Anyone who read Jurassic Park understands the concept of Chaos Theory. The most common example used to describe the theory involves a butterfly flapping its wings off the coast of Japan and setting off a chain reaction of events that eventually causes a thunderstorm halfway around the world.
The chain reaction aspect makes Chaos Theory a perfect way to study college football recruiting. For example, if a college coach in Los Angeles spreads his wings and flies to the NFL on Jan. 10, does it set off a chain reaction that eventually causes a snowstorm in Knoxville, Tenn., on Jan. 30?
Obviously, Pete Carroll's departure from USC didn't result in the arctic blast that tormented Tennessee coaches trying to get official visitors to campus for the final visit weekend before National Signing Day. But Carroll's move did affect schools across the country -- even South Alabama. It also may have helped Tennessee land a blue-chip receiver and a budding superspy. It definitely helped TCU land a quarterback, and it caused a brief tug-of-war between a Pac-10 school and a Big 12 school for a quarterback from New Orleans named Munchie.
When Carroll accepted the Seattle Seahawks' head coaching job, the USC recruits at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl were thrown for a loop. "I'm wide open," San Diego's Dillon Baxter said on Jan. 10. "I'll talk to any school."
It seemed USC's class might scatter and kick off the Chaos, but that's the most intriguing part about Chaos Theory: We never know what will happen after the butterfly flaps its wings. On Jan. 12, USC athletic director Mike Garrett hired Tennessee's Lane Kiffin, a former Trojans' offensive coordinator. Kiffin brought with him Ed Orgeron, a former Trojans' recruiting coordinator.
All of a sudden, USC's class was secure. Chicago-area receiver Kyle Prater, who three days earlier had said he would reexamine his options -- giving hope to coaches at Notre Dame and other schools recruiting him -- said the night of Kiffin's hiring that he would enroll immediately at USC. Baxter enrolled at USC as well. Now, it seems almost all the players who committed to Carroll will sign with the Trojans.
But Kiffin's departure to USC threw Tennessee into its own kind of chaos. The night Kiffin was hired at USC, Oregeron enraged the coaching fraternity by contacting recruits who planned to enroll at Tennessee the next day and attempting to recruit them to USC. (It's not against any rule if the players haven't attended a class, but it's an unwritten rule that coaches shouldn't try to swipe committed players from the school that just finished sending them paychecks.)
A few of Tennessee's recruits bailed, but no one landed immediately at USC. Defensive end Brandon Willis of Duncan, S.C., was set to drive to Knoxville and attend classes on Jan. 13. He applied the brakes when he learned of Kiffin's departure. Now, Willis is enrolled at North Carolina. Meanwhile, McDonough, Ga., receiver Markeith Ambles reopened his recruitment. On Jan. 18, Ambles received visits from LSU receivers coach Billy Gonzales and Alabama coach Nick Saban. Four days later, Ambles -- who had been recruited by Carroll before he committed to Kiffin at Tennessee -- visited Kiffin at USC. All the while, he kept UNC on his mind. This past weekend, Ambles braved the snowstorm to visit Knoxville again. He tweeted his hope to meet up with a local radio host, but it seems he got rejected. We'll learn whether the rejection hurt Tennessee's chances Wednesday, when Ambles announces his school choice.
Now the coach recruiting Ambles at Tennessee is Derek Dooley, whom the Volunteers hired away from Louisiana Tech three days after Kiffin's departure. Dooley went straight to work to bring Ambles back into the fold, but he also chased players Kiffin hadn't offered. Dooley thought he had a sleeper in Demopolis, Ala., defensive end Martaze Jackson. Jackson had received brief interest from several SEC schools, but they had backed off, and he had picked South Alabama. Jackson told Rivals.com in November that South Alabama coaches had told him they would understand if jumped ship for an SEC offer. That's exactly what he did when Dooley offered a scholarship late last month. So, South Alabama coaches, if you want to blame someone for the loss of the crown jewel of your 2010 class, blame Pete Carroll.
