Its one of the toughest things for a coach to battle: Recruiting out-of-area players, only to work non-stop to get them to stay because they miss home.
It happens in every sport, at every level. How do you battle it? We’ll get into that subject soon here at Selling for Coaches. But in the meantime, here’s a recent Houston Chronicle article by Michael Murphy on the ups and downs of athletes who change their minds, pack their bags and head back home:
Biren Ealy admits that during the recruiting process, he was seduced by the siren’s song, the one extolling the virtues of playing at a school in a BCS conference.
There would be plenty of opportunities to appear on television. All kinds of money pumped into the program. Overflow crowds in sparkling facilities. Perhaps even ESPN’s GameDay crew of Chris Fowler, Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit rolling in and hanging out with the tailgaters on a cool Saturday afternoon while the cameras rolled.
For a college football player, it doesn’t get any better than that. So Ealy, an All-Greater Houston wide receiver from Cypress Falls, heeded that call and packed his bags for Arizona, spurning Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Colorado.
"It’s a good feeling when they’re coming at you like that," Ealy said. "You’ve never experienced anything like that, and then suddenly everybody wants you.
"That’s definitely one of your dreams at that point in your life. You’re thinking about playing on national television and playing on the big stage. That’s something you always dream about."
But Ealy, like many others, eventually discovered that the turf isn’t necessarily greener at a BCS-conference school. He was far from home, and Ealy missed his family and friends. So it was back to the University of Houston for his senior year.
Ealy joined defensive tackle Ell Ash (Tennessee), defensive lineman Brian West (Auburn), linebacker James Francis (Baylor) and offensive lineman Josh Bell (Kansas), all of whom have stepped out of the BCS limelight and settled in at the Conference USA school. And last year UH got a huge season from Ryan Gilbert, a former LSU running back who rushed for more than 1,000 yards for the Cougars, and Texas transfer Kendal Briles.
But Houston isn’t alone.
Other C-USA schools are reaping the benefits of big-time transfers. UTEP, which plays the Cougars this Saturday at Robertson Stadium, has used key transfers to resurrect a once-dormant program.
Last season the Miners featured Tyler Ebell, who had set a UCLA freshman record by rushing for 994 yards in 2002. And next season UTEP will have Terrell Jackson, a transfer from Oregon who will team with Marcus Thomas to give the Miners a potent 1-2 punch at running back.
Refuge in El Paso
But sometimes leaving isn’t the player’s choice.
Also sitting out for the Miners is wide receiver Fred Rouse, who was called "the next Randy Moss" during his time at Florida State. But Rouse, along with offensive lineman Cornelius Lewis, were dismissed from the Seminoles for "conduct detrimental to the team" and landed at UTEP.
"I think it’s more the coaching staff, maybe, and myself giving guys a second chance," said UTEP coach Mike Price, who also has transfers like quarterback Lorne Sam (Florida State) and offensive lineman Jake Belshe (Arizona). "I’ve been around for a little while coaching, and I have a lot of friends at other schools. So when a good kid goes awry and needs a place to go, they kind of recommend them to us."
Kind of like the way Courtney Tennial wound up at Tulsa. Tennial read the handwriting on the wall when Adrian Peterson had his breakout freshman season at Oklahoma, so he transferred to Tulsa, where he is the Golden Hurricanes’ leading rusher.
To Tulsa coach Steve Kragthorpe, Tennial is the perfect example of a good player who found himself in a bad situation at a power program.
"There are some guys who go off and make a decision about where they’re going to attend school based on a 48-hour visit without remembering that they’re going to be there for 48 months," Kragthorpe said. "They sometimes wind up having second thoughts.
"When we recruit someone, if they choose to go somewhere else, we always tell them, ‘Hey, if it doesn’t work out, you’re always welcome back at Tulsa.’ "
That is the same open-door approach Phil Bennett has taken while rebuilding the SMU program.
"We recruit against a lot of the mid-level Big 12 and Pac-10 teams, and I think that No. 1, they find out that being that far away from home isn’t as glamorous as it seems," said Bennett, who has welcomed transfers like sophomore linebacker Chase Kennemer (Texas A&M) and sophomore defensive back K.J. Ellis (Texas Tech). "And then also the opportunity to play. They don’t have as many stars in their eyes when they come back and ask you about transferring."