Published: Friday, January 13, 2006 at 10:56 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 13, 2006 at 10:56 a.m.
The day before Tim Tebow's big announcement on national television last month, Alabama coach Mike Shula spent almost 12 hours with the St. Augustine Nease quarterback and his family.
That's a long time, but not quite long enough to make up for the time a certain other head coach personally invested in the recruitment of the state's No. 1 prospect. Shula's 12 hours were a mere nanosecond compared to the time Urban Meyer spent with Tebow dating back to last spring.
"Coach Meyer put in a lot of time and effort," said Tebow's mother, Pam. "He and his staff. There were written notes, phone calls, text messages. He was at all the events (coaches) are allowed to show up at. It was a very impressive job.
"Coach Meyer and the other Florida coaches not only recruited Tim and us, they recruited our kids, our coaches and the people most important to us. They did an amazing job. Other people recruited us, and some did an excellent job. But coach Meyer worked extremely hard. He and his staff. No one out-worked coach Meyer."
The result: the day after Shula spent half a day with Tebow (a lengthy visit that gave UF supporters an uneasy feeling), Tebow committed to Meyer and the Gators.
At many of the major football schools, the assistant coaches do the bulk of the early grunt work in recruiting - the phone calls, the letters, the spring visits, the appearances at high school games in the fall - and then the head coaches step in in January to close the deal.
At Florida, it apparently doesn't work that way.
Meyer isn't just the closer. He's the starter and the closer when it comes to recruiting.
"Urban Meyer went out there and hit the road early during the May evaluation," said JC Shurburtt, a recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. "He was at the scouting combines and all the things he could legally be at. He was visiting high school coaches and building relationships.
"He and his staff really got out there and sold the Florida program. Everyone talked about Ron Zook's ability to do that, but Meyer is better than Zook. Meyer is an enthusiastic recruiter, and he got out there early and got in the minds of kids like Tim Tebow and (Virginia Beach, Va., wide receiver) Percy Harvin. He got out there and established relationships. When that happens, It can be nothing but a positive."
With commitments from Tebow, Harvin (the nation's No. 1 overall prospect, according to Rivals.com) and 25 other prospects from across the country, Meyer is building a recruiting class that Rivals.com and Scout.com say will be No. 1 in the nation come signing day on Feb. 1.
While many are still wondering about Meyer's offense in the Southeastern Conference, no one seems to be questioning his ability to recruit (the other unknown when he first arrived at UF). In a little more than a year, Meyer has turned Florida into a national player in recruiting.
"I'm a little surprised by his ability to get some of these national guys," Scout.com recruiting analyst Scott Kennedy said. "To do as well as he's done in the state, with guys like Tebow and (Jarred) Fayson, that's to be expected. To get these national guys from all over the country, guys like Percy Harvin and Brandon Spikes (a linebacker from North Carolina), is impressive.
"I think you can recruit on a national level like Meyer based on your future and what prospects think you're going to do. Right now, he's a hot coaching prospect, and the perception is Florida has a chance to take off. If they start winning a lot of football games, they will continue to be able to recruit on that level."
Meyer went head-to-head with defending national champion Southern Cal for Harvin and Garland, Texas, defensive tackle Brandon Antwine and won both battles. And Meyer is recruiting to a school that hasn't won a conference championship since 2000 and has played in the Outback Bowl three of the last four years.
"You don't normally see a 9-3 team that goes to the Outback Bowl have the No. 1 class in the country and beat USC for players like that," Shurburtt said. "It's very impressive. Urban Meyer is well on his way to making Florida a national recruiting power.
"He seems to get prospects fired up to go play Florida Gator football. They love confidence; they love to be around confident guys and Urban Meyer exudes that. He's also put together a great recruiting staff and Florida is a pretty good place to recruit to. It's all working for him right now."
Meyer's recruiting successes started last summer, but things really started taking off after the Gators' convincing 34-7 victory over arch-rival Florida State in The Swamp in the last game of the regular season. The Gators have kept up the momentum with a steady stream of commitments, the latest coming from Spikes at the U.S. Army All-American game last Saturday in San Antonio.
Spikes said he felt close to Meyer and the coaching staff and that the UF coaches put more of an emphasis on his life goals rather than football.
