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October 17, 2012

Would canning coach help recruiting?

RANKINGS: Class of 2013 Team Recruiting Rankings

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.

John L. Smith was a dead man walking at Arkansas before having one of the worst first months of football for any preseason Top 5 team.

Frank Spaziani has been an unmitigated disaster overseeing the spiral at Boston College from an eight-win team to one of the worst in major college football.

Joker Phillips is in his third season at Kentucky after being named the coach-in-waiting under Rich Brooks. His team will likely end the year with one win over an FBS-level opponent.

All three will likely be fired soon after the season ends, if not before.

While each situation is unique, Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell believes that the commonality falls back to recruiting opportunities after a change is made.

"Selling a new vision at programs that are going the wrong way has a long track record of paying immediate dividends," Farrell said. "I believe that the win-loss record should dictate coaching changes but pressure from fans and boosters has gotten in the way of that at some places. That said, I would always take talent over coaching, so getting better players into the system is always a benefit and firing a guy prematurely can jumpstart recruiting as well."

Yahoo! Sports college football columnist Pat Forde said that the passion of fans can force the hand of administrations and eliminate any goodwill built by coaches.

"When you look at a place like Auburn, it is a fan base that cares so deeply about winning that there is a flip side to its success," Forde said. "It is barely a year and a half removed from a national championship season and it may be the end of the line for (Gene) Chizik."

As the season crosses its midpoint, the internal discussions surrounding potential coaching changes have heated up at other schools outside of Auburn such as California, USF, Tennessee, and Texas may be falling into a pattern that Forde and Farrell speak against.

"Change because of a leveling off is change for change sake," Farrell said. "It is a dangerous game to play because some programs just do not realize that they are what they are, and making a bad hire can be worse than winning eight games every year and going to bowl games."

Forde shares that opinion and points to California and Texas as places that may want to exercise caution.

"Declining returns produce a double-edged sword," he said. "When you have a coach that lifts a program up, people only expect them to keep it at that level, so when you slip they want a change. Not all programs are on autopilot and some programs need to take a long look at what they have and realize it may be the best they can get."

But Forde acknowledged that the immediacy of the sport will continue to force the hand at larger programs.

"It really is 'what have you done for me lately?' in today's college football," he said.

It is in that vein that Rivals.com takes a look at the coaches who have been ineffective recently. It not only could cost them a job, it could impact the school in recruiting.

COACHES ON THE HOT SEAT
Derek Dooley, Tennessee

Situation: In the ultra-competitive SEC the numbers against Dooley are not good. He is winless against ranked teams in the conference and has opened this season with three straight setbacks and there are games against Alabama and South Carolina on the horizon. To his credit, Dooley has addressed the situation saying that he understands the passionate fan base and its displeasure but what needs to be noted is that those 102,000 people are being heard by the administration as well.

Recruiting Impact: The current class ranks No. 20 in the nation and is headlined safety Kameron Miles and athlete Jalen Reeves-Maybin and a change at the top could put those two players back on the board for many other programs. Miles is a defensive back out of Mesquite (Texas) West Mesquite and not a natural fit to come halfway across the country to Tennessee, and Reeves-Maybin is one of the fastest rising prospects from Clarksville (Tenn.) Northeast whose options would increase and pressure to decommitt intensify if Dooley loses his job.

Quotable: "One way or the other the decision at Tennessee will need to be made quickly," Rivals.com national analyst Mike Farrell said. "The fact of the matter is that until a determination is made every school will be using the uncertainty to recruit against Tennessee."

More Tennessee coverage: VolQuest.com

Frank Spaziani, Boston College
Situation: The Eagles have gone from two straight ACC title-game appearances to winless against FBS-level opponents quickly under the watch of Spaziani. The team will likely not be favored to win in any of its remaining games and as if a one-win season wasn't enough to seal the fate of a head coach, Boston College recently hired a new athletic director. Brad Bates will come into the job from Miami (Ohio) and like most all new hires at the position, Bates will likely look to make a change.

