Coaching changes are always part of the game in college football, and programs are always looking for ways to improve their staffs, both on the field and in recruiting.
Despite the challenges from COVID-19 restrictions, the coaching carousel spun as usual and some teams were able to add important hires.
The impact on recruiting with these hires was as important as ever, as teams have been in a created dead period for over a year. Finding coaches who can help elevate recruiting in a challenging environment is not easy, but there are already some new coaches making big impacts for their new teams.
Here is a look at recent hires already adding to the recruiting efforts for their new programs.
Alabama Crimson Tide
Offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien
It’s difficult to add to what head coach Nick Saban does on the recruiting trail since his name carries so much weight. But given the amount of staff turnover Saban sees each offseason, there is definite pressure for new coaches coming in to live up to the expectations and keep recruiting at a consistent level.
O’Brien is coming from the Houston Texans, and his experience in the NFL is carrying some weight for offensive prospects targeted by Alabama. O’Brien locked in on ESPN 300 quarterback Ty Simpson, the No. 1-ranked dual-threat quarterback in the 2022 class, and Simpson said he and O’Brien spoke regularly throughout his recruitment and that O’Brien was a big part of his decision.
“It’s very cool because [O’Brien] tells me stories about the NFL and we have watched tape on the NFL and Deshaun Watson, [and] of course Tom Brady, to show the similarities in what they’re going to do on offense this year,” Simpson said at the time of his commitment. “It’s really cool to be at the biggest stage of football and play for a guy who’s been there and knows what it takes to get there.”
Co-defensive coordinator/secondary Mo Linguist
Linguist joined Michigan in January, leaving the Dallas Cowboys to return to the college football landscape. Prior to the Cowboys, he had stops at Texas A&M, Iowa State, Minnesota and Mississippi State.
At 36, he has helped add some much-needed energy and youth on the defensive side for Michigan, especially on the recruiting trail. He relates well to recruits and has already helped bring in ESPN 300 cornerback William Johnson, an in-state and legacy recruit who had been going back and forth in his recruitment before ultimately choosing Michigan.
During his time at Texas A&M, Linguist helped bring in some big-name recruits for the Aggies, and because he is originally from Texas, he has quite a few relationships in the state. Linguist immediately started sending out offers in Texas when he was hired at Michigan and has been helping the Wolverines expand their geographical net to the state.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman
Replacing Clark Lea at defensive coordinator after Vanderbilt named him head coach was going to be a tough task for Notre Dame. Head coach Brian Kelly hit a home run, though, when he hired Freeman away from Cincinnati.
The 35-year-old Ohio State alum is a rising star in college football and had exceeded expectations at Cincinnati on the field and in recruiting.
Freeman made an immediate impact at Notre Dame in recruiting, landing ESPN 300 defensive end Tyson Ford a little over a week after his hiring. Freeman has always been an excellent recruiter, but he will now have the opportunity to recruit higher-profile prospects at Notre Dame that he might not have been able to get at Cincinnati.
He also played a part in landing ESPN 300 linebacker Joshua Burnham, as well as a few other prospects in the class. Freeman is just wetting is feet, and if he stays at Notre Dame long term, he could be one of the reasons the Irish win at a consistent level each season.
Penn State Nittany Lions
Offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich
It was somewhat of a surprise when Penn State coach James Franklin announced he was replacing offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca with Yurcich, after Ciarrocca had held the position for only one season.
Yurcich is going to run a higher-tempo offense, which is what Franklin wants, and he has already made an impact in recruiting as well.
Ohio quarterback Drew Allar saw interest from top programs as he continuously rose from January through March. Offer after offer rolled in for Allar in February, including one from Notre Dame. The Irish seemed to have a good shot at landing Allar, but Yurcich led the way for Penn State and was able to secure a commitment from the 37th-ranked prospect in the ESPN 300.
He’s one of the top quarterbacks in the country and will fill a big need for the Nittany Lions. Of the eight total commitments in this class for Penn State, six are on offense, including ESPN 300 wide receivers Kaden Saunders, Jerry Cross and Anthony Ivey, as well as four-star dual-threat quarterback Beau Pribula.
After a down year in recruiting for Penn State in the 2021 class, the team has rebounded in a big way, and Yurcich has been a part of that on the offensive side.
Head coach Steve Sarkisian
Sarkisian joining Texas from Alabama automatically carries weight with recruits given the success his offense had in Tuscaloosa. He wasted no time hitting the ground running once the Longhorns hired him, and he is already putting together an outstanding class despite the restrictions from COVID-19 and not having the opportunity to meet any of these prospects in person.
Texas has six ESPN 300 commitments in the 2022 class, including five from in state. Sarkisian used his relationships and past success recruiting the state of California to land ESPN 300 quarterback Maalik Murphy, the No. 154-ranked recruit overall.
Bringing his style of offense over to Texas was enough to pique the interest of recruits, but Sarkisian has also been aggressive in building relationships and targeting recruits with his staff so he can take the roster where he wants it.
Recruiting wasn’t necessarily an issue at Texas under Tom Herman — it was more development — but based on the way Sarkisian is recruiting right now, he will give himself a chance to add some elite-level prospects to the roster and try to turn things around quickly.
Offensive quality control Bryan Carrington
It’s not often a quality-control hire will be mentioned as a difference-maker in recruiting, but Carrington is a prominent name in this space.
He was previously at Texas as director of recruiting and is known for his ability to build relationships and relate to prospects, as he was an integral part of the Longhorns’ recruiting efforts.
With Carrington and Donte Williams, who was added in February 2020, USC has some really good, young recruiters on staff. On paper, Carrington won’t get the credit for landing recruits, but his ability, youth, energy and strategy are going to play a role in how USC recruits going forward.