In recruiting, assistant coaches are typically a prep athlete's first point of contact with a college program.
Theirs is the responsibility of forming relationships with prospects, building their trust in them and introducing them to the program they represent. So when an assistant coach leaves on college program for another, particularly late in a recruiting cycle, it has the potential to create some serious waves.
That's why, when Kansas receivers coach Darrell Wyatt recently left the Jayhawks to take a similar position with the Texas Longhorns, fans immediately began to wonder what impact it would have on the 2011 commit list – most specifically, the players for which Wyatt was the lead recruiter.
JaCorey Shepherd is one such recruit. A 5-foot-11, 170-pound receiver out of Mesquite (TX) Horn High School, Shepherd is one of the jewels of Head Coach Turner Gill's first full recruiting class in Lawrence, Kan.; an athlete who decommitted from Iowa to join the Jayhawks.
Did Wyatt's departure cause his commitment to Kansas to waver?
"He was a good reason why for me," Shepherd said, when asked of the former assistant's influence in his decision to commit to Kansas. "But he wasn't the only reason I committed. I made my commitment based on what KU does and what I think would be good for me, as far as the spread offense and all of that."
Gill and his staff have wasted no time in showing Shepherd the love either. Last week, offensive coordinator Chuck Long was in Mesquite to take in one of his basketball games, and the athletic receiver appreciated the gesture.
"He was just making sure I was still comfortable with them, and that Coach Wyatt leaving wasn't changing my decision to come to Kansas," Shepherd explained.
Now in the thick of basketball season, Shepherd does not participate in a spring sport, and will instead ramp up his training regimen for football in preparation for his summer arrival at Kansas.
Not that he's slacking off now, however.
"Right now, on weekends I go out every Saturday, either in the morning or the evening – sometimes both – and work on my routes and drills and stuff," he said.
Shepherd is the lone wide receiver commit to the Jayhawks in the Class of 2011. As a senior in 2010, he hauled in 71 passes for 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns.