Spring evaluations in swing, Fowler not so much


It’s springtime, a very active period for college football recruiting. Last Friday, April 15, kicked off what is known as the spring evaluation period. It runs through the end of May.

If you’re a college recruiting coordinator it means narrowing down a couple of thousand prospective recruits to a couple of hundred.

How do you do that? By paying a visit to every school in your primary recruiting turf and talking to coaches, by watching a ton of high school spring practices and games and by calling every prospect (one time each) to show some love. After that one call, coaches can’t make phone contact again until Sept. 1.

If you’re Southern Cal coach Lane Kiffin, it means staying up until 3 a.m. to make east coast wake-up calls to elite rising junior prospects.

If you’re Florida coach Will Muschamp, it means continuing the work of building relationships with players, coaches and parents.

The Class of 2012 offers Muschamp a balanced playing field and what is mostly a clean slate, as only a handful of these prospects received offers before he arrived. And while it can give a school an advantage to be among the first major programs to offer, it’s still all about the relationships.

A good example is Dante Fowler, a 6-foot-3, 232-pound defensive end from St. Petersburg, Fla., Lakewood High who is one of the nation’s best.

“Florida was my top team and then coach (Dan) McCarney left and then coach (Urban) Meyer left, and I didn’t know who was going to be the coach,” he recalled. “So I didn’t even want to waste my time. You know what? I’ll just commit to Florida State. Florida State has everything that I want anyway, and I feel comfortable with the coaches.”

Fowler committed to FSU in early December, the day before Meyer resigned for good. Now he’s recruiting for the Seminoles. He has, however, left open a tiny crack in the door for Florida fans to cling to.

“Let’s say this, if I wasn’t still committed to Florida State, the Gators would be in my top three,” he said. “I’m solid, I’m just saying if that ever did happen Florida will be in there. I’m solid on Florida State, though, just know that.”

Fowler was in Tallahassee on Sunday for the Nike Football Training Camp. He was in town for FSU’s spring game the day before and said he felt very much at home on those fields.

“I was here yesterday for the spring game,” he said. “It was the best college experience so far. It was real fun. It made me feel real good about my decision. Today made me feel like I was practicing in Florida State equipment, so I had to tear it up.”

That he did.

Fowler was named the camp’s defensive line MVP after wreaking havoc in one-on-one drills against some of the state’s top offensive linemen. He showed off a tremendous first step and some devastating spin moves.

Fowler displayed the kind of rare skill and athleticism that earns major Division-I offers for high school sophomores. The kind that leave college coaches salivating. No doubt Muschamp is among them.

“Actually he came to my school and we talked,” Fowler said. “I like him. That’s why I said if anything did spice up a little bit Florida would be in there.”

Fowler insists his commitment to FSU is solid but adds that he will take official visits to other schools.

Spice anyone?


  1. While it is a lot about relationships with the coaches, if that’s all a kid is basing his decision on, then he’s likely going to be disappointed either by the academics or a change in the coaching staff. And, as long as this kid is recruiting for halfassu, I’d never ask him to take an official visit to UF.

  2. Wouldn’t even waste my time on Fowler, and if Muschamp does, he will probably get burned just like Meyer and Zook and Spurrier before him by FSU’s usual recruiting tactic… playing up a false intrest in UF late in the recruiting game and making the Gators hold a ‘ship for him just to get burned on NSD. If the kid is that committed to FSU, don;t bother Coach Chomp, because you’ll get burned for it. Just remember the names Maddox, Boldin, Norris, that DB from Tally who’s name escapes me at the moment (with the FSU coaches camped out in his mother’s house with him the night before NSD, an NCAA violation), and several others.

  3. Get real guys..I guess you have to understand recruiting before can make those comments. As a fan you should want our staff to go after the best and he is for sure one of the best regardless of his commitment to the school on I-10. Question for you do you think the staff at the girl and gold school Willnt go after Matt Jones cause he committed to us?

  4. I don’t like this kid’s attitude. He’s extremely interested in UF, the coach leaves, and he switches without even thinking about it really. So something negative turns up, and he bails. He seems a little full of himself and I wonder how he’ll deal with pressure in college. I agree with Gator Todd, let’s not waste our days worrying about him.

  5. I’m with you guys on this one……I think we wasted time on that jernigan kid last year. To me its simple, you’re either a gator or gatorbait. Wished we would stop chasing these so called 5 stars and go after the kids that want to be gators, besides most either can’t qualify academically or just don’t pan out.

  6. I wasn’t sure where to post this but…I am a lifelong Gator (class of ’85, brother class of ’72, dad class of ’45) living in (and grew up in) south Florida. I hate the Hurricanes with every ounce of my being and while I am sure the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute is a great place – do I have to see that ugly orange and green U every time I log into gatorsports.com?

  7. Blah, blah blah. Think back to last years class. How many kids switched on (or after) NSD? Auburn & Bama, anyone remember? You go after these kids til they sign the papers. Jernigan was scooped by a coach who befriended a lifelong ” Gator fan” in the eighth grade. You go hard until they sign the LOI. You guy’s sound pretty ignorant.

  8. Gotta love those who toss around the insults while not even knowing what they;re talking about. Then say, lets go after this kid and on NSD, hold a spot for him and then he doesn’t sign, when we could have offered that ship to another highly-rated kid who wanted to be here more. Not to mention, when you bring in a kid on on visits who said he’s heavily committed to another school like he is to FSU, then he’s able to recruit or current group and maybe turn another. I have nothing personal against this kid, but he’s not worth Coach Muschamp’s time as in really placing LOTS of resources into him. Anyway, I’ve seen this go bad with FSU recruits way too many times.

  9. Exactly. If recruiting was a science, geeks in labcoats would make big $ in the powerhouses. It’s not. And how many 17 or 18 year olds do you know who doesnt change his mind like socks? Go hard til’ they sign.

  10. If Fowler eventually wants to get interested in us, fine, but I’d like to see the blog on this site focus more on guys who are interested in the Gators than on someone who seems very unlikely to become a Gator.

  11. No, the Pounceys were NOT solidly committed to FSU, but they were FSU fans growing up and leaning towards FSU. When they came in on an unscheduled visit one day and were taken to Bowden’s office to talk to him, he didn;t even know their names and ble them off after just a couple of minutes of talking to them. They then committed to UF.

  12. Another pointless debate that doesn’t really matter. FACT is this kid is going to be second guessing himself all the way up to NSD like every other top recruit in the nation…Let the coaches do what they get paid soooo much money to do and when the dust settles I have no doubt we will be sitting pretty with a top 5 class. Let’s not waste time thinking about who isn’t committing to the Orange and Blue and spend more time writing and debating about the kids that are still out there that are undecided and UF is one of the favorites…. Thoughts??

  13. I love to read your opinions. That is fun!
    Do you really think you have any input into who staff recruits?
    It sounds like you think you do.
    Thank you Jeff for your impressions.
    I think more than half of those who have given oral commitments will keep them. I think at least 30% will change there mind.
    The opinion game looks like fun, so i think I will play to.
    I for one believe coaches should recruit all players that look like a fit.
    The more interest (a players that fits) has in UF the more effort goes into his recruitment. Seems pretty simple to me.
    Regardless of what I think, the good news is that the UF staff will do a great job in recruiting & coaching.

    I hope UF is able to recruit coach-able players that stay 4 years.