Coaching carousels cause conundrums
College Football Videos
Given another chance, Dakota Conwell would have done things differently.
The gritty Upper St. Clair senior linebacker verbally committed in July to Pitt and former coach Todd Graham, due in no small part to the relationship he had built with Panthers secondary coach Tony Gibson. When Graham bolted last month for Arizona State and Gibson soon after joined Rich Rodriguez's new staff at Arizona, Conwell followed Gibson to the desert.
Decommitting, Conwell soon learned, wouldn't come without backlash from jilted fans.
"There was definitely a lot of that," said Conwell, 18. "People were messaging me on Facebook and writing to me, but I just ignore those people. They don't know what it was like to make that decision."
The recruiting process is drawing to a close -- players can sign letters of intent starting Wednesday -- and committing early, increasingly, seems to be a double-edged sword. The sooner recruits make their decision, the sooner the burdensome recruiting process can ease. But the world of major college football, specifically when it comes to the men selling their programs, is hardly stable.
Conwell can look back at his experience with some perspective.
"If I'd have been able to go back, I'd have let my recruitment play out and not have committed so quickly," he said. "I didn't realize how quickly a coaching staff can change."
In Western Pennsylvania and the surrounding area, the scene has been in flux during the past year.
Pitt, Penn State, West Virginia and Ohio State have made coaching changes -- albeit, for vastly differing reasons. Another big move occurred Thursday when Rutgers coach Greg Schiano left New Jersey to take the head coaching position with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers -- just six days before signing day.
"It's the bad part about college football," said former Illinois and Florida coach Ron Zook, who is also an analyst for CBS Sports Network's signing day coverage. "There are two sides to every story. Everyone wants to do what's best for their careers, the coaches and players.
"The hardest thing for young people is they're making the first big decision of their lives based on a feeling. On one side, they want to get it over with so they can get serious about their senior year and sometimes their junior year, but you have to realize it doesn't matter until you sign the national letter."
Along with Conwell, Penn Hills standout Corey Jones decommitted from Pitt a week ago to attend Toledo, citing new coaching philosophies as part of the reason. Germantown defensive back William Parks, who had committed to Pitt, said Saturday via Twitter that he has committed to Arizona. At Penn State -- once known as a beacon of consistency until a child sex abuse scandal involving former assistant Jerry Sandusky caused an upheaval of the coaching staff -- former commits J.P. Holtz of Shaler and Skyler Mornhinweg of St. Joseph's Prep in Philadelphia committed to new schools in the past week.
"It's understandable when a ball player will want to decommit and look around after a coach leaves," CBS Sports Network recruiting analyst Tom Lemming said. "You don't blame the kids; you blame the adults, the college coaches."
Still, most players have made up their minds by this point in the recruiting process. As of Friday evening, just 19 players from recruiting website Maxpreps.com's list of the top 100 players for the Class of 2012 still were uncommitted. Locally, the only major recruits who have yet to make their decisions are Sto-Rox linebacker Deaysean Rippy and Jeannette's Demetrious Cox.
"For the most part, young people are trying to commit early," Zook said. "Coaches are squeezing them a bit, saying they might not have a scholarship if they wait, and they get nervous if they don't commit, they won't have an opportunity."
The 19 stragglers, among the most talented young athletes in the county, have little to worry about, though.
"There's no pressure on the top guys to commit too early," Lemming said. "The coaches don't say commit now or we'll drop you. They'll do it to the borderline Big Ten kids who might go to (Midwest Athletic Conference) schools."
One local recruit who has given an especially early verbal is Blackhawk sophomore quarterback Chandler Kincade, who committed to Pitt in the fall, when Graham was still on the sidelines. He said he remains dedicated to the Panthers and new coach Paul Chryst, though he'll be more cautious moving forward.
"I'm going to look into things more than I did -- not just look at the outside of it," Kincade said. "I'll try and find out really what's going to go on. I think I'm more prepared now from that happening.
"You have to look at recruiting as you're not just playing for a coach anymore because that coach might not be there. You have to look more into the academics of the school, the campus, and you make choices with that, as well as who's the coach, because you have to know in your mind that the coach could be gone the next day."
That's a rare attitude, said Lemming, who added, "When you're talking 17-, 18-year-olds, they're not fully functioning adults yet. It takes a real mature kid to stay committed somewhere for six months."
When the coaches recruiting a player change schools, it becomes even more difficult for that player to stay put. Conwell, though, appears at peace with his decision -- even if it was the second one he made.
"Right now, I feel most comfortable with Arizona," he said. "In today's world, you never know what can happen. Really, you've got to play for yourself and your teammates and make yourself the best player you can be. You can't worry about the coaches."
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Focused on defense, Pirates start Rodriguez at first base for wild-card game
- House defeats governor’s tax plan
- Steelers QB Roethlisberger not targeting Oct. 25 return
- Former employee at Plum home-building firm charged with embezzling nearly $200K
- Sky’s not the limit: Pirate Parrot takes trip into Earth’s atmosphere
- Trafford mayor resigns, councilman gives up presidency
- Rossi: Time for Pirates to take next step
- New Florence assistant fire chief charged with having sex with juvenile
- WVU All-American Joeseph out for season with knee injury
- WPIAL hands out suspensions for Wilkinsburg-Monessen fight
- Young Hampton runners look to fulfill potential