With the recruiting dead period approaching as the holidays draw near, a number of high-profile committed recruits from around the Southeast are looking around in an effort to reaffirm their pledges or find new destinations before National Signing Day. With three SEC offensive coordinators taking head coaching jobs outside the region in recent days, some skill players and offensive linemen will be back in play in the coming days.
How will the departures of Gus Malzahn, Jim McElwain and Charlie Weis impact the schools they've departed from a recruiting standpoint?
Right now, let's all just take a deep breath. Don't expect much of a fallout at Auburn, Alabama or Florida. The Tide and Gators are unlikely to make major shifts in their offensive philosophy, and in Alabama's case, there's a chance they may even look to promote from within to fill the vacancy. Both schools will look for caretakers who will stick to the script of the conventional, pro-style offense that both head coaches are comfortable with. Auburn's change is the most interesting one - will the Tigers stick with a spread running attack or return to the more traditional I-formation tendencies that became the school's trademark for years?
From a recruiting standpoint, the ramifications of losing coordinators in the bowl season/dead period are often overblown. Rarely do classes fall apart despite the initial worst-case scenario reaction of fans.
The initial feedback from recruits shows that there won't be any mass exodus at any of these schools, at least immediately, but depending on which direction Gene Chizik wants to take Auburn in the future, the change may actually open the door for them to steal a recruit or two who wouldn't have otherwise been a fit for their system. From a long-term standpoint, it will be interesting to see how a recruit like QB Zeke Pike fits into whatever offense Auburn's next offensive coordinator installs.
Despite being the butt of more than a few jokes this year, Charlie Weis was a major selling point for Will Muschamp because of his NFL experience and connections, and a few recruits like Stefon Diggs and Avery Young were already seriously considering other options. Auburn and Georgia could be a player for both recruits, but it's unlikely Florida will lose many current commits as a result of Weis leaving.
Jameis Winston looking around?
The nation's top rated dual-threat QB has been committed to Florida State for months, but could a late push from a trio of SEC West schools sway him? Alabama, Auburn and LSU are all making a strong push to flip Winston, who is one of the most athletic quarterbacks to come out of the region in years. Winston visited with the Tide and Tiger staffs in recent days, and LSU's Les Miles was rumored to be in the Birmingham area visiting with him this week. At this point, it could really go either way between Winston sticking with his FSU verbal or flipping. The loss of Malzahn likely means Auburn is on the outside looking in at this point, but don't be surprised if Winston reverses field and makes a change in the final weeks to either Alabama or LSU. Dameyune Craig did an excellent job recruiting him throughout the process. With college football looking like more of a realistic option for Jameis (as opposed to a potential MLB career), can he hold on until February?
Georgia's resurgence may help them make a late push.
Mark Richt sold the idea of a "Georgia Dream Team" to recruits before Signing Day 2011, and while the sales pitch may be different this year, the Dawgs are looking to close strong again with in-state recruits and a few select out-of-staters as well. Georgia recently got a formal commitment from RB Keith Marshall out of North Carolina, as we predicted here back in August, which could ease any concerns about the shaky future of Isaiah Crowell. Marshall has a next gear that makes him a guy who can contribute immediately in Athens. Rumors are also floating that Georgia could be a player for two current Alabama commitments - LB Dillon Lee and OT Brandon Greene. Right now, Greene seems more likely to flip, so don't be surprised if he pulls the trigger for Georgia in the next month. Lee, who was one of Alabama's earliest commitments in the class of 2012, has a brother at Georgia right now, but a change of course with him would be more surprising than with Greene.
Make no mistake - the Eastern Division championship and lengthy winning streak this season did wonders for this recruiting class, and Georgia will benefit by closing strong.
Alabama's loss is Georgia Tech's gain.
Justin Thomas, a dynamic athlete out of Prattville (Ala.) who had been pledged to Nick Saban, decommitted from Alabama earlier this week. The word here is that Thomas would like to play quarterback at the next level, and Alabama was recruiting him more as an all-around athlete who would have probably projected as a running back or defensive back in Tuscaloosa. Reports late this week indicate that Thomas has decided to play in Paul Johnson's triple-option offense in Atlanta, a place where someone with his talent could really flourish.