football

Hot seat status not hurting in recruiting ... yet

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JustaboutanypreseasonlistofcoachesonthehotseatfigurestohaveTennessee'sDerekDooleynearthetop,butyou'dneverknowitfromanearlylookattheVolunteers'2013recruitingclass.
Tennesseealreadyhasverbalcommitmentsfromfivejuniors,includingapairofRivals250prospectsinMemphis(Tenn.)WhiteStationdefensiveendJasonCarrandCleveland(Tenn.)BradleyoffensivetackleAustinSanders.
Forcomparison'ssake,noneofTennessee's2012signeescommitteduntilatleastJuly.Theonlytwo2012prospectswhocommittedtoTennesseebeforeJulyeventuallysignedelsewhere,asGainesville(Ga.)NorthHallrunningbackImaniCrosschoseNebraskaandMableton(Ga.)PebblebrookoutsidelinebackerKhalidHendersonlandedatKentucky.
Ofcourse,partofthereasonforTennessee'sfasterstartisduetothechangingnatureoftherecruitinggame,asmoreandmoreprospectsacrossthecountryareverballycommittingbeforethey'vefinishedtheirjunioryearofhighschool.Butitalsorevealsthatrecruitsaren'thesitantaboutcommittingtoacollegewhereacoach'sfutureisinquestion.
"Itwasnotanissueforme,"WinterGarden(Fla.)WestOrangelinebackerCoreyVereensaid.
Whynot?
VereenexpectsDooleytohavemuchmorejobsecuritybytheendoftheseason.AlthoughTennesseewent5-7lastyearandownsan11-14recordinDooley'stwo-seasontenure,Vereenenvisionsbrighterdaysahead.
AftervisitingTennessee'scampus,VereenhasasensethatTennesseewouldturnthecornerthisseason.HebelievesinDooley.HelikesnewdefensivecoordinatorSalSunseri.Wheresomemightseeaprograminlimbo,heseesateamontherise.
"UnderCoachDooley,theleadershipisincredible,"Vereensaid."Itcanonlygoupfromhere.''
Tennessee'ssituationisn'tallthatunusual.Lastyear,ArizonaState'sDennisEricksonwasdescribedasacoachonthehotseat,yetitdidn'tstophimfromgeneratingsomeearlyrecruitingbuzz.ArizonaStatehadcollected25verbalcommitmentsbyOctober,morethantwiceasmanyasithadeverrecordedbeforeatthatpointinthecalendar.
ButmanyofthoserecruitschangedtheirmindsafterArizonaState'slate-seasonstrugglesledtoErickson'sfiring.ArizonaStatefinishedninthinthePac-12teamrecruitingrankings.
Tennesseenowmusttrytoavoidasimilarfate.ThesefivecommitmentsrepresentanicestartforwhatcoulddevelopintoaqualityrecruitingclassifTennesseehasawinningseason.Butcantheymaintainthatmomentumiftheystruggleonthefieldthisfall?
"Theoffseasonforrecruitingisaboutsellingadream,"Rivals.comnationalrecruitinganalystMikeFarrellsaid."TheTennesseecoachesarecertainlynotgoingtotalktokidsandsay,'Yeah,wellwemayhaveoneyearleft,'or,'Weknowwe'reunderthegunhere,butwewantyoutocommitanyway.'They'retalkingabouthow,'We'reayoungteam,butwe'vegotalotofpotential.Weneedguyslikeyoutokeepbuildingmomentum.Lookatthepositivesofwhathappenedlastyearforus.'Kidswilllistentowhatthey'retolduntilsomethingelsecomesupthateitherprovesitwrongormakesthemthinktwice."
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Otherschoolsfacesimilarsituations.Afterall,Dooleyisn'ttheonlycoachenteringthisseasonunderabitofpressure.
BostonCollegewent4-8lastseasontoendastringof12consecutivebowlbids.TheEaglesnowmustreplacetheACC'sall-timeleadingtacklerinfirst-rounddraftpickLukeKuechlyandtheschool'sall-timeleadingrusherinMontelHarris,whowasdismissedfromtheteamTuesdayaftermissingnearlytheentire2011seasonwithakneeinjury.
