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A college sports blog from The Oakland Press, dedicated to covering Michigan and Michigan State athletics as well as former Oakland County athletes at other schools.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Eagles lose another recruiting battle

Shortly after an uphill battle in recruiting, the Eastern Michigan University football team lost its recruiting coordinator, Tyrone Wheatley, who left EMU after just one season to become the running backs coach at Syracuse on Tuesday.

While the move may finally be a breakthrough in the coaching career of the former University of Michigan All-American, who has bounced around from coaching internships and lower-level coaching gigs — including one season at his high school alma mater, Dearborn Heights Robichaud — after his retirement from the NFL in 2004, it doesn't bode as well for EMU. Easily the most recognizable name on a staff filled with other former Michigan players and coaches — head coach Ron English and assistants Kurt Anderson, Tom Burpee and Steve Szabo — Wheatley guided EMU to an underwhelming recruiting haul of 23 players, which included six signees from junior colleges or prep schools and one senior transfer from Louisville. It looked a lot like a staff struggling to sell a program coming off a winless season.

Wheatley joins Doug Marrone's staff at Syracuse, filling a spot that SU already thought it had filled this offseason. After last year's RB coach, Stan Drayton, left for the same position at Florida Marrone originally filled the opening an equally-inexperienced candidate in Roger Harriott, a high school coach and AD, who promptly changed his mind less than a month later, and returned to his high school-gig in Florida.

While Wheatley has marginally more experience than Harriott, he's at least got better name recognition.

"He’s played the position, been on the field at the highest level and seen in through the eyes of a player. Plus, he played in a system I’m familiar with and believe in. His learning curve should be a lot easier," Marrone told the Syracuse Post-Standard, noting that Wheatley's resume as a player wasn't the sole factor. "The first question I ask any candidate is, ‘What are you going to do for these players outside of football? I’m interested in how a coach is going to help a kid become a better man, a better member of society. Tyrone has the same core values I have. That was the most important thing."

Now the important thing for EMU will be to replace Wheatley — the 1992 Big Ten Player of the Year, who ran EMU's high school football camps, and had been acknowledged as a potential rising star in the coaching circles — with another ace recruiter who can tap the Eagles back into the state of Michigan. Only two of EMU's 2010 signees were from this state.

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