Jackson wasn't the only previously committed player Dooley swiped. He also grabbed Tyrone, Ga., tailback Rajion Neal from Mississippi State and Hoover, Ala., linebacker John Probst from West Virginia. Dooley's biggest get, however, is a quarterback from Calhoun, Ga., who could one day save the free world.
When Mike Nance named his son, he guaranteed that the child would grow into one of two things: a stud quarterback, or a secret agent who routinely saves the planet from feline-stroking supervillains bent on world domination. Judging by this video, Nash Nance has turned into a fine signal-caller.
Nance committed to Vanderbilt in June, but during a stellar senior season at Calhoun High, other schools showed interest. Kiffin called from Tennessee. Coaches from Arkansas and Louisville called as well. Last week, Nance met with Vandy coach Bobby Johnson to break the news that he had changed his mind. Nance had decided to attend Tennessee. Nance has not mentioned how this decision could affect his future as an international spy, but if the film Point Break taught us anything, it's that former college quarterbacks with great names make outstanding EFF-BEE-EYE agents.
Speaking of great names, Nance's Calhoun teammate, receiver Da'Rick Rogers (no relation to this guy), was committed to Georgia but may now join his quarterback in Knoxville. Rogers visited Tennessee this past weekend. If the (since-removed) photo of Rogers kissing Tennessee's 1998 national title trophy that surfaced Sunday night on Chattanooga Times Free Press writer Wes Rucker's Twitter feed is any indication, Rogers had a good time. So, presumably, did the crystal football.
Nance wasn't the only quarterback whose college choice was ultimately affected by Carroll's move. The most complex chain reaction involved Matt Brown, the Allen, Texas, quarterback that recruiting guru Allen Wallace last week told SI.com's Stewart Mandelmight be the biggest quarterback sleeper in the class of 2010. Brown made up his mind last April to attend Arizona. He was sure of his choice until last month.
On Jan. 19, Arizona coach Mike Stoops and offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes visited Brown at his home. Dykes never once mentioned that he might not be employed at Arizona 24 hours later. So when Brown saw on television the next day that Dykes had been hired to replace Dooley at Louisiana Tech, Brown reconsidered his commitment. "Coach Stoops called me another two days after that," Brown told ESPN's Bruce Feldman. "The thing was -- and I told them this -- if they would've at least talked to me and said, 'Hey, coach Dykes is leaving and this is what we're going to do. We're going to be fine. Don't worry about anything. You need to stay here.' But they didn't say any of that. I think they were just expecting me to stay." Brown didn't stay. He decided to sign with TCU.
That left Arizona looking for a quarterback. Readers of this space first met New Orleans quarterback Benton "Munchie" Legaux when I wrote about some of the best names in the classes of 2010 and 2011. Since then, Legaux settled, or so he thought. Legaux committed in November to Colorado, but Arizona coaches seriously stepped up their pursuit of Legaux after they lost Brown. So if you're keeping score at home, here's how the Chaos Theory of Recruiting connects Pete Carroll to Munchie Legaux in five simple steps.
• Jan. 10: Carroll accepts Seahawks job.
• Jan. 12: USC hires Tennessee's Kiffin to replace Carroll.
• Jan. 15: Tennessee hires Louisiana Tech's Dooley to replace Kiffin.
• Jan. 19: Louisiana Tech hires Arizona offensive coordinator Dykes to replace Dooley. Allen, Texas quarterback Brown decommits from Arizona.
• Jan. 25: Brown commits to TCU. Arizona coaches step up pursuit of Legaux.
Cincinnati's staff, in place because of an entirely different butterfly wing flap, also has offered Legaux a scholarship. Which is good thing, because Sunday night Arizona took a commitment from Keller, Texas, quarterback Cameron Allerheiligen, whose only previous offers were from Northern Illinois and Toledo.
So Legaux will announce Wednesday whether he will sign with Colorado or Cincinnati. When he does, another butterfly will flap its wings and the Chaos will start all over again.