Will Kerry Cooks' exit from Notre Dame shake up recruiting?
Timing is everything — or is it?
The reported impending departure from the Notre Dame football coaching staff of defensive backs coach Kerry Cooks, leaked three days before National Signing Day, would seem to carry all kinds of recruiting implications.
Especially as it pertains to the 22-man Irish recruiting class that head coach Brian Kelly is hoping to grow to 25 by Wednesday.
Instead the general reaction of Cooks-to-Oklahoma has been shrugged shoulders by national recruiting analysts, anticipating no more than a ripple, even as ND tries to land a final safety prospect for the class.
Irish247Sports was the first to report Cooks’ intention. Neither ND nor Oklahoma officials have confirmed what is being painted as a lateral move.
“I’ve never seen a guy leave this close to signing day, before it,” CBS Sports Network recruiting analyst Tom Lemming said Sunday. “Now I’ve seen plenty leave right after signing day. The timing is strange.
“It’s not like anyone’s going to decommit over this. And it’s not like (Cooks) can start recruiting for Oklahoma, because recruiting goes dead (NCAA-mandated dead period) on Monday. You can’t meet kids.”
Notre Dame is expected to add running back Dexter Williams of Orlando, Fla., and wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown of Anaheim, Calif., on Wednesday.
The signing-day suspense is whether Nathan Meadors of San Bernadino, Calif., Arrington Farrar of College Park, Ga., or both join a group of safeties in the class that currently comprises Mykelti Williams and Nicco Fertitta.
Farrar, a one-time Stanford commit, concluded his official visit to ND early Sunday, getting out of South Bend just ahead of a heavy snowstorm. Wisconsin is thought to be ND’s primary competition with him. Meadors will choose between the Irish and UCLA.
Justin Reid of Geismar, La., who had been in the mix with Notre Dame, is expected to sign elsewhere.
Talent-rich Texas and Louisiana were at the heart of Cooks’ recruiting territory, but he also had a hand in recruiting players outside that region, including in this class cornerback Shaun Crawford of Lakewood, Ohio.
“When you’re talking about a place like Notre Dame, kids are usually picking a school for more than their position coach or lead recruiter,” said Steve Wiltfong, director of recruiting for 247Sports. “There are exceptions when it has involved Tony Alford and Mike Denbrock, ND’s two best recruiters.
“I’d be surprised if this move hurts the safeties or really any other part of this class.”
Cooks is a 2000 graduate of Iowa and had been with Kelly since his first season at ND (2010). His title had varied over the years, but he was always involved with the defensive backfield, even when he was officially listed as the outside linebackers coach in 2010.
Notre Dame’s pass-efficiency defense ranked 25th nationally that season, followed by rankings of 58th, then 16th, 39th and a free fall to 84th (out of 125) this past season.
“He’s one of those guys on the staff that won some important recruiting battles, but Notre Dame will be fine in the long term,” Wiltfong said.
“In my opinion, if Notre Dame can keep from turning the ball over next year, they have a chance to compete for a national championship. Kerry helped build that, so for him to leave right when they were on the verge seems weird, but they’ll move forward without him.”