- Jared Shanker, ESPN Staff Writer
A few days ago, Hunter Knighton (Princeton, N.J./The Hun School) had a solid top five. Two coaching changes have the three-star lineman reexamining his list, however.
Boston College and Purdue fired its coaches Sunday, and both programs find themselves in Knighton’s final five. In fact, Knighton did not find out about Danny Hope’s removal at Purdue until 11 p.m. Sunday -- several hours after he returned from his official visit to Purdue, which ended that afternoon.
“I didn’t find out until my mom texted me,” Knighton said.
“I was really blown away and shocked. Coach Hope was a great guy and a big attraction for me to go to Purdue. Now I’m kind of waiting to see what happens with them.”
The Boilermakers were one of Knighton’s first offers, so the 6-foot-5, 265-pound defensive tackle always felt a sense of loyalty to the program and the coaches. Having visited Purdue twice now, he still likes the school and is not ready to drop them from his top group.
Knighton will keep a close eye on the situation at Purdue and who is hired to lead the program, which finished 6-6 and is bowl eligible. The hire the Boilermakers make will decide whether Knighton will consider them further.
Purdue is supposed to be at Knighton’s school Tuesday, but he is not sure if that will still happen.
Aside from the coaches, Knighton said there are still several positives with the program.
“The biggest thing was game day, the tradition they have and the atmosphere,” Knigton said. “Seeing the academic side, Purdue’s a great school academically and especially for what I want to do, which is engineering.”
Knighton said Boston College is in the same position as Purdue. He will not drop the Eagles but is hard to have them toward the top of his list with the uncertainty. He hopes to have a decision just before Christmas, so there is not much time for a new coach at either school to make an impression.
The next official visit, his fourth, will go to Miami (Fla.) the weekend of Dec. 7. He was there this summer for a camp, but did not see much of the program or school.
“It was real brief, only saw the dining hall and a couple things,” he said. “I’m really excited to go back down. The biggest thing I want to see is how the team is, the way they treat each other and their chemistry. I want to get down and meet some of the guys and see how I fit in.”
Two weekends ago, Knighton made an official visit to Boise State. It was his first time seeing the program up close, and he thoroughly enjoyed the visit.
“I liked Boise the city and the university was great,” he said.
The highlight of Knighton’s visit was sitting down with coach Chris Petersen, who made a major impression on Knighton. Peterson, one of college football’s winningest coaches, talked more to Knighton about the off-the-field parts of the program than anything else.
Peterson explained to Knighton his role as a coach and mentor to his players and that it begins the moment the freshmen enroll.
“He said ‘I’m not Xs and Os as much as I am making sure everyone’s doing the right thing,’ ” Knighton said of the conversation. “He meets with his freshmen once a week and that’s big because most coaches are real connected with the seniors and not the freshmen. To develop a relationship with you as a freshman is huge.”
West Virginia is the fifth team in Knighton’s final group, but the Mountaineers appear to be fading. He has not set an official visit to West Virginia and is unsure if he will make one.
Temple will visit Knighton’s school Tuesday, but he does not know if he will talk with the coach that comes in.
Programs are split as to whether they plan to play Knighton on the offensive or defensive line.
511dTom Luginbill and Craig Haubert