One program’s scandal is another’s recruiting boost.
Recruiting fallout is almost always a byproduct as prospects reconsider commitments or walk away from those pledges entirely when sanctions loom. Coaching changes exasperate the whole process.
Baylor is starting to deal with the repercussions of a longtime sexual assault scandal, leading to the dismissal of longtime head coach Art Briles last week.
Four-star tight end Kedrick James, a Waco native, de-committed from Baylor within hours of the Briles news. James is the No. 12-ranked tight end nationally and second in Texas, trailing only Notre Dame commitment Brock Wright.
“Due to the departure of coach Briles, I’d like to open my recruitment and decommit from Baylor,” James announced via Twitter on Thursday.
Notre Dame is no stranger to reaping rewards in these situations. Scandal at Penn State helped the Irish ultimately land former four-star receiver Will Fuller, who turned into one of the most prolific wide outs of the Brian Kelly era and a first-round pick
Turns out the dissolution of the Briles regime at Baylor could lead Kelly and staff to an heir apparent to Fuller — four-star receiver Hezekiah Jones. Notre Dame hosted Jones for the Blue-Gold Game in April, offering a scholarship during the visit.
Jones has said he speaks with Irish coaches almost daily. Associate head coach Mike Denbrock, offensive coordinator Mike Sanford and Kelly have all been pitching in.
Even before Briles lost his job, Jones had been looking at other programs. Then Saturday afternoon he announced his de-commitment from Baylor via Twitter.
"This was hard for me but after discussion, and with the guidance of my family, I have decided to de-commit from Baylor University and open my recruitment back up," Jones posted. "Thank you for all you've done for me, but I need to take my time, weigh my options, and make sure I make the right decision for myself."
Jones' decision left Baylor with just two verbal pledges by Sunday.
“For committed recruits I think it drastically alters the way they will look at Baylor and with one de-commitment announced I expect more of that same type of news to follow,” said Greg Powers, a national recruiting analyst for Scout.com based in the Midlands region. “For guys who are not committed I would not expect there to be much movement as most prospects I would expect to take a step back and evaluate what happens with the coaching staff moving forward.”
While Jones was the only Baylor commitment with an offer offer, the Irish had been involved with other uncommitted targets before the Briles news. Notably, four-star athlete Saiid Adebo is a Texas native with Baylor on the list of suitors. Adebo has already visited Notre Dame and holds it in high regard.
Five-star outside linebacker Baron Brown, who hails from Kennedale, Texas, had been committed to Baylor before reopening his recruitment. He plans to visit for Irish Invasion and hadn’t been reconsidering the Bears regardless of their off-the-field issues.
Baylor also offered four-star athlete Keldrick Carper, four-star safety Grant Delpit, four-star cornerback Chevin Calloway and four-star cornerback Kary Vincent, among others.
Notre Dame may benefit, although it’s likely programs closer to home that do so more.
“I think the schools in-region will always be the first one to benefits with in-region recruits,” Powers said, “but the ripple effect could be quite large closing and opening doors for an array of recruits. For instance if recruits are granted a NLI release from the 2016 class and end up at a new school that would take a scholarship away from the 85-man allotment and a potential 2017 recruit. So the domino effect could and already seems to be coming into play.”