January 6, 2011

Coaching carousel takes toll on tight end


It's a trait that everyone claims to want, but most fans and schools don't seem to strive for it.

In an era where coaches seem to either find themselves on the hot seat or positioning for a new job, the length of tenure is getting shorter and shorter around FBS football.

But rarely has it struck so fast as at University of Pittsburgh when newly hired coach Mike Haywood was fired for a domestic dispute just two weeks after taking the job.

It's a development that hit Evan Tatford hard.

The three-star tight end prospect was receiving lots of interest from Haywood's staff when the coach was at Miami (OH) during the 2010 season and when he made a move to Pittsburgh, Tatford was asked to come visit the Big East school.

However, when news came down New Year's Day that Haywood had been released from Pitt, Tatford's recruitment took a turn.

"There are these whole new coaching staffs that seem to be showing up everywhere," Tatford said. "I want to go to a place where I can go to school for four or five years and be confident that I will be playing for the same coaches throughout my time there. It's important to have that stability around."

Now the 6-foot-6, 230-pounder is adjusting his schedule. On the final two weekends of the recruiting season, Tatford will visit Memphis and hometown UL-Lafayette, each of whom has a coach entering its first or second year with the program.

Despite plenty of communication with Tulane over the year, the instability surrounding the future of fifth-year coach Bob Toledo and his staff, as well as a tightly packed depth chart at tight end (which will be adding at least two more - Josh Drum and Greg Thomson - in the 2011 class) have left Tatford unsure about where he stands with the Green Wave.

However, as he pieces together his last open weekend of recruiting (on Jan. 14), Tulane still remains a viable option. Along with friend, St. Thomas More teammate and Green Wave commitment Sam Scofield, Tatford was in the Superdome for TU's games against Army and Rice where he built a solid relationship with recruiting coordinator/tight ends coach Doug Lichtenberger in the process.

"(Tulane) is still an option for sure and I like a lot of people there," Tatford said. "But I didn't know what was going on for that (Jan. 14) weekend with Pittsburgh and everything since there's still some assistants I still know at Pitt.

"Tulane is a place I like and it's still definitely worth a look at, but I only have that one weekend open and I am looking to fill it. "

Now, with less than a month before signing day and most of his itinerary already set there's no need for Tatford to make out a list of frontrunners.

Instead he is sticking by a list of priorities and will judge each school based on their individual criteria.

"The first and foremost thing is the education and some place that can take to a place past football and that's first," Tatford said. "Then the stability of having a coaching staff that I feel is going to be there for my college career is important as well. Of course I the depth chart matters to because I want to go to a place where I have a chance to play and will get the right opportunity to prove myself.

"Whichever place kind of fits all of those things the best is probably going to be where I end up. I'm interested to see how it works out."

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