UF FOOTBALL RECRUITING
Florida looks to bolster class with strong finish
Losses don't slow down momentum for Gators
Published: Tuesday, February 4, 2014 at 6:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, February 4, 2014 at 6:29 p.m.
When Miami Central running back Dalvin Cook flipped to Florida State on New Year's Eve, many Florida football fans worried it would be a sign of things to come.
By the time Homestead receiver Ermon Lane decommitted from UF on Jan. 10, those feelings were long gone.
In that 10-day span between the defections of Cook and Lane, the Gators landed Under Armour All-American defensive end Gerald Willis III and flipped three recruits, highlighted by five-star cornerback Jalen Tabor.
They have since flipped two more prospects, including one of the top defensive tackles in the nation, Thomas Holley.
ESPN national recruiting director Tom Luginbill is impressed with what Florida accomplished on the recruiting trail last month.
“So much was made of Dalvin Cook and Ermon Lane decommitting, and I know in early January, Gator fans felt like the sky was falling,” Luginbill said. “Well let me tell you something, I would trade a wide receiver for Thomas Holley seven days a week and twice on Sunday. That's a premium position. You make that move every step of the way. Then you pull in Jalen Tabor, which I think is huge. I think they've done a remarkable job.”
Florida ended 2013 with a seven-game losing streak and experienced staff turnover after the season. The Gators appeared at risk of having their commitment list fall apart, but they weathered the storm.
“Florida is one of those programs that can withstand negativity,” Luginbill said. “There's enough clout, history, tradition and exposure that you don't just have a mass exodus when things don't go well.
“I don't know if there's been a team in college football in the last five-seven years that had a rash of bad luck from an injury standpoint happen to them in one single season worse than the Florida Gators had happen to them last year. And prospects are savvy enough to do their homework and not see a team that came out of training camp, had nothing go bad and just bomb out in season, but a team that had the makings of a pretty darn good one, had gone to a BCS game the year before and had a lot of bad things happen to them.”
Florida has the No. 7-ranked class on ESPN and Rivals heading into signing day.
With the early enrollment of Tabor, UF has signed a top-10 prospect from the Rivals100 in seven of the last eight recruiting cycles, including 2014. The exception was in 2011, Florida head coach Will Muschamp's first class.
The Gators have three scholarships left to offer, and they're in the running for six more prospects deciding Wednesday.
“If you look at them as a top-10 class coming off a 4-8 year where they lost to an FCS school, they've done very, very well,” said Mike Farrell, national recruiting analyst for Rivals.com. “You have to give credit to the staff for persistence. If they can close down the stretch on some of these guys, it's really going to be an amazing class for what happened during the season.”