Recruiting has much to do with UF-FSU divide
Published: Thursday, November 28, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, November 27, 2013 at 7:19 p.m.
It doesn't seem possible that this has happened, that in one year a Florida team that pounded Florida State in Tallahassee has evolved into a team that is perceived as having no chance against the Seminoles in Gainesville.
Certainly, the injuries Florida has been dealing with all year are a big part of it. Certainly, the poise and talent of Jameis Winston are a big part of it. Certainly, the snowballs of confidence in each camp are a big part of it.
But there is more to it than one player or two schedules or a hundred injuries.
FSU enters this game Saturday with an unblemished record and not even a close game. According to Jeff Sagarin, the Seminoles' schedule is ranked 76th, but when you have been so dominant nobody really cares who you play.
Florida enters the game with its first losing record since 1979. The Gators have played a tougher schedule (22nd according to Sagarin), but when you lose at home to Vanderbilt and Georgia Southern, nobody really cares who you play.
It makes you wonder if last Nov. 24 really happened. Did Florida really push FSU around in the fourth quarter?
What happened since?
I could give you the quick and easy answers, but I think it goes deeper than those.
Go back to Urban Meyer's last recruiting class and Will Muschamp's first, and I think you'll understand better how we got here.
Meyer's final recruiting class was about winning February. While it included some excellent players such as Matt Elam, Sharrif Floyd and Dominique Easley, to call that class the best ever as one website did was shortsighted.
It was good on paper, but many of the players never suited up for UF. Others were recruited to play in Meyer's style of offense and left. In all, 11 players from what should be Florida's fourth-year players are no longer with the team. Two more — Easley and Chaz Green — have missed all but three games this year with injuries.
After a five-loss season and knowing it would take energy he didn't have at the time to rebuild things, Meyer walked away from Florida. And during the transition, Florida State and coach Jimbo Fisher took advantage.
Few coaches have great first-year recruiting classes because — as anyone will tell you — recruiting is more than a one-year process. It's all about building relationships and it's difficult for any coach to do that in a few months.
Most of the players in Will Muschamp's first-year class were players who had already committed to Florida. Only four of them are starters, and that's if you count Hunter Joyer. Nine of them are no longer with the program.
Muschamp also had a big problem when he started watching Florida's practices for Meyer's last game. He saw only one quarterback, a senior in John Brantley. Florida had Jeff Driskel committed, but that was hardly enough, so Muschamp recruited Jacoby Brissett. For the next two years, Florida had two young, strong-armed quarterbacks which meant the elite quarterback recruits wanted nothing to do with UF.
So when Brissett transferred and Driskel was injured in the third game of the season, well, you've seen what has happened.
Meanwhile, in Tallahassee, Fisher was licking his chops. He had built up those relationships we talked about and FSU was coming off a big win over the Gators and an ACC division championship in 2010. The Seminoles signed a class in 2011 that was ranked No. 2 by Rivals.com, and 10 of the current FSU starters came from that class.
From those two recruiting classes — 2010 and 2011 — FSU signed 14 of its 22 starters. That's the way it is supposed to work.
There are 20 players who were signed in those two Florida recruiting classes who are no longer with the team. To be fair, Floyd and Elam turned pro. Still, Florida is basically missing a recruiting class in terms of pure numbers.
I know, this explanation for what happened doesn't make it any easier for Gator fans to stomach. And it's not the entire reason why FSU is expected to hammer the Gators on Saturday.
But whether you're a recruitnik or not, the impact of those two classes is impossible to ignore.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.