Recruiting Impact: The current class has 17 commitments and none are higher than a three-star; many do not have many other FBS-level options to fall back on. The leading candidate for an immediate decommitment would be linebacker Jack Cottrell from Eden Prairie (Minn.) High, who could elect to stay home and play for the Golden Gophers. Aside from Cottrell, many of the players would likely stick with the school if for nothing else than a stellar education.

Quotable: "This is a tough job," Yahoo! Sports college football columnist Pat Forde said. "It is a geographically odd fit within its conference, it doesn't have the best facilities, and really it has probably overachieved when Matt Ryan was there and it made the expectations higher than they really should have been."

More Boston College coverage: EagleAction.com

Gene Chizik, Auburn
Situation: It is looking as though the exit of Gene Chizik may be more unceremonious than his entrance when he was met at the airport by a chant of "We want a leader, not a loser." In his two years at Iowa State, he was 5-19 and to date his record at Auburn without Cam Newton stands at 17-15 -- with Newton he was 14-0 and won a national championship. The odds increase each week that Chizik will not return next season.

Recruiting Impact: Unlike many coaches in the SEC, Chizik is not known as being very hands-on as a recruiter, and his dismissal by itself would likely have little to no impact on the current class. However, if the administration or the new hire were not to retain Trooper Taylor, Tommy Thigpen and Mike Pelton, the wheels could come off. Those three assistants are the lead recruiters on five-star players Reuben Foster, Carl Lawson and Dee Liner, as well as many of the four-star players currently pledged. Chizik, for recruiting purposes, is very replaceable.

Quotable: "I think Gene Chizik is extremely important to the class, as are Trooper Taylor, Tommy Thigpen, and a number of other key assistant coaches," AuburnSports.com recruiting analyst Justin Hokenson said. "Any coaching change is going to impact recruiting, but it's tough to say to what degree until it were to happen. One thing I'll say, is that Auburn's current class is extremely loyal right now to Auburn and the current staff. They seem determined to stick with the Tigers despite a struggling season."

More Auburn coverage: AuburnSports.com

John L. Smith, Arkansas
Situation: Regardless of what happens over the next month, Smith is gone. He was fired before he started as the Bobby Petrino scandal put the program in a bad spot. The team has not performed well, but has started to show signs of life. Discussions as to who would be the new coach have been going since August and a hire could be made quickly after the season.

Recruiting Impact: This is an unspectacular class that ranks near the bottom of the SEC and will likely stay together as all of its current pledges knew the situation entering the recruiting process. It is not an ideal situation by any means but it is not the bottom falling out as many have speculated could happen. Arkansas is in a state that doesn't usually produce a ton of talent but it can dip its toes into Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. The right hire can boost recruiting immediately.

Quotable: "I am not sure there is much left to say about it," HawgSports.com publisher Trey Biddy said. "Arkansas has played well the last two weeks, giving up a combined 14 points in wins over Auburn and Kentucky, but John L. Smith's fate was sealed after the worst September in school history."

More Arkansas coverage: HawgSports.com

Joker Phillips, Kentucky
Situation: Phillips was one of the quick-to-expire trends when he was named a coach-in-waiting by Rich Brooks. Phillips was credited with the explosion in offense for Kentucky as the offensive coordinator but since then, the program has steadily declined. His time in Lexington may be punctuated with two-win season in 2012 that would include a winless SEC slate and losses to Louisville and Western Kentucky.

Recruiting Impact: This could be a positive change for the program. Kentucky is clearly a basketball school and a place that many recruits do not look at as a first choice for football. But the right coach with the right message could spin that around. The in-state recruiting certainly hurts the program as Kentucky is the least talented of all the SEC states, The best players in the state are usually in Louisville and not Lexington, making it hard to land the best players within the borders. There are not many players currently committed that would have other major college football offers, so the class could hold its current form if a change is made. The right hire could energize a product that is in desperate need of something positive.

Quotable: "The SEC is just a different animal that Kentucky struggles to keep up with," Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell said. "Joker did a pretty good job recruiting in the South, but it is just a hard sell to get kids to go to Kentucky."

