UF’s strong depth chart turns some recruits off


Florida cornerback Joe Haden breaks up a pass intended for a Kentucky receiver on Oct. 25 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

Brian W. Kratzer/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Sunday, January 25, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 24, 2009 at 11:58 p.m.

Greg Reid grew up a Gator. Up until a few weeks ago, you couldn't find a bigger one anywhere.

During his high school career at Valdosta Lowndes, he would celebrate big plays (and there were many) with the Gator chomp. A year ago, the day after signing day, he committed to Florida, becoming the proud first member of the 2009 recruiting class.

In the days and months that followed, he couldn't say enough good things about Florida. He loved the coaches, he loved the players, he loved the school and the fans. He even tried to convince other top prospects to share the love and join him in Gainesville.

Then, a few hours after his official visit to UF last weekend, all the loved vanished. It was a stunning turnaround, but there was no mystery behind it.

The depth chart did it.

"I mean, with the situation at corner ..." the All-America cornerback told Rivals.com. "I asked him (UF coach Urban Meyer) if I would play there (as a true freshman), and he wasn't sure about it with the freshman (Janoris Jenkins) and the sophomore (Joe Haden) already there."

Just like that, he scratched his childhood favorite from his list. Now, on Feb. 4, Reid will become a Seminole or a Bulldog (or something else) instead of a Gator.

This is what happens sometimes to elite college football programs with all kinds of returning talent (which UF has).

The depth chart can be a turnoff (and a mind changer).

"It's a factor with some kids, and there's nothing you can do about it," said Allen Wallace, the national recruiting editor for Scout.com. "There is no question that programs that recruit at elite levels every year run into situations where they're going to lose kids and the major factor is they're loaded with talent.

"There was a time Miami was so loaded with talent that they hit a stretch where the abundance of it started turning some guys away. That will happen. You can't ignore that possibility."

This is where Florida is at, especially on defense, where the Gators basically return their two-deep at every position.

Reid took a look at that depth chart and quickly bolted on the school that started recruiting him in his sophomore year.

It's happened before, it will happen again.

"Everyone thinks they want to play early. Everyone thinks they are (going to play early)," Scout.com analyst Scott Kennedy said. "But not everybody is going to. For the most part, kids don't mind waiting their turn. But some kids want to be on the field right away and they're going to go where they see they have a better chance. The depth chart is part of an informed decision."

It's not just happening at UF. Wallace said Southern Cal's depth chart recently cost the Trojans a top tight end/wide receiver prospect (Alshon Jeffery) who had committed more than a year ago.

"He has been committed for a year-and-a-half," Wallace said. "And they just lost him to UCLA after the depth chart issue came up.

"But because of USC's stature, they have a chance to go out and get a replacement who is as good or better. The first person they called was (Tampa Plant tight end/receiver) Orson Charles, who USC wasn't even recruiting earlier. Now, Charles is going to visit after signing day. The good teams that lose players because of their depth chart usually are going to be able to swoop in on other people."

Kennedy said that's what is happening at Florida in the wake of Reid's defection.

"There are so many good players out there that it's not going to hurt a team like Florida," Kennedy said. "In the case of Greg Reid, there are 10 more as good as he is waiting to take his spot.

"The difference between one prospect and the next isn't that much. It's what you do with the prospects when you get them."

Kennedy said that for every player that is turned off by a deep depth chart, there are many other top prospects who aren't influenced one way or the other by one.

"For the most part, players don't mind waiting their turn and learning from some players they really look up to," Kennedy said. "Someone like Tim Tebow or Brandon Spikes. ... Those guys are heroes to a lot of kids right now. Do you mind sitting behind Tim Tebow?

"There are kids who are willing to wait knowing they'll have a chance to play for a national championship and possibly be a first-round draft pick one day. How does USC keep doing it every year? The answer is the same."

This is how Meyer and the UF coaches are trying to work it. They can't offer immediate playing time to most prospects, but they can offer even better possibilities in the long run after winning a second national championship in three years.

"Some kids are preoccupied with early playing time," Wallace said. "Others want to compete at the highest level with the best chance to play for a national championship. A lot of kids want to play for a championship and don't mind waiting."

If UF's depth chart is an issue, it's a good problem to have, Kennedy said.

"I tell people, ‘If you're losing guys because your team is too good, then you're in pretty great shape,' " Kennedy said.

Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or andreu@gvillesun.com.

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