The key to signing the nation’s number one recruiting class was probably the early start by the Florida staff locating top prospects and staying on them till the end. The Gators hauled in arguably their best recruiting class of all time Wednesday. They did it with relentless effort by the staff capped off by visits from Coach Urban Meyer, who just might be college football’s best closer.
The flight of the University jet went from hobby to obsession for Gator fans trying to track the comings and goings of the head coach over the internet in January. Tracking the university plane was relatively easy and watching zig-zag the country from city to city only enhanced Meyer’s reputation as a recruiter determined to outwork everyone else in the business.
It is easy to see from message board banter that other school’s fans have become annoyed at the pesky Florida head coach who could appear like a bat in the night in a small New Jersey town and really make his presence felt. I would imagine other college coaches are feeling the same way about Meyer and his staff and their relentless work ethic.
It was this work ethic that led me to write something way back on April 24, 2006. Before spring prospect evaluations, before a lot of names from the 2007 recruiting class were even known I made this statement in a Hollywood Bob’s Private Screening:
“…My bold prediction right now is on signing day, the 2007 class will be a higher rated class than the one the Gators just signed.”
Coming off of a stellar 2006 class that saw the Gators named recruiting champions on signing day, it must have looked like wishful thinking.
Actually it was an observation on how far ahead the staff was in recruiting compared to previous staffs and other staffs in this region of the country. Rival fans make fun of all of the offers that the Gator staff had out at an early date. Yet these same prospects were getting offers a month or two later from other staffs that got a later start. The early work pays off as the Gator staff built strong relationships with prospects before others knew who they were. Those relationships would the rewards of the nation’s number one class.
Of course those relationships have to start in the home state. Florida annually produces an abundance of top high school talent and the 2007 class was as good as any in recent memory. Early scouting gave the Florida staff the upper hand in identifying the top in-state talent and then getting a head start in building the relationships. That’s confirmed by a look at Scout.com’s in-state rankings for the class of 2007 where the Gators really dominated the state recruiting, especially at the top. That couldn’t have been accomplished without the early legwork.
The Gators landed eight of the top nine ranked players in the state of Florida on Wednesday when (DT) Torrey Davis, (WR) Deonte Thompson, (OL) James Wilson, (DT) John Brown, (LB/S) Lorenzo Edwards, (S) Major Wright, (RB) Chris Rainey, and (QB) John Brantley all inked a scholarship to Florida. To land eight of the top nine prospects in a football rich state like this with every other major football power coming into the state to recruit, is absolutely unheard of. Of course those are Scout.com rankings and probably not true reflections of where the staff might rate some of the state’s best players. The Gators also filled their needs at several positions with other key recruits from around Florida. (CB) Ahmad Black, (LB) Brandon Hicks, (DE) Jay Howard, (CB) Moses Jenkins, (LB) John Jones, (OL) Michael Pouncey, (OL) Maurkice Pouncey, (RB) Bo Williams, (LB) Steven Wilks, and (WR) Paul Wilson helped the Gators dominate the state in recruiting.
Florida landed seven players (Rainey, Brown, Wilson, Black, Michael Pouncey, Maurkice Pouncey and Wilks) off Lakeland’s three-time state and two-time national champions.
The Gators also went out of state and landed some of the biggest name talent from around the country. They stepped into less frequently chartered waters like Connecticut, New Jersey, California, and South Carolina to haul in some of the nations finest prospects. (DE) Carlos Dunlap of North Charleston, S.C., (S) Jerimy Finch of Indianapolis, Ind., (WR) Joe Haden of Ft. Washington, Md., (P) Chas Henry of Dallas, Ga., (TE) Aaron Hernandez of Bristol, Conn., (DE) Duke Lemmens of Westlake Village, Calif., (QB) Cameron Newton of College Park, Ga., (DE) Justin Trattou of Ramsey, N.J., and (QB) Bryan Waggener of Chino Hills, Calif., will all be wearing the orange and blue in the fall.
All of the above were early targets from the coaching staff. All were constantly recruited despite a few committing elsewhere at some point in the process. But, when push came to shove and Urban Meyer went head to head with many of the nation’s best recruiters for these great prospects, there was only one man and one school left standing. They may now start calling Urban Meyer, “The Closer.”