UF deals with recruiting ripple effect


Wide receiver Louis Murphy will be one of only six or seven senior starters next season.

Sun file photo
Published: Wednesday, January 16, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 15, 2008 at 11:52 p.m.

The Florida Gators could have as few as six senior starters in 2008. That's not many, that's not enough. But it would be two more than they had in 2007.

Facts

A look at the 2004 and 2005 recruiting classes

ZOOK'S LAST CLASS

Who's gone:
OL Michael Brown
DT Brandon Daniel
CB Dwayne Grace
TE Dane Guthrie
DE Derrick Harvey (NFL)
S Kyle Jackson (eligibility expired)
SS Tony Joiner (eligibility expired)
DE Mike Mangold
WR Mike McIntosh
WR Derrick McPhearson
OL Drew Miller (eligibility expired)
DE Jeremy Mincey (NFL)
DB McIntosh Nicolas
FB Eric Rutledge (eligibility expired)
LB Brandon Siler (NFL)
TE Markell Thompson

Who remains:
TE Tate Casey
DT Javier Estopinan
TE Cornelius Ingram
RB Markus Manson
OG Jim Tartt
OT Phil Trautwein
OT Jason Watkins


MEYER'S FIRST CLASS

Who's gone:
CB Avery Atkins
LB Kalvin Baker
WR Nyan Boateng
OL Simon Codrington (medical)
LB Jon Demps
TE Brian Ellis
LB Darryl Gresham Jr.
OL Eddie Haupt (medical)
S Reggie Nelson (NFL)
QB Josh Portis
LB Eric Sledge
OL Ronnie Wilson

Who remains:
RB Kestahn Moore
SS Dorian Munroe
WR Louis Murphy
WR David Nelson
K Jonathan Phillips
LB Ryan Stamper

The lack of seniors continues to be a concern for Urban Meyer as he moves from his third season to his fourth at UF.

"If you get caught with four or five (seniors) again, I've got news, you're going to fight like crazy to get nine wins," Meyer said.

With so few seniors this past season, that's exactly what the Gators had to do fight for those nine wins after capturing the national title the year before with 22 seniors.

A similar struggle could be looming in 2008, as the Gators move from a freshman-sophomore dominated team to a sophomore-junior dominated team.

Once again, there won't be a whole lot of seniors to lean on probably only six or seven who are starters.

The back-to-back seasons with so few seniors are a reflection of this: back-to-back recruiting classes that have pretty much disintegrated over time.

The last Ron Zook recruiting class (2004) and the first Meyer class (2005).

Of the 41 players signed in those two classes, only 13 remain on the roster, including a backup kicker (Jonathan Phillips) and a tight end (Tate Casey) who may or may not play this season.

What it adds up to is only six or seven senior starters in 2008, and concerns about leadership and depth.

"Having back-to-back recruiting years like that can be devastating," said Allen Wallace, the national recruiting editor for Scout.com and the publisher of SuperPrep. "But it's probably not as devastating when you're a program like Florida. I think they have enough quality young players to overcome it."

Meyer has said numerous times that Florida should never be in this situation, and to prevent it from happening again, the Gators have to have another quality recruiting class this year to go along with the 2006 and 2007 classes (ranked No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, by the recruiting services).

One person who said he saw this dip coming is Scout.com director of scouting Scott Kennedy. He said Meyer and UF are in a pattern similar to the one several successful young coaches recently went through when they took new jobs.

"You can set your clock by it," Kennedy said. "You look at Nick Saban when he went to LSU and Mark Richt at Georgia and Jim Tressel at Ohio State. They all won big in their second year, then there was a drop-off in year three.

"It goes back to recruiting. Usually, when a new coach comes in, the previous coach hasn't had a great recruiting year and now he has to put together his first class in a very short time. What usually follows is a lot of attrition.

"The rule is you're going to see a drop-off in year three and start coming back in year four, and then in year five, you're back to where you want to be. It's a natural progression. I think Florida will be back competing for the SEC title this year, then be a national contender again in 2009."

Of course, expectations are higher than that around here (and elsewhere), with many projecting the Gators to be national championship contenders this season. If they are, they will be doing it without a lot of seniors.

The most prominent seniors in 2008 figure to all be on offense tight end Cornelius Ingram, wide receiver Louis Murphy, tailback Kestahn Moore and linemen Phil Trautwein, Jim Tartt and Jason Watkins.

There appears to be only one potential senior starter on defense tackle Javier Estopinan, who is coming off knee surgery.

Which brings us back to this past season, when the Gators had only two senior starters and experienced all kinds of problems.

Which brings us back to those decimated back-to-back recruiting classes.

"When you have two in a row like that, it can be detrimental," Rivals.com recruiting analyst Mike Farrell said. "If you lack depth and leadership, you're going to struggle.

"I think depth-wise, there are probably a few positions Urban Meyer is concerned about on defense that weren't recruited well. But, still, I think there is enough talent at Florida now. I just think they're concerned about depth."

In Meyer's attempt to string together a third successful recruiting class (and avoid a future lack of seniors), he's in a strong position, Wallace said.

"He's in the catbird's seat," Wallace said. "He's got a lot of talent, but he can still tell prospects they need more, especially in certain areas, and that they will be able to come in and contribute quickly. With all the talent he's brought in, it's a good position to be in."

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