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January 23, 2013

Hot coaches often see recruiting cool off

FINAL RANKINGS: Rivals250 | Rivals100

Dallas Jackson is the National Columnist for Rivals.com. Email him your comments or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.

It is a here today, gone tomorrow existence.

In an industry that is focused on doing what is best for yourself, players such as Class of 2014 Rivals250 member Dwight Williams understand the situation. More than a year before he signs a letter of intent, Williams is building relationships with coaches who may not be around then as each jockeys for a promotion.

With 53 changes in the last two seasons at the FBS level -- and three college coaches moving to the pro ranks over that time frame -- the rumors of contracts being broken help in jading players and have a major effect on recruiting.

"It is going to play a role," Williams said. "I mean, rumors are rumors so you have to check your sources first, but I know that when coaches are talking to other schools or the NFL it is going to have an impact on me and probably a lot of other people.

"I still have a long time to wait and I plan on taking my time, so when I hear rumors I will check into them on my own, but if a coach comes out and says he interviewed somewhere else that probably means he won't be at the school for the whole time I am."

The outside linebacker from Gardena (Calif.) Junipero Serra is approaching double-digit offers and building bonds with assistants. He wisely understands that little he is told now will hold true in the near future.

He said his tightest bonds are with Arizona State assistant Chip Long, USC's Scottie Hazelton and UCLA's Jeff Ulbrich and Adrian Klemm.

Arizona State and UCLA have offered Williams. USC has not.

Of his nine offers, six of the schools have hired a new coach within the last four seasons: Colorado and Texas Tech changed coaches this season; Arizona State, UCLA and Washington State two years ago and Washington four years ago.

Boise State's Chris Petersen is the second longest tenured coach recruiting Williams; he is rumored every year to be leaving the program but has stayed true.

Only Oregon State coach Mike Riley and Nebraska coach Bo Pelini have remained relatively quiet on the coaching rumor mill.

Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell said he believes that while a rumor may be good for the coach involved -- and his bank account -- it almost always has a negative effect on recruiting.

"It is bad, no question," Farrell said. "Some coaches love to have their names out there for jobs, even if they aren't really being considered, because it can get them or their assistants a raise and it is used for leverage, but I don't think I have ever talked to a kid who said it made him feel more comfortable about a program when the coach is always being talked about for other jobs."

This season, Doug Marrone left Syracuse for the Buffalo Bills and Chip Kelly interviewed with multiple teams before going to the Philadelphia Eagles -- but only after saying he was coming back to Oregon.

Jim Mora, Brian Kelly, Nick Saban and Bill O'Brien were linked to NFL jobs but stayed in college.

Just reports of Kelly interviewing were enough to cause Wyomissing (Pa.) High inside linebacker Alex Anzalone -- the top player from Pennsylvania -- to de-commit from Notre Dame and enroll early at Florida.

Anzalone ended the evaluation period as a five-star player and the No. 28-ranked prospect in the Rivals100.

Farrell said Anzalone is the highest-profile prospect to be affected this season but he is far from an isolated example.

"Recruits want their coach to be there," Farrell said. "Notre Dame is winning big, and Brian Kelly's name was everywhere. That is nothing new; hot coaches always get rumored. It is also not new that kids are going to react to it.

"We were able to watch it happen at Oregon this year. When Chip Kelly started walking down that path last year with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the recruiting took a hit, and Oregon never got in gear this year with recruiting because kids knew something was going on up there."

Vanderbilt coach James Franklin was not linked to any NFL jobs this year, but each of the last two winters his name has surfaced -- with Penn State and North Carolina in 2011 and with Arkansas, Auburn, N.C. State and Tennessee after the 2012 season.

Franklin rebuffed all offers. He said the way to keep it from changing the level of recruiting is to stay in front of the situation.

"I may be too honest with it," he said. "I think it makes it worse to dance around the subject. There are reasons the conversations are happening, and it is because you are successful. Address it and go on.

"I have never felt an obligation to tell the media what I am doing and what I am not doing, but I do make sure those around me know. I make sure I am honest -- maybe honest to a fault -- with Vanderbilt, my staff, my players, my recruits and myself."

Williams hopes his interactions will follow that path.

With a UCLA offer on his list and Williams' close ties to his recruiting coaches, if Mora leaves it could cause a change of heart.

It will also present Williams with the chance to control the final outcome of his recruitment.

"I know this is a crazy business, but it is a business," he said. "Everyone will have to do what is best for them, and I will have to do the same thing."



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