The first class is the hardest

It's inevitable to compare the first recruiting classes of Urban Meyer, left, and Will Muschamp.

Published: Tuesday, January 18, 2011 at 4:46 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 18, 2011 at 4:46 p.m.
Based on the fact that three prospects have decommitted in recent weeks and Florida's commitment total now stands at only 15, some might say new Florida football coach Will Muschamp is off to a rocky start in recruiting.

The fact is, he's off to a typical start for a new coach who has come on late and has only a few weeks to make up all kinds of ground.

"Regardless of what happens between now and Feb. 2 (National Signing Day), you can't judge Will Muschamp and (Miami's) Al Golden and whoever else is going through the coaching transition," ESPN recruiting analyst Jamie Newberg said Tuesday. "That recruiting window is so much smaller than your normal one where you have nine months or two years or even four years. It's unfair to judge.

"It's typical. They're going to lose some and win some at the end. I have a feeling everyone will say, 'We worked our tails off and we did pretty well given the circumstances, and we'll see what we can do from here.' In the long run, they'll be fine."

Urban Meyer, the man Muschamp is replacing, often said recruiting is all about building relationships with prospects and their families, and it is a process that takes years. Most of the prospects on UF's recruiting board have had relationships with Meyer and his former staff dating back to their sophomore and junior years in high school (some even earlier than that).

The good news for Muschamp and the Gators is that he's been able to secure the majority of the prospects who committed to Meyer (plus add one more in Miami Monsignor Pace safety Jabari Gorman). Muschamp is also in a position to possibly close strong, with some elite prospects still on the board.

At the moment, Muschamp is going through pretty much the same thing Steve Spurrier, Ron Zook and Meyer went through when they took over at UF. And what new coaches face across the nation when they take over a new program in December or January. Spurrier, Zook and Meyer all put together respectable first classes — then had higher-ranked classes for their rest of their tenure.

History tells us this probably will not be a great first recruiting class for Muschamp — but it will be solid, with stronger classes to follow.

"Even an elite program like Florida is not immune to it," Newberg said. "Last year, Southern Cal was not immune to it. It doesn't matter where you're at, it's the nature of recruiting."

Here is a look at how the previous three Florida coaches did with their late start in recruiting:

Steve Spurrier's first class
Year: 1990
Total signed: 18 class ranking: NA
Highest-rated players in the class: LB Lateef Travis, QB Terry Dean, OT Greg Gingeleski, WR Harrison Houston, RB Kedra Malone, DB Michael Gilmore, CB Pete Archie.
The producers: Dean became the starting QB in 1992 and led the Gators to the SEC title in 1993, but he was benched in favor of Danny Wuerffel midway through his senior season a year later. Gilmore, Houston, OG Dean Golden, CB Eddie Lake, FB Chris Bilkie, LB Kevin Freeman and OL David Swain went on to become starters and help the Gators win the SEC title in 1993 (and some again in 1994).
Never panned out: CB Pete Archie, DB Scott Travis, K Kendall Cook, OL Craig Carey, TE George Rushing.
The sleeper: WR Aubrey Hill, the new UF wide receivers coach, was not heavily recruited out of Miami, but he had a great career in Spurrier's passing offense.
The busts: Travis was rated one of the nation's top outside linebackers, but he was arrested on drug charges after signing with UF, never was allowed to enroll, and ended up at Mississippi State two years later. Gingeleski was rated a top OT prospect, but rarely saw the field.

Ron Zook's first class
Year: 2002
Total signed: 23 class ranking: No. 20
Highest-rated players in the class:TB Ciatrick Fason, LB Taurean Charles, WR Jemalle Cornelius, LB Channing Crowder, QB Gavin Dickey, OL Randy Hand, TB DeShawn Wynn, OL Ryan Carter.
The producers: Fason became one of the top tailbacks in the SEC his junior season. Crowder grew into a dominant linebacker. Cornelius, Hand, Wynn, DT Steven Harris, WR/DB Reggie Lewis, DE Ray McDonald, DB Brian Crum eventually became starters.
Never panned out: DB Nicolaus Brooks, OL Todd Bunce, QB Patrick Dosh (transferred), WR Terrance Holmes, DB Tremaine McCollum, DB Jermaine McCollum, DE MacKenzie Pierre, WR Kenneth Tookes, RB Jimtavis Walker.
The sleeper: Ray McDonald was a three-star DE who grew into one of the SEC's best defensive tackles and helped lead the Gators to the national title in 2006.
The busts: Dickey, a quarterback out of Tallahassee was considered a must-sign prospect, but he never started at QB and was a minor role player. Charles had problems off the field and ended up at Bethune-Cookman.

Urban Meyer's first class
Year: 2005
Total signed: 18 class ranking: No. 15
Highest-rated players in the class: DB Reggie Nelson, CB Avery Atkins, WR Nyan Boateng, LB Jon Demps, DB Dorian Munroe, WR David Nelson, QB Josh Portis, LB Ryan Stamper.
The producers: Reggie Nelson became one of the top free safeties in the nation. Stamper, Munroe, David Nelson, Stamper, WR Louis Murphy, TB Kestahn Moore and K Jonathan Phillips went on to become starters and prominent contributors.
Never panned out: The highly rated Atkins left school after his freshman season and later committed suicide in his hometown of Daytona Beach. Boateng transferred to Cal after having issues off the field, TE Brian Ellis failed to qualify and OL Eddie Haupt had to give up football due to injuries. LB Kalvin Baker, OT Simon Codrington, LB Darryl Gresham Jr., and LB Eric Sledge were non-factors.
The sleeper: Murphy rated only three stars coming out of high school. After getting off to a slow start at UF, he emerged as an offensive star in his junior and senior seasons.
The busts: Portis, a four-star quarterback, didn't like that UF was recruiting Tim Tebow so hard, so he left school after his true freshman season and transferred to Maryland (where he was later thrown off the team). Demps was one of the nation's top OLB prospects, but his off-the-field problems led to his dismissal. OG Ronnie Wilson was thrown off the team following his arrest, then blew his opportunity for a second chance and was permanently dismissed.

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