While Florida coach Will Muschamp and his staff were forced to sweat out a few last minute decisions on the defensive side of the ball on Wednesday afternoon, the Gators’ offensive class was mostly in the fold once the fax machines inside the football offices began to spew out freshly signed National Letters of Intent.
After enduring countless bouts of offensive inconsistency throughout his first two years in Gainesville, Muschamp looked to shore up the Florida offense by bringing in undoubtedly his best class on that side of the ball since his arrival tenure.
Despite the number of players who appear to be ready to significantly impact Florida right away, Muschamp still went on to say the true measure of the 2013 class wouldn’t be decided anytime soon.
“We’ll know about this class in two or three years,” Muschamp said on Wednesday.
Looking back over the last two years, Muschamp’s offensive signing classes have left a bit to be desired. The Gators signed nine offensive recruits in 2011 — five of which are no longer with the program — and eight recruits in 2012.
This year, Muschamp brought in 13 recruits (if you count Nebraska-transfer Tyler Moore) to form has most complete offensive class to date. The Gators — again, including Moore — signed five offensive linemen, one quarterback, two running backs and five receivers.
The biggest positional coup for Muschamp and his staff without question came in the form of the five pass-catchers which inked with UF on Wednesday. The Gators got a bit of everything at the wide receiver position, getting a batch of players who each fit into individual roles.
“We signed five wide receivers,” Muschamp said. “Those are five guys that want to come in here and compete because sometimes when you get some numbers you start getting guys looking at that depth chart and numbers and they are not real sure about coming to competing for the Gators.”
One of the receivers in which Muschamp was alluding to was Jacksonville-native Ahmad Fulwood who was one of Florida’s earliest commitments. Fulwood, who stands at 6-foot 4, brings a combination of size and speed in which the Gators haven’t enjoyed on the outside in quite some time.
Always a match up issue when you have bigger receivers that can run vertically down the field and he certainly can,” Muschamp said. “He has tremendous ball skills down the field and a guy that he played really well at free safety this year, gave me some great ideas.”
The defensive-minded Muschamp insisted that he was joking about the free safety comment in regards to Fulwood, but he did say the tall receiver exhibited toughness normally seen out of defensive players this season in battling through injuries.
“You know, really showed great toughness throughout his senior year,” Muschamp said. “They had a good run in the playoffs there late at Bishop Kenny, but a guy with great ball skills that can vertically stretch the field and a bigger target, hard guy to cover down the field with smaller DBs. The lengthier DBs are really difficult to find that can match speed down the field.”
While Fulwood was a player who landed on most recruitniks’ radar early on in the process, the Gators also managed to land an under-the-radar star in Gainesville-native Chris Thompson, who played his high school football roughly two miles from his future home in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
Thompson may have been an easy recruit for the Florida coaches to discover given his proximity to campus, but Muschamp stated that Thompson’s attendance at Florida’s summer camp was integral.
“Chris came to camp and competed.” Muschamp said. Again, you look at our signees here … it’s going to be over 95 percent of them are in our camps and were coached by our coaches. I think it’s important for a player to understand what he’s getting himself into.
“[Thompson’s] a vertical, stretch‑the‑field guy. He’s really developed himself as a receiver.
Although Thompson won’t be on campus until the summer time, Florida does have the luxury of having arguably its best receiver prospect in years already in Gainesville.
“Demarcus Robinson is on campus right now — he’s done a really nice job in the weight room,” Muschamp said of the Georgia-native. “Chad Campbell has coached him at Peach County (high school); and he’s a good friend of mine and he thought a lot of him coming out as far as where he was as a football player.”
Perhaps one of the most common trends as of late has been the transition of an athletic high school quarterback shifting to the wide receiver position, often seen as a more natural role for the player.
For Seffner (Fla.) Armwood receiver Alvin Bailey, although his participation at quarterback was a need for his team, there was never any doubt that the Tampa-area prospect was a gifted receiver as a spent almost as much time catching passes as he did throwing them for one of the nation’s top high school programs.
While some fans may be weary of players making switches from one position to another, there is perhaps nothing which excites Muschamp more about a skill player that having “high school quarterback” on their resume.
“I really like to coach guys that played quarterback, whether you play defensive back or receiver,” Muschamp said. “Because when you play quarterback you’ve to command the huddle, you have to be able to communicate with your teammates and you have some sort of leadership abilities if you’re playing the position.
“Alvin has a lot of play‑making ability, but I also look at the intangibles he brings.”
With the recent departure of former backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett, the Gators’ situation under center appears nebulous at best, prompting Muschamp to state: “I don’t have a very high comfort level (with the QB situation) obviously. Those guys haven’t played a lot but they are going to get opportunities this spring to continue to develop within what we do.”
The Gators did sign one quarterback in the 2013 class in Tennessee-native Max Staver, but while Florida is waiting for it’s group of signal callers to develop, they will have the luxury of an excellent stable of running backs at their disposal.
The Gators were fortunate enough to acquire the top two rated backs on their recruiting board, including Kelvin Taylor, the son of legendary former Florida running back Fred Taylor.
The younger Taylor first popped onto Florida fans’ radar when he was only in eighth grade, but after years of waiting, the muck-area product is finally on UF’s campus as an early enrollee.
“Kelvin never brought up star ratings or how many offers he had or wanted to take a bunch of different visits and talk to this coach, that coach. None of that stuff really impressed Kelvin very much,” Muschamp said.
“If you’ve never been through it (the recruiting process) and you don’t understand the time frame … all the people pulling in different directions, it’s very difficult to understand.
“You try to explain it to parents and it’s very difficult, but obviously Fred went through that being a high‑profile recruit and certainly him helping Kelvin was certainly an aid for Kelvin.”
The only desire in which Muschamp still yearned for on Wednesday was an additional offensive lineman in the class. Muschamp believes that having 15-17 big uglies is ideal on a yearly basis.
However, with a group of five heading to Gainesville this year, the guess is that Muschamp has more than enough to satiate his need for the time being.
Muschamp described the recruiting process as a period in which many school resources are constantly pulled together in order to get a player to sign with a school.
Piecing together the 2013 class was a long and arduous process, but there will be little time for Muschamp to rest.
He welcomes a gathering of Florida’s top 2014 recruits next weekend.