Florida's 2013 class fits criteria


Gainesville High School student Keith Kelsey, left, speaks before signing a football scholarship with Louisville, while sitting next to Chris Thompson, right, who is signing with the University of Florida, at Gainesville High School in Gainesville, Fla., Wednesday, February 6, 2013. Erica Brough/Staff Photographer

Erica Brough/Staff Photographer
Published: Wednesday, February 6, 2013 at 7:18 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, February 6, 2013 at 7:52 p.m.

Will Muschamp was exhausted, but he was going to enjoy the evening. The night after the faxes are accounted for is one of the few times the Florida football coach isn't recruiting hard. Today it was back to work, but on Wednesday night he could finally exhale.

Enlarge

Gainesville High School student Keith Kelsey, left, speaks before signing a football scholarship with Louisville, while sitting next to Chris Thompson, right, who is signing with the University of Florida, at Gainesville High School in Gainesville, Fla., Wednesday, February 6, 2013. Erica Brough/Staff Photographer

Erica Brough/Staff Photographer

The class he and his assistants brought in for 2013 is another block for what he is trying to build. Nobody could care less about where it is ranked or how many stars are allocated to each player by recruiting services than Muschamp.

That's not his way.




“I like our roster and I like our locker room,” Muschamp said. “It's back where it needs to be.”

Muschamp has never been one of those recruiting service guys. He'd rather rely on his evaluations than someone else's. That's something he has learned from his mentor Nick Saban, who has strung together enough talented classes to win three of the last four national championships.

Saban has certain criteria for a player at each position, and Muschamp is the same way. If a high school player doesn't meet the standard, there had better be something else special about him for Florida to consider him.

They've passed on players who would make a recruitnik shudder. A highly rated player once called Muschamp on Signing Day to tell him he wanted to come to Florida. Sorry, buddy, you don't fit the criteria.

“Stick to your evaluations,” Muschamp said. “By the time I look at tape of a player, I've had four sets of eyes on it. That's something I learned from Nick, and when I was with the Dolphins we took it to another level. We did the scouting. I worked out all the defensive players (in the draft). That experience was priceless to me.”

It doesn't mean he always hits. There are still going to be busts. One of the things Muschamp and his staff will do today is to go over last year's class and see where they missed.

And then they will continue working on next year's class. By Monday, Muschamp had already removed the nameplates on the big board for last year's high school seniors and replaced them with the names of the ones who will be recruited for 2014.

He likes to say that recruiting is like shaving, that if you don't do it every day, you start to look like a bum. In this conference, you can't even let a five o'clock shadow grow.

Recruiting is a year-round war these days, and the SEC is the major battleground. Slip a little, and it will show up. Slip a lot, and you're sitting at a table on ESPNU.

Muschamp gets all of this, and that's one of the things UF Athletic Director Jeremy Foley saw in the coach 26 months ago. The tireless effort of Muschamp and his staff is not just scattershot. There is a plan, one that includes evaluating players in camp and identifying the character of the players you are interested in.

In fact, Muschamp seemed proud on Wednesday that there was not a lot of drama on Wednesday. Sure, he was on the phone until the wee hours of the morning, and you always worry about players until the fax rolls in.

But this class — eight of whom are already enrolled — for the most part was a group of kids who knew what they wanted and never wavered.

Of the 28, 22 of them had been to Florida's camp.

“You're putting them through your combine,” Muschamp said. “You see how they handle hard coaching.”

Even with all of the evaluating, it still comes down to figuring out one important thing.

“Who is going to be helping him make his decision?” Muschamp said.

Muschamp knows the Gators are going to need some freshmen to step up this season, just like they did a year ago. And it's then that he will truly find out how good this class is and how accurate were the evaluations of this staff.

So forget the stars and the rankings and the flip-flopping and the wild stories. Just know, Gator fans, that your coach is exhausted. And that he wore a big smile Wednesday night.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at dooleyp@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

▲ Return to Top