ThatputsplentyofheatonBostonCollegecoachFrankSpaziani,whoownsa20-19recordinhisthree-yeartenure.The2012classthatSpazianisignedwasranked11thintheACC,aheadofonlyWakeForest.
BostonCollegehasonlytwo2013commitmentsthusfar,butoneofthemcomesfromManchester(Conn.)HightightendAndrewIsaacs,thenation'sNo.182overallrecruit.BostonCollege'shighest-rated2012signeewasChristchurch(Va.)offensivetackleWinHomer,ranked248thnationally.
WhetherIsaacsactuallyendsupatBostonCollegeremainsuncertain.Isaacsdescribeshimselfasasoftcommitmentandsayshe'skeepinghisoptionsopen.
"The[BC]coachesunderstandthisisabusiness,"IsaacstoldEagleAction.com."TheysaidtheywantmethereandtheyknowthatrightnowIwanttobethere.Itoldthem[there]couldbeawholebunchofopportunitiesatotherschools,butasofrightnowIreallylikeBC,sotheyunderstandthat."
Isaacs'situationunderscorestheimportanceoftheupcomingseasonforBostonCollege'srecruitingefforts.CantheEagleshangontoIsaacsiftheyfailtoearnabowlbidagain?HowcantheyattractotherRivals250recruitsiftheyhaveasecondstraightlosingseason?
"AndrewIsaacshasalwayssaidhisdreamschoolisBostonCollege,"Farrellsaid."Ithinkallthingsbeingequal,hewantstogotoBostonCollege.Ithinkhe'sasoftcommitmentbecauseeverybodyknowsSpazianiisonthehotseat.I'dsayit'saverytenuouscommitmentandreallycontingentonwhathappensduringtheseasonandalsowhathappensaftertheseason.IfBCgoes4-8andSpazisfired,whoaretheygoingtohire?Isthatguygoingtobeabletocomeinandlurehimback?"
Plentyofotherprospectsacrossthecountrycouldfacesimilardilemmas.Somealreadyknowhowthey'drespondinaworst-casescenario.
Forinstance,SandersgrewupaTennesseefanandwantedtobeaVolunteersomuchthathecommittedtohishome-stateteamthesummerbeforehisjunioryear.Eversincehemadethatcommitment,plentyofpeoplehaveaskedhimwhathethinksaboutDooley'sfuture.
SanderslooksforwardtoplayingforDooleyandcallshiman"awesomecoach."Heisn'tworriedaboutthepossibilityDooleymightleavebecauseheexpectsTennesseetohaveawinningseasonthisyear.
ButifDooleyendsuplosinghisjob,Sanderswon'tstartlookingelsewhere.
"Youdon'tchooseaschoolforacoach,"Sanderssaid."Youchooseaschoolbecauseyouwanttogothere."
Ifonlyeveryrecruithadthatapproach.
Inreality,plentyofprospectspickaschoolbasedontheirrelationshipwithacoach.Whentheyfearthatcoachisonthewayout,they'reboundtohavesecondthoughts.That'sparticularlytruewhenrivalschoolsstarttalkingtothem.
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SandersandVereenbothsaidtheyhaven'tencounteredanynegativerecruitingfromprogramswarningthemaboutDooley'sprecarioussituation.FarrellbelievesthatwillchangeifTennesseegetsofftoaslowstartthisseason.
"Negativerecruitinghasacycle,"Farrellsaid."Youcan'tdoittoosoonorelseitwillbewasted.IfyoustarthammeringkidsinAprilwithnegativerecruiting,bythetimeSeptembercomesaround,they'regoingtothinkyou'rejustcryingwolf.Butifyouwaituntiltherighttimeandsay,'Lookwhat'shappeninghere.Youneedtothinktwiceaboutyourdecision,'thenit'smuchmoreeffective.''
AslongasTennesseewins,thoserivalrecruiterswon'thavemuchtosay.
ButifTennesseedoesn'tturnthingsaroundthisfall,theVolsmayspendthewintersearchingforanewcoachwhosefirstorderofbusinesscouldinvolverepairingadecimatedrecruitingclass.
SteveMegargeeisthenationalcollegecolumnistforRivals.com.Hecanbereachedatsmegargee@rivals.com,andyoucanclickheretofollowhimonTwitter.
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