Coaching carousel adds intrigue to college football recruiting’s February signing period


College football’s busy recruiting calendar created a particularly hectic first few weeks on the job for all the head coaches who switched schools over the last month.

When Nick Saban announced his retirement last month, it set off a chain reaction that resulted in head coaching changes at Arizona, Washington and San Jose State as well as Alabama. That doesn’t even factor in Jim Harbaugh leaving Michigan for the NFL’s Los Angeles Chargers or Jeff Hafley exiting Boston College to become the Green Bay Packers’ defensive coordinator.

All those late coaching moves added some intrigue to the first Wednesday of February, a day that once highlighted the recruiting calendar but has been anti-climactic ever since the 2017 launch of a December signing period. New coaches had to re-recruit prospects who had signed to play for a different staff and now were free to look elsewhere.

Washington coach Jedd Fisch, who was hired away from Arizona last month, was giving his Signing Day news conference at his new school Wednesday when he described the varied challenges he faced the last few weeks in keeping a roster together.

“You’ve got the group that wants to get to know you because they’ve committed to you, but they’re in the portal to go look somewhere else,” Fisch said. “Then you’ve got the next group that has signed with you, but they want to consider getting out of their national letter of intent because they chose a different staff. And then you have your own team who you have to figure out the guys who aren’t in the portal to make sure they don’t go in it.”

Kalen DeBoer, who preceded Fisch as Washington’s coach before deciding to replace Saban at Alabama, faced similar obstacles. So did Brent Brennan, who left San Jose State to take over for Fisch at Arizona.

The game of musical chairs between coaches carried over to the recruiting world.

Alabama announced on Wednesday the addition of edge rusher Noah Carter, who had signed with Washington in December but will now follow DeBoer to Tuscaloosa. Other players who had signed with the Huskies or committed to them but altered their plans after the coaching change included defensive linemen Ratumana Bulabalavu (who chose Southern California) and Dominic Kirks (Ohio State) as well as edge rusher Keona Wilhite (Nebraska).

Washington refortified its class by adding about several players who originally had signed to play for Fisch at Arizona.

Alabama had its own recruiting issues after Saban’s departure.

Julian Sayin, the nation’s No. 1 quarterback and No. 6 overall prospect according to composite rankings of recruiting sites compiled by 247Sports, enrolled early at Alabama but entered the transfer portal after the coaching change and eventually committed to Ohio State. Alabama also lost cornerback Jameer Grimsley, who signed with the Tide in December but will now play at Florida instead.

But the Tide managed to keep five-star receiving prospect Ryan Williams, who had entered the transfer portal before opting to stick with Alabama.

“I think we’ve done a pretty good job,” DeBoer said last week regarding his roster management. “I know initially the uncertainty was there with coach Saban retiring, and we lost some guys. It’s just been a handful after that.”

While other power-conference programs that changed coaches were losing multiple signees, reigning national champion Michigan managed to keep its recruiting class intact even after Harbaugh’s departure. It helped that Michigan promoted offensive coordinator Sherrone Moore to provide some continuity rather than hiring someone from another school.

“I think it speaks to kind of the culture there and the type of kid they target on the recruiting trail,” said Andrew Ivins, director of scouting at 247Sports. “They want guys who are box checkers for them in terms of football IQ and developmental upside.”

Even with the movement by some recruits after coaching changes, February’s signing period didn’t provide nearly the same kind of drama that it did before prospects were allowed to finalize their college plans in December.

Ivins said that wide receiver Ashton Bethel-Roman was the only player ranked among the top 247 prospects by 247Sports who was uncommitted as of Wednesday morning. Bethel-Roman chose Texas A&M.

Texas A&M moved into the top 20 of the 247Sports Composite team rankings after signing Bethel-Roman and holding on to five-star wide receiver Terry Bussey, who had committed to the Aggies in late September but continued to get recruited by other programs before finally signing on Wednesday.


AP Sports Writers Tim Booth and John Zenor contributed to this report.


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