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Signing Day (cont.)

Posted: Wednesday February 7, 2007 7:33PM; Updated: Thursday February 8, 2007 6:29PM
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If 2007 is the year of the "players' coach," it may also be something of a wake-up call to a host of "old school" coaches who prefer to play the traditional role of "closer." For years, Florida State's Bobby Bowden was unquestionably the best in the business in that department, but while the 'Noles landed their share of blue-chippers Wednesday, they did not come close to matching their furious finishes of years past. (Austin had reportedly been the top target on their board throughout.) Obviously, a lot of that had to do with a turbulent season on the field and the accompanying staff overhaul that followed it, but there's also the question of whether the 77-year-old Bowden's laissez faire approach still jibes with today's generation of Internet-driven phenoms who expect college coaches to further stroke their egos.

Two prospects that Florida State saw slip away early in the process were twin offensive linemen Maurkice and Michael Pouncey from Lakeland, Fla. Diehard 'Noles fans growing up, they originally committed to FSU after their sophomore years of high school but switched to Florida last summer. The primary reason: Meyer, who texted them almost daily. "He's the first coach you see [on a visit]. He's almost like a dad," said Maurkice. Said Michael: "We only [spoke to] Bobby Bowden once the entire year we were committed."

Another school that experienced some unexpected recruiting hiccups this year was Michigan. On the plus side, the Wolverines went out of state and landed two mega-stars in QB Ryan Mallett and CB Donovan Warren, but despite coming off an 11-2 season and a Rose Bowl berth, coach Lloyd Carr inexplicably watched the top nine prospects from his own state -- most notably WR Ronald Johnson (USC) -- sign elsewhere. Gone are the days when the Big House and the winged helmets were allure enough.

"[Carr] is not a dynamic personality who's going to go into a living room and wow you," said Farrell. "Obviously, there's an age gap, and when you've got guys like Urban Meyer, Ron Zook, Pete Carroll coming into your living room, you're going to be impressed with that."

Of course, the ultimate irony of this trend is that at the same time recruits are apparently placing unprecedented emphasis on their connection with the coaches, coaches themselves are jumping from school to school (or school to the NFL) with increasing regularity. As Carr, 61, recently said about the constant rumors of his impending retirement: "I tell [recruits] there's as good a chance I'll be here in four years as there is a coach at another school."

"And the least interaction you're going to have [during your career] is with your head coach," said Farrell.

Obviously, you wouldn't expect a recruit to choose a school where he's flat-out uncomfortable with the head coach, but one can only hope he's also basing his decision on academics, atmosphere and other factors that aren't quite so fluid. Fat chance.

"Kids want to go play for a coach who will go for broke," said Wallace. "The head coach is responsible for setting the tone from a recruiting standpoint. You look at what Butch Davis is doing today at North Carolina, Ron Zook at Illinois, Dave Wannstedt at Pitt, the Mack Browns, the Pete Carrolls, the Urban Meyers -- those men have a vision for their team."

Most coaches have a vision for their program. The ones that finish high in the recruiting rankings happen to be the ones who are best at selling it to 17-year-olds.


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