College football: Coaching changes can change complexion of a recruiting class

A coaching change can dramatically impact a prospect's choice — or change the complexion of a recruiting class. Heritage Hall's Quintaz Struble saw two Division I offers dissolve because of coaching changes.
BY TRAVIS HANEY, Staff Writer, thaney@opubco.com Published: January 30, 2012

Every December and January, the college football coaching carousel spins wildly, with head guys and assistants changing jobs and positions at dozens of schools across the country.

As the ride dizzyingly whirls, there is a residual effect to the hirings and firings because they coincide with high school recruits making a decision as to where they'll spend the next three, four or five years of their lives.

When a coach comes or goes, it can dramatically impact one prospect's choice — or, in some cases, the complexion of an entire recruiting class at a given school.

“You're going to have attrition,” said Tom Luginbill, ESPN's national recruiting director. “It could be one guy, could be five. But I think that's part of it. It's the natural course of things. I think coaches expect it.”

The impacts, though, aren't always negative. It's not always attrition. Sometimes a kid might be enticed by a new coach, or he could follow a coach to another school.

With Wednesday's National Signing Day rapidly approaching, consider the ripple effect — the resulting fall of dominoes — of Mike Stoops' firing as head coach at Arizona and eventual hiring as defensive coordinator at Oklahoma.

Heritage Hall defensive end Quintaz Struble had an offer from Arizona. It was probably his best offer. And it dissolved once Stoops was gone. Same thing happened at Colorado State. The Rams had offered Struble, but Steve Fairchild was let go.

Struble committed Saturday to Gus Malzahn and Arkansas State. It was a great place for a soft landing after his whole focus shifted in the wake of the firings.

Mike Stoops was officially rehired January 13 by his brother Bob. The plan was for Mike Stoops to share the defensive coordinator title with Brent Venables, just as they had during OU's recent defensive heyday from 1999-2003.

The corresponding move to Mike Stoops' return, though, was the firing of Willie Martinez. Out of respect for Martinez's future, the school classified it as the second-year secondary coach leaving to pursue opportunities. But there was no secret with other schools what had happened.

Recruits were also aware of the situation in one way or another.

The weekend before OU's announcement about Mike Stoops and Martinez, cornerback commitment De'Vante Harris abruptly decommited from the Sooners, though he had been solid since April.

Martinez's ouster might not have been official then, but the smoke was billowing enough for Harris to include that in his decision-making. Martinez was his primary recruiter. Harris eventually committed to Texas A&M.

Five days after Mike Stoops was back on staff, Venables left for Clemson. Recruits, of course, noticed that, as well.

Based on Martinez's firing and Venables' move, another OU cornerback commit, Kevin Peterson, scheduled a visit to Oklahoma State. He switched to the Cowboys soon after the visit. “Martinez was the guy that clicked with Kevin way back in the spring,” said Peterson's father, Kevin Sr. “Coach Venables was there some, especially in the end, but it was Martinez that really kept in contact with Kevin and was a big reason he chose OU in the first place.”



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