Foundations for championships are laid in the recruiting season, a fact that has made this time of year a captivating competition-within-the-competition. No one knows the correlation between recruiting and championships better than Nick Saban and Urban Meyer, who have combined for five of the last seven BCS titles. Thus, it should come as no surprise that their Alabama and Ohio State staffs pounce on vulnerabilities like a pride of lions on a gazelle.
Coaching instability or uncertainty is one such vulnerability. Both Oregon and Tennessee hired new head coaches late in the coaching carousel game; UO more so than UT, the result of Chip Kelly’s mid-January departure for the NFL. Offensive coordinator-turned-head coach Mark Helfrich’s first task in his new gig is staving off the recruiting savvy of Meyer and Ohio State.
The foundations of Oregon’s 3.38 average rated recruiting class were shook the moment Kelly left, per reports the talented twin tandem of Tyree and Tyrell Robinson were opening to Notre Dame. Brian Kelly led the Fighting Irish to a 12-0 regular season and BCS championship appearance — it’s no coincidence that Notre Dame’s first title game foray coincides with an aggressive recruiting approach.
Likewise, Meyer’s Buckeyes are coming off the only undefeated campaign in Division I football and building for a championship run. Darren Carrington and Dontre Wilson, in addition to the Robinson Bros., are the reported Duck verbal commits Ohio State is trying to lure to Columbus.
John Canzano of The Oregonian compared the restructured Oregon coaching staff’s challenge of protecting its recruits from invaders to Akira Kurosawa’s classic The Seven Samurai. But given we’re talking about Oregon, another apt analogy is Helfrich as The Dude.
Tennessee’s new head coach, Butch Jones, needs a successful signing season. Aside from trying to turn around a program that hasn’t had a winning season since 2009, Jones must win over detractors. Landing five star recruit Vonn Bell would certainly be a great first step, and to that end, Jones’ UT staff has pursued the Rossville, Ga. safety tenaciously, including a visit from the Vol staff earlier this week.
Jones must stave off the advances of Ohio State, as well as SEC rival Alabama. Saban has a knack for getting the players he wants, and has won numerous recruiting battles in the conference’s talent-rich footprint. Bell paid a visit to Tuscaloosa a week ago, which made the Tennessee staff’s visit all the more important, according to Bell’s Ridgeland high school coach Mark Mariakis’ conversation with ESPN.
A visit to Knoxville this weekend becomes all the more vital for Tennessee to woo the five star prospect.