Strangest week of coaching news in years rocking recruiting world
The Mike Leach and Urban Meyer sagas have left the schools' recruits unsettled
Texas Tech's top recruit says he will re-examine his options post-firing
Florida commitments have been inundated with calls from other schools
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Kadron Boone walked off the practice field Wednesday, headed for lunch. On the way, a pair of reporters stopped Texas Tech's highest ranked recruit and asked him if he'd heard the news. While Boone had practiced for Saturday's Under Armour All-American Game, Texas Tech had fired coach Mike Leach rather than allow Leach to coach the Alamo Bowl under a temporary restraining order.
"I'm shocked," said Boone, a 6-foot-1 receiver from Ocala, Fla.
The obvious question came next. Did Leach's firing change Boone's mind about playing for Texas Tech? "I'll probably call my recruiter [Red Raiders receivers coach Lincoln Riley] tonight and see what's going on," Boone said. "Then I'll go back home and talk to my parents about it and just go from there."
Boone also considered Florida, Miami, LSU, Cincinnati and South Carolina before he committed to Texas Tech. "I'll look into all of them," Boone said.
Some of Boone's fellow all-stars can relate. Several of the players in the Under Armour game (Saturday, 11 a.m., ESPN) either have committed to Florida or are considering Florida, and they received an equally shocking dose of news Saturday when Gators coach Urban Meyer announced he would step down for health reasons. Sunday, Meyer pulled a double-stunner when he announced he wouldn't resign but would instead take an indefinite leave of absence.
The strangest week of coaching news in recent memory has affected recruits in a variety of ways. Some, like Boone, have decided to examine their options. Others, such as Southlake, Texas, defensive end Jackson Richards (Texas Tech) and Bradenton, Fla., safety Jonathan Dowling (Florida) are sticking firm to their longtime commitments regardless of the turmoil. Others, meanwhile, are trying to decide what to do.
Chris Dunkley, a receiver from Pahokee, Fla., is scheduled to announce his college choice Saturday. His finalists are Alabama and Florida, but he also has taken official visits to Georgia and Tennessee and has expressed interest in Miami, USC and West Virginia. Dunkley said that when the Meyer resignation news broke this past weekend, several coaches from other schools called. Between the calls from coaches, reporters and acquaintances, Dunkley couldn't take the incessant ringing, so he changed his phone number.
He said no coaches from any school can reach him now, and he seems to like it that way. "They don't have my new number," Dunkley said.
Jordan Hicks, a linebacker from West Chester, Ohio, who is considering Florida, Ohio State and Texas, said he didn't hear from any opposing coaches in the wake of the Meyer news, but he said Meyer's choice may alter the timetable of his final decision. "It really didn't change anything," Hicks said. "It's kind of put a hold on some stuff. I just want to wait it out and see how things are going to work out."
Ronald Powell, a defensive end from Moreno Valley, Calif., who is scheduled to play in next week's U.S. Army All-American Bowl, had originally planned to announce a commitment to Florida this week on ESPN. But after the Meyer's weekend flip-flop, Powell changed his plans. "He's pretty freaked out right now," Rancho Verde high coach Pete Duffy told ESPN.com on Monday.
Meanwhile, recruits also have become a source of news during a time when coaches in turmoil are tight-lipped with the media. Mack Brown, a tailback from Lithonia, Ga., who has committed to Florida, told ESPNU on Wednesday that during a conversation with Meyer on Monday, Meyer said he hoped to return to coaching in August. In a long press conference Sunday, Meyer declined to reveal any specifics about the length of his leave of absence.
Perhaps most interesting, not all players committed to the affected schools have received equal attention from rival coaches. Richards, the Texas Tech commit, said he hasn't heard from anyone. "They know I'm solid," Richards said. Meanwhile, Lauderdale Lakes, Fla., defensive back Demar Dorsey said he has heard from the other schools he's considering. That list includes Ohio State, Tennessee, West Virginia and USC, and Dorsey added that he was communicating with those schools before the Meyer news broke. It's indicative of how easy it is to turn Meyer's choice into a recruiting weapon against Florida that none of the other schools' coaches, according to Dorsey, even bothered to comment on the situation beyond reminding Dorsey it had taken place.
"They just asked me, did I hear the news about Florida? That's all they said," Dorsey said. "There weren't really no deep conversations."
So perhaps it's fitting that during a week when recruits have been rocked by some of the strangest coaching news in years, Dorsey offered an update that should mystify coaches as much as the coaching world has mystified players.
"I'm still committed," Dorsey said. "I'd say 65 percent that I go to Florida."
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