More Kentucky coverage: CatsIllustrated.com

Jeff Tedford, California
Situation: Tedford picked the Cal program up off of the mat upon his arrival in 2002 and it is his relative success that could ultimately be his undoing. Historically, Tedford has built his reputation with quarterbacks, producing eight NFL quarterbacks under his tutelage. But he has been equally impressive in developing running backs, as every year at Cal has seen one player rush for more than 1,000 yards. The magic number for the program this year was believed to be eight wins. But it does not look like that will be met as the team currently sits at 3-4 with games against Stanford, Oregon and Oregon State to come. Victories over UCLA and Washington State may have bought Tedford more time, but it may not be enough.

Recruiting Impact: Cal is currently next to last in recruiting in the Pac-12 and Tedford has been more known as a talent developer than a strong recruiter. The loss of assistant Tosh Lupoi to Washington was more of a hit to the program than potentially anything the Tedford could do to attract talent. The school hasn't had the same buzz surrounding it as it had following the Aaron Rodgers and Marshawn Lynch days, and with Oregon, USC and Washington making a bigger national splash, this could be a program leveling off regardless of who is at the helm.

Quotable: "This feels a lot like change for change sake to me," Rivals.com national analyst Mike Farrell said. "I understand that it feels stagnant over there, but a wrong hire is worse than consistency. Look at Pitt without Dave Wannstedt, Tennessee and Phil Fulmer, or Boston College with (Tom) O'Brien and Jeff Jagodzinski, they fell apart. I would bet each program and fan base would rewind the clock and I think we will be adding Cal to that list if they pull the trigger on Tedford."

More Cal coverage: BearTerritory.net

Mack Brown, Texas
Situation: It may be a bit of a stretch to have Mack Brown on the hot seat at this point, considering what he has accomplished at Texas. There are plenty of Longhorns fans who feel Brown has earned the right to call his shot on leaving. But crushing losses to Oklahoma are piling up and it has to hurt his standing. The program is running out of coordinators to point the finger at, and it may come down on Brown. Games with upstart Texas Tech and Kansas State could be more telling, but the way the Red River Rivalry games have been going, he may not have the chance to walk away on top.

Recruiting Impact: At this point Texas is Texas and many of the top players in the state want to and will continue to want to go to Austin. The money that is now at the program would allow for Texas to go and buy any coach it wanted, and that has to make current recruits feel secure. Brown is a big reason why kids choose Texas and he has been a solid recruiter in the past, but the results might not be good enough anymore.

Quotable: "The recruits know that if Mack is not around, the Longhorns will still have an elite coach running the show," Orangebloods.com recruiting analyst Jason Suchomel said. "The fear of the unknown would probably cause guys to weigh their options, but Texas would have a good chance of holding on to most of its pledges due to the overall strength of the program."

More Texas coverage: Orangebloods.com

Skip Holtz, South Florida
Situation: After starting the season with uninspiring victories over Chattanooga and Nevada, the Bulls have dropped four straight, including losses to Ball State and Temple, and are winless in the conference. Holtz, who is under contract until 2017, received the dreaded vote of confidence from South Florida athletic director Doug Woolard last week. With six games left on the schedule, this could be premature speculation or it could be writing on the wall for a coach who was on the rise just two years ago.

Recruiting Impact: A consistent revolving door at a place like South Florida is likely to be bad for the long-term health of the program. The current class is solid and is headlined by quarterback Asiantii Woulard who could step right in for B.J. Daniels next season. The team still struggles to get into true south Florida counties and bring in players, but if the school feels good about landing an up-and-comer such as Mario Cristobal, this may be the time to make a move and hope for a recruiting boost.

Quotable: "It is weird to think about Skip Holtz being on the hot seat," Yahoo! Sports college football columnist Pat Forde said. "To think early last year many people were discussing what job he was going to take after leaving South Florida to now where there is real talk that he may not be back at South Florida. The bottom line here, however, is that USF isn't the kind of place that should be hiring and firing coaches."

More USF coverage: USFBullseye.com



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