All-Decade: Biggest headlines from the 2010 recruiting cycle
The last 10 years of recruiting has seen the installment of an early signing period, official visit reform and a host of controversies both memorable and otherwise. As Rivals.com continues its look back on the last decade, we dive into some trends and headlines that dominated the recruiting conversation during the 2010 cycle.
TENNESSEE AND USC WERE FIGHTING OVER LANE KIFFIN AND HIS RECRUITS
Tennessee fans once participated in an on-campus riot of sorts because Lane Kiffin left the program. That’s not somebody’s fever dream. It’s a real thing that took place in the real world a decade ago.
A young coach that looked destined for stardom in the college ranks, Kiffin, 35-years old at the end of 2009, had landed the nation’s No. 1 recruit in Bryce Brown in his first class before putting together a promising 7-6 debut season in Knoxville. In December 2010, he looked poised to welcome in another star-studded recruiting haul and take the next step toward returning Tennessee to relevance. Functioning as the head coach at FAU was not in the plans.
Taking over for Pete Carroll at USC was, however. And the night Kiffin decided to resign from his post in Knoxville to accept the gig, all hell broke loose. You can find an oral history of the chaos here.
The recruiting aftermath is what really stuck in the sides of Vols fans, however, as Kiffin’s staff advised UT’s midterm enrollees to avoid going to class in an effort to preserve their eligibility if they chose to accompany Kiffin to Los Angeles. In the end the polarizing coach flipped a couple of the Vols’ commits and retained the Trojans’ existing haul to land the country’s top class at USC.
Tennessee went on to hire Derek Dooley … then, Butch Jones … then, Jeremy Pruitt … you get the point. Meanwhile, USC eventually unceremoniously fired Kiffin on an airport tarmac, proving that not every feud has a winner.
ONE OF RIVALS.COM’S BIGGEST RECRUITING BUSTS SAT ATOP THE PLAYER RANKINGS
For every highly rated high school prospect that has won the Heisman trophy or become a superstar in the NFL, there’s one that didn’t meet expectations.
At this time a decade ago, one of the Rivals.com’s most notorious No. 1 sat atop the rankings. The top-ranked prospect in the class of 2010, Ronald Powell, was a massive linebacker out of California that seized the top spot in the cycles final weeks. He put up eye-popping stats his senior year and was named the MVP of the Army All-American Bowl. He chose Florida over USC and looked to be a can’t-miss prospect. Until he missed … by a lot.
Powell was hampered by two knee injuries in Gainesville, which limited him to just 35 career games. Eventually, the former No. 1 prospect in the country was selected in the sixth round of the NFL Draft. As a pro, Powell recorded just two career tackles. Nobody could have predicted the knee problems, but fairly or not, the lofty ranking remains a black spot on our record.
COACHES WEREN’T PERMITTED TO TEXT PROSPECTS
Aside from long-standing cries for an early signing period that wouldn’t be answered for years, the rules-change topic of the time concerned electronic messaging.
Ten years ago, coaches were prohibited from text messaging recruits under any circumstances, a ban that went into existence in 2007 and wasn’t removed until 2016. They weren't permitted to initiate a conversation or respond to a question via text. In fact, if a prospect messaged a coach first, said coach would have to respond with a phone call as if he were the player’s technologically-challenged grandfather that refers to texts as “emails.”
Whether or not the ban and its eventual lift was a net positive continues to be debated by coaches and players alike to this day. But a decade ago, it was the status quo -- so much so that recruiting savant Urban Meyer seemed downright distraught when it was eventually lifted in 2017.
“I hear the stuff about texting,” Meyer told Clevland.com in 2017. “I want to make this clear why — and this is a high school coach's and high school player's perspective. ...If you text someone, you can’t stop that, so you have a phone full of what? Text messages.
"If I don’t want to hear from that school they’ll keep hitting me because that’s their job, and usually it’s not them, it’s maybe an intern doing it. So here’s a kid in high school being bombarded with text messages sitting there doing this all day.”
FLORIDA’S BIG THREE HAD THE SUNSHINE STATE ON LOCK
The 2010 recruiting cycle saw both Florida and Florida State finish in the top 10. It also saw Miami assemble the country’s No. 16 class, complete with two five-stars. The common theme, however, was the fact that all three classes were built on the backs of homegrown stars.
Nine of Florida’s top 10 prospects choose in-state programs in 2010. Fast forward to 2020 and just three of the top 10 are committed to Florida programs, highlighting a trend that has been building over the last decade.
This decade has seen the dominance of Alabama and the emergence of Clemson, two programs which now routinely raid the Sunshine State for elite talent. Georgia and, to a lesser extent, Penn State have also gotten in on the act as of late. Florida’s big three have combined to hire eight coaches since the end of the 2010 season, and in-state recruiting failures have certainly contributed to that number.