It didn’t take long for Charlie Strong’s departure to hurt the Gators (see Jeff Luc to Florida State), but now Florida has to be frustrated about losing out on Aurora, Colo., Grandview defensive end Chris Martin, too. Martin, who was awfully generous with his text messages concerning recruiting over the last few weeks, decided to stay closer to home by verbally committing to the University of California. Funny, just a couple weeks ago all the talk was about how Martin was about to become another Notre Dame commit to pick the Gators late in the year. Things really did look great for the Gators … until the coaching carousel turned on.
First, it was defensive coordinator Charlie Strong who packed up and took the Louisville head coaching job. I texted Martin and he said losing Strong hurt Florida’s chances a little, but that coach Urban Meyer and receivers coach Billy Gonzales were his primary recruiters. Close call for Gator fans. Nothing to worry about there. Well, not so fast. Days after Martin made that comment, Gonzales left to become passing coordinator at LSU. Once I got the official news, I texted Martin but got nothing. For someone who has always returned my texts (since he said no phone interviews until signing day), I knew this loss hurt him the most. Gonzales is such a personable guy and recruits love that about him. With him gone, not even Meyer could keep Martin.
Monday, Martin made things official by ending his recruitment and committing to the Bears. Martin didn’t return any texts about it, but he did tell Rivals.com that he was looking for “stability in his life” and that he found it at Cal.
“The whole stability of the program was key,” Martin told Rivals. “Academics and everything about the school made it feel like it was a family. That was the main decision for me. I’m not looking to be everywhere bouncing around and not knowing about my future. I’ve already gone through enough bouncing around. I’ve gone from California to Colorado. I thought I was going to be in New Jersey and end up at Notre Dame, but that all changed.”
With Martin off the board, I expect Florida’s staff to make an even bigger run at Portland, Ore., David Douglas defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa. He officially visited for the FSU game and told me he had a great time and that Florida is one of his top schools, but even with Martin’s commitment I think Cal still holds the upper hand on Odighizuwa with Oregon creeping. Florida is still the top destination for Moreno Valley, Calif., Rancho Verde defensive end Ronald Powell, who is expected to officially visit in January.
Martin’s spurn comes only a few days after Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas cornerback Lamarcus Joyner picked FSU over Florida and Ohio State. It was thought for most of the recruiting season that Joyner was an OSU lock with Florida kind of in the picture. Joyner said over the summer that he had Florida right at the top of his list, but after the staff didn’t go after him as hard as he wanted, he turned his focus to the Buckeyes. Then he fooled everyone and picked the Seminoles, officially ending Florida’s chances at getting one of the top athletes in the state.
The good news for the Gators was that Joyner’s teammate, and fellow corner, Cody Riggs did verbally commit to the Gators the day after Joyner picked FSU. Go figure.
It’s been a rough couple of weeks for Florida’s program and its recruiting efforts. Things got better after a successful recruiting weekend, but even that won’t be clear until a few commitments come out. As the Gators prepare for the Sugar Bowl, Meyer and his staff will also have the task of working overtime with uncommitted recruits.