Muschamp: 'I don't count stars'
Published: Wednesday, February 2, 2011 at 4:19 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, February 2, 2011 at 6:38 p.m.
Florida football coach Will Muschamp has been on the job for just a little more than a month, so everyone, including all those high school recruits, is still in the early stages of getting to know him.
On Wednesday, he offered some poignant insight into his recruiting philosophy at his national signing day news conference.
"Have you seen those guys that rank those five stars (in recruiting)?" Muschamp said. "I don't count stars. I watch the tape, I recruit.
"I don't want to disappoint anybody or offend anyone, but I don't read the Internet. I put the tape on and I decide from a critical standpoint if this guy can fit in our program and be a good football player — he's got a good-looking transcript, he's going to do the right things on and off the field. I'm going to be excited about him being a part of our program.
"I haven't turned on ESPN today to check on what everybody is saying. I'm worried about what I think more than what they think."
While many of the stargazers — the analysts, the recruitniks, the fans who took the day off from work — spent some of National Signing Day wondering about the perceived lack of star quality in Florida's relatively small class, Muschamp seemed perfectly content with the 18 prospects who signed on to be Gators.
"I'm pleased with what we got," Muschamp said.
He should be. Despite having only a few weeks to establish any kind of relationship with recruits and their families, Muschamp and his assistants put together a signing class that includes the consensus No. 1 quarterback in the nation (Jeff Driskel), the No. 1 fullback (Hunter Joyer), the No. 2 cornerback (Marcus Roberson) and included 10 four-star prospects (according to Rivals) and seven players ranked among the top 150 in the nation (according to ESPN).
It was a good enough first effort to earn the class a top-10 ranking (No. 8) by ESPN and a top-15 ranking (No. 14) by Rivals.
"I'm real pleased with the 18 signees," Muschamp said. "Today, the Gators got better. I'm real excited about bringing these young men in.
"Recruiting is all about developing relationships and trust. It's tough to do that in a short time of recruiting. Recruiting is different today. You start recruiting guys in their sophomore and junior year. You build that relationship over two or three years. To come in short-term, we did a nice job."
The class is not without some potential flaws. The Gators signed only two offensive linemen, two defensive linemen and one linebacker — all positions of need. And although UF received a key national signing day pick-up (Roberson), they lost out on some big-time prospects over the course of the day Wednesday.
"They are not done yet. It seems they are still in the mix for (Palm Beach Dwyer quarterback) Jacoby Brissett and (junior college defensive tackle) Johnathan Jenkins," said Mike Farrell, the national recruiting analyst for Rivals. "Overall, finishing in the top 15 is not bad. I don't think they closed as well as they would have liked or as well as Florida fans are used to under Urban Meyer.
"But with the late start and little time to recruit after the staff was assembled, I think overall it's a solid effort. They got a marquee quarterback, a stud running back (Mike Blakely), a couple of top receivers (Javares McRoy and Ja'Juan Story) and a ton of defensive backs. The only areas lacking are offensive line and defensive line, so that will be a focus next year."
Back in December, at his introductory news conference, Muschamp forewarned he would never talk about players who did not sign with the Gators. He was true to his word Wednesday.
Muschamp was asked if there were any disappointments. "No," he said.
Then he was asked if he wished he could have signed more than one linebacker.
"Graham Stewart, I'm excited about him. He's going to be a good football player. He shows all the critical factors. He's a very physical player who plays the game the way it's supposed to be played," he said.
Muschamp said the Gators could have signed a full class of 25, but he didn't want to add some prospects who wanted to come that didn't fit what he was looking for in terms of potential.
"We have a smaller senior class for next season, so I didn't feel like at the end of the process to make an emotional decision in offering guys that I didn't think could play at — on and off the field — a championship level at the University of Florida," Muschamp said. "I'd rather have held those scholarships to the next season to give our staff a whole year to evaluate and recruit.
"We could have signed 25 initials, and I held it at 18 there, with some other possibilities (in the next few days). I'm excited about our signing class coming in. I didn't want to sign guys just to sign guys."
This is a class that is not dotted with five-star recruits. But Muschamp made it clear Wednesday how he feels about those star ratings — and the people who come up with them.
When it comes to rating prospects, Muschamp trusts his own judgment.
"I'm excited about the guys we're bringing into our program," he said.
Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or firstname.lastname@example.org.