Recruiting weekend a hit

From left, cornerback Joe Haden, quarterback Tim Tebow and coach Urban Meyer celebrate the national championship with UF basketball fans on Saturday.

Doug Finger/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Tuesday, January 20, 2009 at 4:37 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 20, 2009 at 4:45 p.m.

Before we know it, Florida will have yet another top 10 recruiting class.

It's hard for anyone to compete with the Gators at this point. Sure, everyone has their football recruits visit basketball games, but how many schools have recruits visit basketball games during a national championship celebration?

Beautifully planned, Mr. Meyer.

The Gators had arguably their biggest recruiting weekend this season at the perfect time. The nation's No. 2 running back, Trent Richardson, was on hand to watch a few Gator players and coaches hoist the national championship trophy at Saturday's Arkansas game, while vigorous UF students chanted his name from the stands as he stood near the Gator bench.

UF had Dre Kirkpatrick, whom rates as the No. 1 cornerback in the country, in town watching Joe Haden walk around like a celebrity on and off campus. Jarvis Jones spent ample time with defensive coordinator Charlie Strong, who molded UF into the ninth-ranked defense. And Greg Reid, despite his recent decommitment from UF, was inside the O'Connell Center watching the love that he could have a year from now if he were to recommit. Too bad he slept for most of what was a pretty good game of basketball as well.

Besides witnessing the love that fans gave the defending champs, these kids got to see the love that athletes on this campus share with one another. As the Gator basketball team returned just before the start of the second half, something happened. Nick Calathes high-fived Tim Tebow. Chandler Parsons hugged Haden. Walter Hodge gave Chris Rainey a chest bump and Alex Tyus ran over to put his arm around David Nelson. When players talk about UF being a real home away from home and a true family, they're right, and that's why Urban Meyer and his crew are able to reload each year.

"It's almost the perfect setup for them," Adam Gorney of said of UF's recruiting weekend. "You had the best player in college football (Tebow) telling the fans that he's going to be fine for spring practice after surgery. You had the head coach and the defensive coordinator standing in the middle of the court pumping the fans and students up about the season ahead. Those environments don't happen a lot in college football.

"Florida couldn't have asked for a better weekend to have this. I think a lot of kids came out with a better feel for Florida."

But there's always a catch with such big recruiting weekends at this time of year.

These prospects still have a couple more weeks to decide on their colleges of choice, and chances are UF won't get to host them again - at least not officially.

It's tough for the coaches and fans that have to sit back now and think about what each recruit has in mind. Luckily for UF, it has a last big hurrah with recruits this weekend.

Just another couple of days for kids to get a last look at the hottest program in the country.

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