This story originally appeared in the September 2011 issue of Gator Country Magazine. VIP subscribers to GatorCountry.com receive the magazine in the mail every month, and copies are available throughout Gainesville.
The University of Florida football team has had a bevy of top recruiting classes in the past and this year’s class is no different. As the coaches are out recruiting players, Florida’s currently committed players are doing the same.
Most will remember Trey Burton recruiting heavily when Urban Meyer resigned in 2009. Burton was instrumental in keeping Florida’s commits on board, calling and texting them to reassure them Florida was the place for them.
The class Burton helped recruit was one of the best on paper in Florida history, and the Gators will be relying on the core of that class on the field this fall.
Having a committed player like Burton recruiting other recruits is almost a necessity in today’s recruiting landscape.
Having multiple players like Burton is a pure luxury.
Usually most classes only have one or two guys recruiting for their future school, but this year’s class for Florida is different. All of the current commits have had some hand in recruiting another guy to join the class.
Florida has 17 players currently committed, but the Gators are still looking to land a handful more prospects. The 17 guys already committed are working the phones, Facebook and Twitter to recruit some of the top prospects in the country to Florida.
All 17 members of the 2012 recruiting class agreed there are a lot of advantages for committed prospects to recruit other top-notch players to their school of choice.
“The main advantage is that we are going through the same recruiting process so we know what is going on and what is being said,” said Citra, Fla., wide receiver Latroy Pittman, a current Florida commit. “We also know what every school is offering and can offer, so we can relate to other prospects and tell them why we committed to Florida and what Florida has to offer more than other schools.”
Another Florida commit, Warminster, Pa., tight end Colin Thompson, is also doing a little recruiting. Thompson’s even recruiting a guy who will directly compete with him for playing time at Florida.
He’s been working to get Land O’ Lakes, Fla., tight end Kent Taylor to commit to the Gators.
“I just tell Kent that I have been traveling and visiting schools just like him, and I know that nobody can offer the same thing that Florida can,” Thompson said. “I have visited a ton of schools in the North and South, and I have heard every coach tell me things about their school. But when I listen to them, I think back and say that doesn’t compare to what Florida can do for me, so I just share those experiences with Kent and hopefully that will help him out and help him to decide to come to Florida as well.”
Many Florida fans remember when Brandon Spikes was being recruited that the star linebacker said he would play wherever Tim Tebow played because he wanted to play with the best players in the country.
Florida safety commit Marcus Maye is already thinking the same way.
“As a good player, I want to play with great players and I want good guys in the locker room with me,” the star safety from Melbourne, Fla., said. “If you are a great player you should always want great players on your team to push to be the best and to help the team to win a championship. I think everyone agrees that winning a championship is the main goal.”
Offensive line commit Jessamen Dunker feels the same way. He’s already had a big impact for the Gators.
He has been recruiting top North Carolina offensive lineman D.J. Humphries for a while, and Humphries recently committed to the Gators.
“I don’t want to be on the field with a bunch of guys who aren’t that good or who don’t care about winning,” Dunker said. “As an offensive lineman I want guys like DJ Humphries who are great athletes and I can rely on to make blocks. I never have to worry about is he going to get the job done, because I know he is a great player.”
At what point does having so much top talent become an issue and scare off recruits, though?
With more and more emphasis being placed by high school recruits on playing early, having a top-notch recruiting class every year can be discouraging for some prospects.
So far that hasn’t been the case for Florida commits like Dunker, Maye and Pittman.
In fact, Pittman thinks it can even help attract more talent.
“I want to be like the Miami Heat where we just go out and recruit great guys to play with us to build a great team that is built to win championships,” Pittman said. “I feel like Lebron James or Dwayne Wade out recruiting guys like Chris Bosh. We just want to be great.”
The unique thing about recruiting is that unlike the Miami Heat, Florida’s new commits won’t be thrown into the fire before they’ve really had a chance to get to know each other.
While the Heat struggled to find their identity in the first season with the “Big 3,” Florida’s commits have plenty of time to get to know each other before they strap the pads on in college.
“The best part about it is that you build relationships with all these guys and you become friends,” Maye said. “So the guys that do choose Florida we are already close and know stuff about each other and that will help our team chemistry in the years to come. Also when you talk to them, you can all get on the same page and have the same mindset entering Florida.”
That added bonus of having guys commit early and develop relationships should benefit the Gators down the road.
More than a year before they’ll ever suit up for Florida, many of the Gators’ commitments are already close friends.
“I want to build a family with the current commits and the guys that might sign with Florida that way we can start building team chemistry before we set foot on campus,” Pittman said. “Every time we get a new commit, I make sure to text him or Facebook message him and tell him welcome to the family, and then I start getting to know that person.”
Florida’s commits are getting good at recruiting, too.
They’re making head coach Will Muschamp’s job a whole lot easier, and Florida already boasts one of the top recruiting classes in the nation because of it.
Maybe it’s the success the Gators have had on the field recently that has lent to great recruiting results.
But maybe, just maybe, it’s because the Gators have an army of the nation’s best players recruiting for them.
After all, they’re the guys who are already sold on Florida. Who better to make a pitch to some of the top remaining players in the country?
“I just tell them straight up, there is no better place to play college football on Saturdays than in the Swamp in front of 90,000 screaming fans,” Pittman said. “I tell them that you don’t want to come into the Swamp as a visitor because it’s the loudest stadium in the country. But the most important thing I say to them is you’re either a Gator or your Gator bait.”