A couple things before we get into this article. This article is based strictly on recruiting moves and not what happened on the field.
We all know FSU didn’t make a bowl and Miami struggled the entire season with lofty expectations. We also know Florida had a great season by all accounts. I’d counter both of those arguments by pointing to Tennessee. They looked terrible, missed a bowl, and are still making headway with elite recruits. Conversely, Clemson just won the National Championship, and they’re struggling to stay in the top 10 with a class of 29 commits. Simply put, Recruiters recruit and are able to sell their vision. The on-field product can only affect so much, especially in the year one cases of UF and FSU.
The goal of the spring is to get as many prospects on campus as much as possible, recruiting them as well as you can to secure yourself a spot in their top 30 schools (and planting the seed to get one of the 5 lucrative OV’s a prospect can take). Dan understood this and created the first ever Great Gator Grill-Out. Man, I could list you all the prospects that came, but I’ll only talk about the 2019 kids that ended up signing with UF. That list includes Chris Steele, Diwun Black, Lloyd Summerall, Khris Bogle, Jaelin Humphries, Tyron Hopper, Wardrick Wilson, Ethan White, Trent Whittemore, Jesiah Pierre, Dionte Marks, and Ja’Markis Weston (credit @Florida_Zone for the list). Roughly half of the class attended the event. And I thought people were saying the Relationship Ribs were dry? Mullen took an open date in the spring and turned it into a hub for the weekend for recruits. Getting prospects on campus is never a bad idea, and Mullen had a ton of elites that weekend.
Plies’ Support of Willie
You can criticize how good you think Plies is or if he’s past his time or not, but a university associating itself with a celebrity is almost never a bad idea. In fact, it’s usually a very good idea. Now, if that celebrity is a black man and that appeals to the recruits that actually listen to his music and probably enjoy some of it, it makes that celebrity association even more impactful to recruits. Willie was not only able to bring Plies in for multiple events and to meet recruits, but he also had Plies active on social media hyping him up from his Twitter account that has just under 900k followers. Honestly, that’s a pretty big deal. However, this gets a Grade of a B. You might be asking why I just said so many positive things about this and yet I gave it a B. Well, that brings me to my next topic.
Kodak Flexes on Ron Zook Field
Man, I promise that if Mullen hadn’t done this, I would’ve tipped my hat to Willie. But, instead Mullen just went ahead and one upped him. For all the reasons I stated before with Willie and Plies, Dan associating Kodak is a great move. However, Mullen was able to bring someone on who a) is currently more relevant b) has a much larger following (2.5 million followers on Twitter) c) more kids relate to. When Mullen brought Kodak on the field it was great for two reasons. The first is how hyped the players looked and how happy they were around him, which helps the perception of your program with recruits. The second reason is because it felt like a big middle finger to Willie saying, you can get Plies lol let me get Kodak on your field for when we beat you 41-14. I promise you recruits loved Kodak and love the Gators in turn. For like a month straight after the UF-FSU game, every offer that UF sent out, one of the four pictures in their tweet was one of Kodak at the game. That moment had a lasting impact on recruits and it showed.
Willie Goes All-In on Dent
Fortune favors the bold, am I right? I can’t find too many people who thought bringing Dent on the OV in December was a good idea. Most of everyone was saying it was idea including Twitter insiders, actual insiders and message board warriors. There were a few who said that this was Taggart’s final chance to get him to FSU because if he made it to January, taking OVs, he would flip somewhere else. I myself believed that and look at that it paid off. Willie made the tough call that many coaches wouldn’t have and guess what. It worked. Dent finished up some classes and even enrolled early at FSU.
Pastor Richt’s Retirement
Well there were few things as poorly handled as Richt’s “retirement”. You can in no way convince me that the university nor Richt did not see this coming. Miami was struggling in recruiting and the program had no energy after just barely making a bowl with the expectations they had this season. Right after the season would’ve been the perfect time for both parties to part ways. If the program wanted to save face by “not firing him” they could’ve done the exact same thing Ohio State did and announce Richt’s retirement and quickly name his replacement in Manny. Hell they also wouldn’t have had to pony up $4 million to promote their DC also.
