While Gator fans can immerse themselves in the other sports in the offseason like softball which has been spectacular, football remains the engine that powers the train. This time of year, the only good thing fans can hope to hear about is recruiting. Virtually any other news will be bad news such as injuries or arrests. Therefore, although June isn’t really the peak time for recruiting the fans cling to every tidbit of information that comes out about the 2015 class.
This has caused a certain amount of consternation to this point this year. The Gator Nation finds itself perusing the recruiting sites to see where their class stacks up so far and the early results (with only a few precincts reporting) are not stellar. Florida currently has eight commitments. One major recruiting site has the Gator class ranked 25th in the country with seven three star recruits and one four star. And the four star is rumored to be looking elsewhere. Even the most talked about targets at the moment are three star recruits according to the above mentioned site. Gator fans state, both emphatically and correctly, that Florida doesn’t sign 25th ranked classes. Florida will not sign one this year either unless the results on the field are catastrophic this fall.
The thing to remember about these rankings is that they are extremely subjective. Every year there are nearly unheard of recruits that become superstars in college and five star “can’t miss” elite blue chip players that turn out to be complete busts. Right now the only thing these recruiting services have to base their rankings on is individual physical talent. These kids haven’t even played their senior seasons yet. While talent is certainly a big part of the equation, at least as important is how these young men will deal emotionally and mentally with the step up from high school to college. Many fail utterly at the transition.
It does not help that most of these kids have been told for years now that they are indeed special. Many have had off-field issues and attitude problems overlooked simply because they were the best player on the field almost every Friday night. Then their recruitment begins and larger than life famous college football coaches are sitting in their living rooms telling them that they are the best thing since toilet paper. College coaches have no choice but to blow as much hot air as they can muster to inflate these young egos even more than they already have become. When the kid shows up for his first practice the new reality that he is just another player among nearly a hundred players just as talented hits hard and can be more than some are capable of withstanding. Usually, when a five star recruit ends up a bust it is because of what transpired between his ears and not on the field.
Gator fans new to the recruiting process also need to realize that some of these kids that currently sport a mere three stars beside their name will be upgraded in the rankings as their senior season plays out and more film and information becomes available. As silly as it sounds (and is) some of them will have their rankings upgraded based solely on which schools offer them scholarships. The entire recruiting ranking system is ridiculous at best.
That said, when the ink dries on National Signing Day, the Gators will need a much better ratio of four and five star recruits to three star recruits than what their class currently shows. While the rankings are subjective and some of the three star kids will become stars, you will not consistently challenge for the SEC title signing classes full of three star recruits. The recruiting services can be wrong but they not wrong most of the time. Schools like Vandy and Kentucky sign classes that are predominantly three star kids and nobody expects either to be in the SEC Championship Game any time soon. While I like Will Muschamp and the staff he has assembled, I do not for a minute believe he can evaluate talent so well that he can pick an entire team of diamonds in the rough. If you sign the same players as Vandy and Kentucky you will compete like Vandy and Kentucky. And yes, I know Vandy has had a couple of good seasons and even beat the Gators last year, but they did not compete for a championship and nobody really thought they would. The Commodores will not compete for a championship this season either.
Muschamp needs to land some top talent if he wants to compete with Alabama, LSU, FSU and Georgia in the fall. You can be the best coach in the country and you still won’t beat elite talent with average talent consistently. Personally, I would like for the staff to back off on taking too many commitments before the 2014 season (both college and high school) plays out on the field. Right now we suffer from the lingering stench of the 2013 season. If Roper’s offense takes off and the Gators put together a really good season it will be possible to sign more of the elite talent in February. You don’t want to be out of room at the inn if that transpires.
In my opinion the 2015 signing class will go a long way to deciding the future of the program for some time to come. The 2014 class was loaded with linemen and it needed to be. Florida had to have as many bodies for the trenches as the team could bring in. In 2015 the Gators must sign skill players. Florida needs playmakers at wide receiver and linebacker and those need to be elite talents. Muschamp cannot possibly hope to find enough “diamonds in the rough” at those positions to return the Florida program to elite status. That takes special players with special talent.