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Recruits get raw deal with late coaching changes

The National Letter of Intent that more than 2,000 recruits signed last week is in no way a contract between player and coach. The paperwork offers no guarantee the coach will stick around even one more day.

That’s the tough truth Texas’ Charles Omenihu and countless other new signees have learned in the past few days. Two days after signing with the Longhorns, the defensive end’s position coach and lead recruiter, Chris Rumph, made an abrupt exit to Florida. He is certainly not alone.

In the few days since National Signing Day, coaches from Ohio State, LSU, UCLA, Notre Dame, Miami, Arkansas, and Florida have bolted for the NFL. The Irish, in fact, have already parted with three assistants since Wednesday. A defensive coordinator at North Carolina was fired, and the one at TCU retired.

The cycle goes on and on. Rumph left because Terrell Williams landed a job with the Miami Dolphins one month into his stint at Florida. So Texas will have to replace him with some other coach who has most likely made promises to other players.

"That’s the nature of the business," Omenihu said. "When you look at it and take the emotions out of it, all of this is really a business."

Omenihu, a 6-foot-5 defensive end out of Rowlett, Texas, had heard whispers Florida was interested in Rumph when new Florida head coach Jim McElwain was hired in December. But Rumph stayed put and Williams took the gig.

Crisis averted, right? Omenihu had only taken one other official visit (Arizona State) and didn’t exactly have a backup plan in case his position coach bailed. He was all-in on Rumph, fired up to play for the man who had developed a combined 14 NFL draft picks at Clemson and Alabama.

Rumph proved himself to be a fiery teacher, a sage mentor and a relentless recruiter at Texas. He also had a four-year deal. Omenihu and his fellow future Longhorns had no reason to worry.

Then the reports leaked on Thursday morning. Williams to Miami. Rumph to Florida. Almost a done deal. Omenihu reached out to Rumph. No answer. So he got in touch with defensive coordinator Vance Bedford and, soon after, Charlie Strong.

Strong’s words were reassuring. He had spoken with Rumph about the opening on Wednesday. Rumph had said he wasn’t taking it. By Friday afternoon, Rumph was gone. Omenihu, of course, found out from his Twitter feed.

"I was shocked, to be honest," he said.

Du'Vonta Lampkin was angry. The Texas defensive tackle signee logged onto Twitter and vented when he heard the news.

Considering he had flirted with flipping to Oklahoma late in his recruiting process, Lampkin’s frustration was understandable. The kid must have felt tricked.

These newly signed recruits have no reasonable recourse, either. Even if Lampkin wanted to go to Oklahoma, he would have to sit out 2015 and forfeit a year of eligibility. The NLI locks him and all his peers into a brutally one-sided deal.

That’s why elite recruits like CeCe Jefferson and Roquan Smith have every right to hold out. On signing day, Jefferson picked Florida and Smith chose UCLA on ESPN. Neither have made it official. Jefferson found out Williams was leaving Florida. Smith didn’t fax after learning Bruins defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich was leaving for the Atlanta Falcons.

"They expect us to stay loyal to the school," Omenihu said, "but they don’t."

Rumph’s reason for leaving isn’t typical. He would have made more money by staying. The native of South Carolina moved on for family reasons. At Texas, he was 20 hours from family. At Florida, he’ll only be four and a half hours away.

Had Rumph moved on in December, Omenihu says he would have decommitted and faced "a much harder decision" while waiting to see who took Rumph’s place. Now that he’s signed, all he and Lampkin can do is hope for the best.

"I’m comfortable with the rest of the staff, and I’m pretty sure they’ll bring in a good defensive line coach," Omenihu said. "I’ll make sure to ask all my questions."

The one question that isn’t getting asked: What happens next year?

If the recommended early signing date of Dec. 16 gains approval this summer, this frustrating and increasingly accepted trend of post-NSD departures promises to worsen. The majority of coaching changes do occur after that date.

Coaches will compel recruits to sign as soon as possible. It’s their job. Until it’s not.

"If we leave, we’re questioned to the highest regard," Omenihu said. "If they leave, it’s just the business."

Business is once again booming, just in time for everyone but the signees to get what they want.