Saturday, December 16, 2017
Sports

Coaching carousel doesn't faze Freedom alum Isaac Tanner

TAMPA

As college coaches hop from campus to campus, football recruits are left contemplating new futures.

Mack Brown promised Plant High linebacker and Texas commitment Andrew Beck he'd still be around by the time the all-state linebacker showed up. But that wasn't true.

Can Beck help but wonder if new Texas coach Charlie Strong likes him as much?

James Franklin was building a pipeline from Tampa Bay to Nashville, but Gaither's Amani Oruwariye and Armwood's Kyle Gibson — a pair of Commodore defensive back commitments — have announced on Twitter they are re-opening their recruiting in the wake of Franklin's jump to Penn State.

Can anyone blame them?

Isaac Tanner watches all the comings and goings with a bit of amusement. Since committing to Western Kentucky in 2012, he has not seen one coach go, but two. After 16 months as a Hilltopper, he will be on his third coach.

"All part of the game,'' said Tanner, who arrives on campus this week.

The former Freedom linebacker committed to Willie Taggart, before Taggart left for USF.

He signed with Bobby Petrino, who has now left for Louisville.

His new coach will be Jeff Brohm, who never had any part in recruiting him.

One of Tampa Bay's better linebackers while at Freedom, Tanner had offers from a dozen schools like Ohio, Florida Atlantic and Florida International.

But he liked Western Kentucky best. Good people, he said, and a beautiful campus and cool teammates. And he liked Taggart.

"You always want to play for a coach you believe in,'' Tanner said.

The coach, Tanner said, accounted for 30 percent of his decision. For others, it can be 100, which is why you see recruits bailing on Louisville and Vanderbilt in the wake of Strong and Franklin's departures.

In late August 2012, Tanner committed. A little more than three months later, Taggart accepted the USF job.

"How is this going to play for out me?" Tanner thought. For 48 hours, he wasn't sure.

A few of his previous suitors called. He considered trying to follow Taggart to USF, but they didn't need linebackers. His Plan B was Navy.

But two days after Taggart left, Petrino arrived. He called Tanner immediately. He visited Tanner's home. He re-sold him on being a Hilltopper, and Tanner signed Feb. 6.

"I think there were a few guys that were less fortunate than me," he said. "You can't take it personally. I feel sympathetic towards a lot of guys who plan out for the next four years at a university and a city, and a month before you are supposed to sign you have to scramble and figure out something else.

"But it comes with the territory. You have to understand what you're getting into."

Tanner played most of his senior season with a torn labrum, but didn't know it until after the county all-star game when the pain reached its apex.

He signed with the Hilltoppers, had surgery and expected to join the team for the fall.

But because the tear had been so bad and rehabilitation dragged on — he was in a sling for two months instead of one — he and the WKU coaches went the gray-shirt route. Instead of enrolling, he stayed last semester in New Tampa, working out with former Freedom assistant Julian Johnson and personal trainers Denny Locascio and Biko Claxton.

As a result, his eligibility clock will start ticking this week.

He stayed in touch with Hilltopper coaches. He attended Western Kentucky's final home game. As it turned out, it was Petrino's last game as well.

"Going from $800,000 to $3 million, I guess you can't blame him,'' Tanner said.

His scholarship has never been in jeopardy, and the defensive coaches he has been talking to say nothing will change with Brohm in charge.

Tanner is a positive kid with a positive outlook. He is not angry at any of the coaches for leaving.

For him, it's nothing new.

At Freedom, he played for three head coaches — James Harrell, Tchecoy Blount and Todd Donohoe — in four years. Brohm will be, essentially, his sixth coach in five years.

"I think the change was frustrating for me my freshman year in high school; I really thought Harrell would be there all four years," Tanner said.

"Back then, it was a shock. Now, it's just whatever."

John C. Cotey can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @JohnnyHomeTeam.

HomeTeam Hot Shots

A spotlight on the Times' bay area players of the week.

Female Hot Shot

Madison Schmidt, Northeast

Sport: Basketball

Skinny: The sophomore came up big in the final of the Northeast Holiday tournament, scoring 17 points in a 54-33 win over Bloomingdale. After being held scoreless in the first quarter, Schmidt took over in the paint in the second and scored 12 points. "She's a very, very solid inside player who can use both hands and she gets to the line a lot," coach Will White said. "She's a leader type player who has a chance to be one of the best in school history." Schmidt also scored 12 vs. Pinellas Park and 14 vs. Tampa Prep in victories after the break.

Male Hot Shot

Darius Banks, St. Petersburg

Sport: Basketball

Skinny: The freshman guard doesn't have to be the go-to player because of the number of playmakers the Green Devils have at their disposal. But Banks showed he can pile up the points by scoring a season-best 33, including a school record nine 3-pointers, in a win over Palm Harbor University. Banks got hot early, scoring 25 in the first half. "Darius has all the physical tools. The main thing for him was adjusting to the speed of the game at the varsity level. What he was able to do against PHU is what you'll see in the future," coach Chris Blackwell said.

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