Transfer Portal U
There is going to be a lot of people tell you that Manny’s usage of the Transfer Portal is a temporary bandage and that it’s going to eventually bite him in the ass. I believe the Portal is a useful tool when used appropriately and it does seem to me like it will not work out well in the end, but we have no way of knowing that for at least a few years. However this is an article about recruiting and as far as recruiting goes I believe this is a phenomenal move. Manny has created a buzz around the Miami program that it had definitely lost under its previous few coaching regimes. Can he keep it up? We’ll find out in the next few years but he has brought new life to a program that in Warren Sapp’s word was “dead”. People will troll Miami for TNM (The New Miami) but the only thing that matters is how players on the team and recruits feel about it. If they believe Diaz then the players will play better and the recruiting will be easier, even though it is probably too late for 2019. I can only find one negative to this and that’s when you go sell to recruit playing time, the depth chart is a little more stocked now. However I don’t think most, if any of the transfers Miami received actually scares of recruits. Tathan only has 2 years left, as does Bubba Bolden at most. The only one that could’ve worked poorly is for Asa Martin when trying to recruit Mark-Anthony Richards, but if you dig deeper, you’d easily be able to tell the that all the teams in MAR’s top 5 have pretty stacked RB rooms and commits.
FSU’s Big Visit Weekends
Here’s a fun fact: FSU went 14 for 14 on recruits who OVed on the December 14th weekend. Yes there are some lower rated prospects there but still, batting 1000 on 14 prospects is quite impressive. Taggart’s big January OV weekend didn’t lock up everyone but they still did pretty well. They locked up commitments from 6 out 11 prospects there that weekend. Again some of those are lower rated but at that point they HAD to get them and they did. Only thing holding this grade down is the low number of elite talent in them but nonetheless still proved to work in FSU’s favor.
This one is more for UF but can also apply to FSU. FSU’s Cali experiment was short lived as far as I can recall with them missing on Criddell and Dollars in the summer and not really turning their attention there again. UF however spent A LOT of time on the west coast. It is hard to call UF’s Cali experiment a failure or even a negative when it netted them their highest rated recruit in Chris Steele. However what if UF had left Cali alone? Could they have gotten in with Dent sooner? Maybe press more for southeastern prospect? Who knows. What I do know is the state of Florida was picked apart by the likes of Bama, Clemson, UGA, Ohio State and more. If any of the Big 3 wants to succeed they need to lock up the state. No shame in picking and choosing prospects from around the country but locking down the state comes first, then on field success and then finally recruiting nationally. Had UF not gotten Chris Steele this very well could’ve been the worst grade on here but picking up a top 40 player goes a long way towards healing some wounds.
Grade: Hard C
Who Thought It’d Be A Good Idea to Trust Derick Hunter?
I’m going to keep this one simple. None of the Big 3 should’ve penciled in Rambo into their class and at multiple times all of them did. He showed multiple times he was going to have a wild recruitment and every team needed better backup plans.
Grade: F for Everyone
Clemson Murder/Elite Prospects
I’m going to group 2 topics here together. Plain and simple FSU held onto elite targets too long. There is nothing wrong with recruiting elite talent, in fact you should want to. However, FSU seemed to scramble as we got closer to ESD as their top targets started trending elsewhere. This was especially apparent along the OL and the QB. You are the Head Coach at FSU and you did not sign a QB the cycle before, the smart thing to do would be recruit every QB in the Southeast and then some. Kudos to Willie for getting Sam Howell early but the writing was eventually on the wall that he was leaving. Even if he wasn’t he should’ve been recruiting a QB2 the whole time The second part about this is when they brought all those elite prospects on campus for the Clemson murder scene. I’m pretty sure FSU had like 4 5-stars on campus, which is great don’t get me wrong, but you have to do everything possible for them not to come for that game. Overall HR swinging is great, but you have to have your bunt ready and it seems like FSU didn’t.
FSU Defense on Recruits
FSU has no doubt lost some targets, and some good ones at that. You can credit this to Willie’s hot start because it’s easier to keep a kid than to get him. But man, EVERYONE thought this class would implode. I don’t know how Willie did it, but he managed to lock up recruits before they could even seriously consider other schools (see: Dent, Jay, and to a lesser extent Lucas). I don’t think Cross flipping is extremely terrible because it’s clear Willie really got to him and that he wants to be a part of the class, but getting to the kid is only half the job as Willie seems to be on the brink of failing to convince his parents. He ended up flipping it was a huge blow to this class. Essentially: Taggart ended up losing the top 3 players that committed to him since he’s been at FSU.
Now that you’ve read the article I would like to also get this out of the way. Yes, I am a Gator fan. I, however, tried to remove as much bias as I could. This may seem like it is a pro-UF article but guess what? When you finish with the best recruiting class out of the three and in the top 10, you probably made the most “good” moves. When you struggle to break the top 30, you probably did not have a lot of positive moves.
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(Photo Via: Alligator.org)