Patterson has built a championship-level program using.
JC Shurburtt covers recruiting for ESPN.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.