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Head coaches of colleges big and small understand the magnitude of the art; if they didn’t they wouldn’t be head coaches.
College football has become as much about who a coach is bringing in as it is about who they’ve got playing for them right now. Thus, it’s important for coaches to have the ability to build relationships with young men.
Take current Louisville verbal commit and Port St. Lucie, Fla., linebacker Deon Rogers.
Last week, Rogers decommitted from the University of Georgia because the man he’d built a relationship within the program — former linebackers coach John Jancek — was fired.
Rogers spoke of not particularly liking the new defensive scheme of the Bulldogs’ new coordinator Todd Grantham, but mostly, he decided not to play for Georgia because he no longer felt bonded to the program.
“Recruiting is a catch-22,” said former Gainesville offensive coordinator Todd Wofford, who oversaw the recruiting of Blake Sims, Tai-ler Jones, A.J. Johnson and others while at Gainesville. “You want the kids to fall in love with a school, but at the same time, the guys have to want to be around the coaches and play in their systems. That’s a huge part of everything.”
The college football world is cutthroat. You win, you’re in. You lose, you aren’t in for long.
It’s also filled with dream jobs and coaches who want them.
That’s part of why the coaching carousel turns at such a rapid rate. The makeup of college football is ever-changing because its leaders are.
Take this season for instance: Lane Kiffin left Tennessee after one year for his dream job at Southern California, leaving a Vols void. Derek Dooley took the position at Tennessee, leaving a need at Louisiana Tech.
Charlie Weis was fired at Notre Dame and Brian Kelly left the University of Cincinnati to take the job.
Locally, two defensive coordinators were let go: Georgia Tech’s Dave Wommack and Georgia’s Willie Martinez, as were a couple of Georgia assistants, including Jancek.
So, considering that each of these coaches were integral parts of their former team’s recruiting efforts, what’s the fallout?
“Everybody’s sticking around,” said Georgia Tech defensive end and former Flowery Branch star Izaan Cross of Wommack’s departure. “(A new coach coming in) is looked at as another chance, especially for the guys who weren’t playing or were redshirts this past year.”
As for the defensive recruits coming into Georgia Tech, Cross says they’re staying strong as well.
“All of our defensive coaches have talked to the recruits and told them that nothing has changed,” Cross said. “Those guys are still strong.”
For Johnson, a junior linebacker at Gainesville and former Tennessee commit, the fallout was that he’s now a former commit.
“The coaches leaving did it for (Johnson),” Wofford said. “He liked the school, but the coaches leaving did it.
“This summer when he went up there, he liked the coaches, he liked their energy and the fact that they did it a little different that everyone else. They were, I’d say, 80 percent of the reason he committed in the first place.”
Just because a coach leaves a program, however, doesn’t mean his relationship with a recruit is severed. Quickly after Kiffin’s departure, Johnson received a scholarship offer from Southern California.
On the flip side are the players who choose to stay. Former Gainesville wide receiver Tai-ler Jones is one of those.
He committed to Notre Dame under the pretense that he’d be playing for Weis, which is no longer the case.
Jones was, according to Wofford, on the bubble about whether to stay or go, but then something dawned on the son of a former Irish great: If he stayed, with a new coach coming in, he’d be on the same page as everyone else, old and young.
“T.J.’s in the best situation,” Wofford said. “Not only will Kelly be there for five years, but because (Jones) enrolled early, he’s a step ahead of all the other freshmen and learning the new system right along with the upperclassmen.
“He’s on same the level as everyone else because he chose to stick it out with a new coach.”