Muschamp set up for stress-free signing day
Published: Tuesday, February 5, 2013 at 8:20 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, February 6, 2013 at 8:34 a.m.
Florida signed a consensus Top-5 class in 2012 and closed with five-star defensive end Dante Fowler Jr.
But other than flipping him from Florida State, National Signing Day was not a good one for the Gators.
They were in contention for eight uncommitted prospects and missed on every one of them. UF didn't quite fulfill all of its needs, especially at receiver, and only added Fowler on NSD to finish with 23 signees.
Things are different this time around.
Florida already has a full class of 26 members and met every need it had entering the 2013 recruiting cycle. As a result, UF coach Will Muschamp only has half as many realistic targets today as he did last year, and none of them will make or break his class.
“If there's any coach in the SEC who's had the best night's sleep over the last two days, I would argue that it's Will Muschamp because of what he's been able to accomplish,” said Tom Luginbill, ESPN's National Recruiting Director.
Over the past 12 months, UF had eight commits leave the class for good or an extended period of time. However, the Gators parted ways with five of those recruits.
There were only three actual decommitments and two of them — Caleb Brantley and Roderick Johnson — rejoined Florida's class. The only one who didn't was linebacker Quinton Powell, but Muschamp told him on Sunday that he couldn't save a spot for him.
Other than linebacker James Hearns, who was dropped by Florida two weeks ago because of academics, the Gators didn't have any class members visit other schools in January.
“They've had minimal shifts and changes,” Luginbill said. “They were able to sustain long-term verbal commitments, which is hard to do. That's a very, very difficult task and I think they deserve a lot of credit for that.”
Last year's signing day results created a perception that Muschamp can't “close” in crunch time. But Mike Farrell, the National Recruiting Analyst for Rivals.com, points out that prospects who make decisions late are no more valuable than the ones who commit early on in the recruiting process.
“The kids deciding today will get a lot of attention, but recruiting isn't about National Signing Day,” Farrell said. “Recruiting is 365 days a year. Florida's highest-rated player in this particular class (cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III) committed in July and never wavered. That's more important than closing on some of these National Signing Day kids. People don't understand that you have to do a lot of work to keep kids in the fold, and Muschamp has done that.”
In addition to Hargreaves, Farrell added that most of Muschamp's priorities are already on campus.
“His signing day was essentially the early enrollment weekend,” Farrell said. “He brought in one of the nation's best running backs and three quality line-of-scrimmage players. Then flipping Alex Anzalone, Demarcus Robinson and Matt Rolin was huge. All three of those kids were probably amongst the most dramatic recruiting races this year, and Muschamp won them all. That matters more than what happens today.”