Gators look to hold onto prized class
Published: Thursday, January 31, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, February 1, 2008 at 12:21 a.m.
Across the nation, suspense builds as National Signing Day approaches.
Meanwhile, right here in Gainesville, yawn, there's really not much going on. No drama and little suspense. If anything, maybe just a hint of apprehension heading into next Wednesday.
While the rest of the country (and some of college football's big-time programs) eagerly anticipates where the big names (quarterback Terrelle Pryor and wide receiver Julio Jones, in particular) will end up Wednesday, the Florida Gators already have their recruiting class in nice, neat order.
For Urban Meyer and his staff, most of the hunting (and selling) element of the recruiting process ended two weeks ago. Now, with recruiting heading down the homestretch, the Gators are in the hold-on-to-what-you've-got mode.
"I think it's a product of Florida being so successful early on," said Barton Simmons, the Southeast recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. "They were able to lock up a lot of their major targets early. They picked up some big kids in the middle of January and now it's just a matter of securing the guys they already have (commitments from)."
With signing day only six days away, the Gators have 22 commitments and the nation's No. 1 class, according to Rivals.com. UF is awaiting word on only one more prospect, Lakeland Kathleen wide receiver T.J. Lawrence, who is holding off his decision until 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday. He's also considering South Carolina, Michigan and Virginia Tech.
Other than Lawrence, and some apprehension brewing over the fact commitment Ramon Buchanan may visit Miami this weekend, the suspense is pretty much over for Florida.
Mike Farrell, the national recruiting analyst for Rivals.com, said one of the reasons the Gators were able to wrap things up so early is the fact UF targeted fewer players from the state of Florida this year. Of UF's 22 commitments, 10 are from out-of-state prospects.
"Less Florida kids means less drama," Farrell said. "In Meyer's last two classes, he had a whole lot more Florida kids than this one. Florida kids have a tendency to wait and wait and not make a decision until the end. This year, Florida had less Florida kids they were after and they were able to finish up a little bit earlier."
Farrell said there were several reasons for Florida targeting fewer players from the state. One, the Gators have developed a national presence in recruiting and are involved with more prospects outside of Florida. Two, Randy Shannon, a former Miami player, has pretty much locked down the talent-rich Miami area in his second year. Three, Florida State has some natural connections to a number of the other top prospects in the state this year.
Whatever the reasons, it's been a different close to the recruiting season for Florida.
Traditionally, the final two recruiting weekends have been huge for the Gators in terms of the number of prospects visiting and on the impact of the class. Not this time. Last weekend, UF held a junior weekend, where many of the top prospects for 2009 were on campus. And this weekend, there will be no prospects making official visits.
This year, UF's big recruiting weekends were Dec. 14-15 and Jan. 18-19. More than half of the Gators' commitments (13) visited on those two weekends.
"Everybody is moving so fast now in recruiting," said Allen Wallace, the national recruiting analyst for Scout.com and the publisher of SuperPrep magazine. "Schools like Florida have camps and junior days and they identify and target recruits quicker than in the past. Florida knew most of the players they were going to go after more than a year ago. They concentrated on those targets and they're going to sign a high percentage of them."
Whatever Meyer is doing, it seems to be working. The Gators are on the verge of signing a third consecutive top two or three recruiting class under Meyer.
"It's just a great program with good recruiters," Farrell said. "When you can bring in the players he has brought in from around the country, you know you've got a good program."
Who knows, there might even be a signing-day surprise (and a little drama) for Florida, after all.
"You can never count out the chance that Urban Meyer could pull a late name that wasn't even talked about with Florida for a while," Simmons said. "He's done it in the past. You could see a name or two pop up for Florida (on Wednesday). That guy never stops recruiting."
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