Notre Dame, others entering poaching season in recruiting

Bob Wieneke
South Bend Tribune

Earlier this month, on the same day that Michigan was suffering an embarrassing loss to Rutgers, Wolverines commit Chris Clark tweeted the following.

“Man michigan your killing me.”

The next day, the sting of the loss still being felt, Clark, an All-America tight end, tweeted that he remained committed to Michigan but "just like everyone I will take my official visit," based on everything going on at Michigan.

Clark’s Twitter bio still reads that he’s a Michigan commit, and it still carries the goblue hashtag, but with the problems the Wolverines are having and head coach Brady Hoke’s uncertain future, it’s clear that poaching season in recruiting could shift into overdrive, if it hasn’t already.

“Poaching season never ends,” CBS Sports Network recruiting analyst Tom Lemming said. “In fact, as soon as a kid commits, what’s really happening is there’s a big bullseye put on the backs of the school that he committed to and everybody starts pounding away.”

Case in point is last week’s Notre Dame flip of quarterback Brandon Wimbush from Penn State. First-year Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin is considered one of the top recruiters in the country, but the Irish were able to pluck Wimbush days after a successful official visit.

Notre Dame and Penn State both stand on solid ground. There are others, and Michigan might be standing first in line, that are struggling, meaning coaching changes could be on the horizon, which in turn means that commit lists are being raided.

“It heats up when the writing starts to be on the wall with the coaching staff, regardless of where it’s at,” said 247Sports director of recruiting Steve Wiltfong. “Feelers are going out constantly. It’s one of those deals when you look at a place that’s struggling and you know that there’s going to be a coaching change, it becomes a swarm.”

Michigan, now 3-4, isn’t the only place where there are rumors but not yet reality. Florida sits at 3-2, but it was just last year that the Gators under Will Muschamp went 4-8, losers of their final seven, and juxtapose that with a certain in-state school that won the national title last year, and you’ve got anxious Gator fans.

Another? Lemming offered maybe Illinois, which went 4-8 last year and is 3-4 this year, with the wins coming over Youngstown State, Western Kentucky and Texas State. Michigan and Florida, if there are coaching changes, would figure to have more guys committed that would interest ND that Illinois, but Lemming offered that the Illini staff under Tim Beckman recruits like “whirlwinds.”

“Florida has commitments from a lot of top guys that Notre Dame would want, more so than Michigan probably,” Lemming said.

Already, Notre Dame has begun to make moves on Michigan commits. Four-star Indianapolis linebacker Darrin Kirkland visited ND earlier this month.

“I wouldn’t be surprised to see him switch to Notre Dame,” Lemming said.

There are others. Defensive lineman Darian Roseboro decommitted from Michigan late last month and recently committed to North Carolina State. Clark holds an ND offer. The Irish offered Michigan safety commit Tyree Kinnel last month. And cornerback Garrett Taylor is a player who will no doubt hear from suitors, although he remains committed to Michigan.

In Wiltfong’s mind, it would behoove the current Michigan commits to sit tight with those pledges. Yes, it’s OK to kick tires and take official visits, but until something actually happens, why change?

“These young men should stay committed to Michigan until they have an idea of what they want to do next, whether that’s flip or whatever, because Michigan’s going to hire a good coach,” he said, adding that anything right now is just conjecture. “Don’t just give up your spot for free without having another spot lined up.”

As quickly as poaching season seems to be progressing, it will find another gear once the coaching carousel starts to happen. In addition to firings, there will be upward climbs, including to the NFL. Notre Dame went through the rumor mill during the last couple years of the Charlie Weis Era, and next year it’ll be another school that is forced to fight not only on the field, but in living rooms.

“You don’t want to see this happen to anybody, but all the kids at Michigan are now starting to get nervous because – they’re staying out of loyalty to Brady Hoke – but the rumors at Michigan, the fans, everybody’s coming down on Brady, so the players are making escape routes.”

Lemming in essence agrees. If something were to happen at Michigan, one name floating as a potential replacement is former Wolverine quarterback, former Stanford coach and current San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh. Harbaugh forged a reputation at Stanford as a master recruiter.

“The key word always in recruiting is perception,” Lemming said. “Right now the perception is that Michigan’s program is heading south, and if they got a guy like Harbaugh, immediately it would seem like it’s heading north and the kids would want to jump on the bandwagon.”

 With Brady Hoke's future uncertain, recruiting could take a hit at the school.(AP Photo/RICH SCHULTZ)