With coaching carousel whirling, recruits are in limbo

Schlabach 'not 100 percent sold' that Gundy is interested in Tennessee (1:19)

Mark Schlabach isn't convinced Mike Gundy is genuinely interested in the vacant Tennessee job, because he's been linked to coaching jobs in the past. (1:19)

Trey Dean has a big decision to make and he needs to make it in a hurry.

The ESPN 300 safety from Dutchtown, Georgia, has been committed to the University of Tennessee since early August. Now Tennessee doesn't have a head coach and Dean, who wants to enroll in January, will have to figure out if he wants to stick with the Vols or look elsewhere.

"Right now I'm between a rock and a hard place, because I'm enrolling early, so I have to take my official visits during the week and miss school," Dean said. "I'm still committed, but I'm looking at other schools and making sure it's best for me."

Dean is one of many recruits caught in limbo as this year's wave of coaching changes has already hit. Arkansas, Florida, Oregon State, UCLA, Tennessee, Arizona State, Mississippi State, Nebraska, Ole Miss and Texas A&M have already fired or changed coaches, and Florida State's Jimbo Fisher has been linked to the Texas A&M. It leaves prospects trying to figure out where to go and how to handle their recruitment without knowing who will coach them.

This year, especially, it will affect recruits because of how fast coaching decisions have been made, but also because of the early signing period starting Dec. 20 and running to Dec. 22. Because of the changes, those schools have lost 13 commitments in November alone.

To enroll in January, Dean will have to apply to a school and get admitted. He has already been accepted to Tennessee. Meanwhile, Alabama, Ole Miss, Oklahoma, TCU, Kentucky and South Carolina are just a few of the schools that have reached out and are trying to get him to take an official visit. He hasn't set up any visits yet, but plans to do so because of the uncertainty around Tennessee.

Dean and fellow commit, Adrian Martinez, have both been in contact with Tennessee athletic director John Currie, asking what the status is of the coaching search. Both prospects spoke with Currie as recently as last week and received the same message that Tennessee will get a great coach and will do it in a timely fashion.

As athletic directors search for new coaches, that opens up another set of rumors and uncomfortable situations for recruits when names are floated of who will replace the head coaching vacancies. That's the issue facing members of Florida's State's 2018 class as they await Fisher's decision.

"Yes, I'm monitoring it, but I'm focused on my football season as of right now," ESPN 300 commitment Asante Samuel Jr. said. "It does (have me concerned), but I'm waiting to see how everything plays out."

Florida State lost one commitment in November, but many of the other committed prospects seem to have the same mentality as Samuel. They don't want to make a rash decision based off of speculation, but they also don't want to sit around and not protect themselves if Fisher does leave.

Houston Griffith is currently committed to Florida State as well, and as an ESPN 300 defensive back, he was targeted by quite a few schools. Griffith does have concerns about what will happen with Fisher, but also says he isn't panicking.

"I know a lot of us, when we committed, we've had other schools in our ear, so I feel like it's not pressure, but guys might be a little confused or antsy about it," Griffith said. "Right now I'm committed, just monitoring and seeing what happens. Even when I committed, schools have been consistently been talking to me, so I'll just see what happens."

The recruits can't know for sure what will happen with Fisher until he announces it, and the more time it takes to get an answer, the less time they will have to decide on their futures as well.

The situation puts the prospects in an uncomfortable predicament that either causes them to wait out the coaching searches or open up their recruitment and start all over. It also puts the coaching staff still in place in an awkward middle ground where they don't know if they will be retained or let go once a head coach is hired.

They are still employed by the university, though, and have to try their best to recruit the same way they were prior to their head coach being fired. One assistant coach who is part of a staff that has gone through a coaching change in the last few weeks said it can be difficult, but it's a necessity.

"You have to be a professional throughout the deal and sell the school," the assistant said. "First you say you don't know what's going to happen with me, but I'll be fine. The reason we're recruiting you is because we need you and the school needs you."

That confusion, and the need to dive into securing the 2018 class, is why some of the schools who have already filled their coaching vacancies are being rewarded for decisive hires. UCLA made the decision to fire Jim Mora Jr. and moved swiftly to hire Chip Kelly while other programs are still searching for the right fit and the person who will say yes.

Kelly has already recruited for the Bruins, meeting with ESPN 300 defensive back Brendan Radley-Hiles, who was committed to Nebraska, a school that is currently looking for a new coach.

Florida has lost three commitments in November, but with the decision to bring back Dan Mullen, that staff can get things back on track. ESPN 300 wide receiver Jacob Copeland decommitted from the Gators on Saturday but promptly received a phone call from Mullen two days later to try to get him back in this class.

Quarterback Matt Corral had taken a visit to Alabama, but says that he is optimistic about what Mullen brings.

"The coaching change has been hard, just because it was all unknown at the time," Corral said. "(The hire) for sure removes uncertainty because of Dan Mullen's resumé. A lot of coaches I know, and look up to, talk very highly of him, so I have no doubt that he will develop me into a young man and a great football player.

"I haven't talked to Coach Mullen yet, but if I am the quarterback he wants, then I am on board."