"We hardly talked at all about football," Spikes told Scout.com.
Fayson and others say they were sold on the family atmosphere Meyer is trying to create at Florida and Meyer's reputation for discipline and making sure his players are living right off the field and taking care of their academic responsibility.
"He gets you fired up for the football part because he's such a competitor and so determined to succeed," said Fayson, the Tampa Hillsborough star who will start off his UF career at quarterback now that Gavin Dickey has decided to focus on baseball. "But it's more than that. He really makes sure you're doing all the right things off the field, too."
Said Carl Johnson, the All-American offensive lineman from Durham, N.C., who committed to Meyer last June: "Coach Meyer is all about making sure you're living your life right. When a head coach is that involved in your life, that means he really cares about you."
That's something parents certainly like to hear.
"We really appreciated the sincerity of coach Meyer and the Florida coaches in recruiting," Pam Tebow said. "We can see through false claims and promises. They didn't make any false promises. They were very sincere.
"We've gotten to know a lot of the parents of recruits and they said the same thing. I think all the parents seem to feel the same way. They're excited. And the kids are so excited they're recruiting each other."
Pam Tebow said her son has also connected with Meyer on another level.
"The No. 1 thing is they both have the will to win," Pam Tebow said. "They both want to win. Tim loves coach Meyer's high energy, his enthusiasm and his intensity. He aims high and he's optimistic and those are qualities Tim really likes."
Scheduled recruiting visits for Jan. 13 - Jan. 15:
|x-Markihe Anderson/DB||Fort Myers/Dunbar|
|Orlando Franklin/OL||Delray Beach/Atlantic|
|Antonio Logan-El/OL||Forestville, Md.|
|C.J. Spiller/RB||Lake Butler/Union Co.|
|Ian Symonette/OL||Houston/St. Pius|
The following high school football and junior college prospects have orally committed to the University of Florida:
PLAYER - POS. - HT./WT. - HOMETOWN/HIGH SCHOOl
Markihe Anderson - DB - 5-10/172 - Fort Myers/Dunbar
Brandon Antwine - DT - 6-1/275 - Garland,Texas
Jim Barrie - OL - 6-5/305 - Tampa/Berkeley Prep
Riley Cooper - S/WR - 6-4/210 - Clearwater/Central Catholic
Jermaine Cunningham - DE - 6-3/215 - Stone Mountain, Ga.
Dustin Doe - LB - 6-0/206 - Live Oak/Suwannee
Jarred Fayson - ATH - 6-0/184 - Tampa/Hillsborough
Marcus Gilbert - OL - 6-6/280 - Fort Lauderdale/St. Thomas Aquinas
Larry Grant - LB - 6-3/225 - Norcross, Ga./City College of San Francisco
Percy Harvin - WR - 6-0/190 - Virginia Beach (Va.) Landstown
Corey Hobbs - DT - 6-3/310 - Oviedo
Jamar Hornsby - ATH - 6-3/195 - Jacksonville/Sandalwood
Maurice Hurt - OL - 6-2/342 - Milledgeville, Ga.
Brandon James - RB/KR - 5-6/167 - St. Augustine
Carl Johnson - OL - 6-6/348 - Durham, N.C./Durham
Lawrence Marsh - DE - 6-5/260 - Augusta, Ga./Josey
Damon McDaniel - WR - 6-0/195 - Virginia Beach (Va.) Landstown
Trent Pupello - TE - 6-3/245 - Tampa/Jefferson
Jacques Rickerson - CB - 5-10/176 - St. Augustine
Derrick Robinson - WR - 5-11/159 - Gainesville/P.K. Yonge
Terron Sanders - DT - 6-2/295 - Bradenton/Southeast
Brandon Spikes - LB - 6-4/235 - Shelby (NC) Crest
Tim Tebow - QB - 6-3/225 - St. Augustine/Nease
Bryan Thomas - WR/DB - 6-0/186 - Zephyrhills
Chevon Walker - RB - 5-10/185 - Fort Myers/Riverdale
Damian Williams - WR - 6-1/180 - Springdale, Ark.
Justin Williams - WR - 6-2/180 - Folkston, Ga./Charlton Co.
You can reach Robbie Andreu at email@example.com.
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