Gators, primary rivals all recruiting well

Photo illustration by Jon McDonald/Staff

Note: This breakdown was originally published in The Gainesville Sun special season preview section on Aug. 21.

Recruiting in the South is a fierce, year-round battle.

One of the chief reasons Will Muschamp was brought in to coach the Florida Gators is his experience in those border wars.

He’s paying quick dividends.

A talent infusion will come just in time, as Florida is filling some serious needs along the offensive and defensive lines and at running back.

Muschamp’s second recruiting class is shaping up to be one of the top groups in the nation.

Too bad for the Gators, the competition just keeps getting tougher. All of Florida’s primary rivals are also compiling top-notch classes.

Here is a look at Florida, Florida State, Miami, Alabama, Auburn, LSU, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee and Vanderbilt. Yes, Vanderbilt.

Rankings (as of Aug. 17): ESPN No. 3, Rivals No. 4, Scout No. 3.
The Skinny: Muschamp and his band of NFL coaches have the Florida brand name soaring again after a one-year hiatus. Switching to a pro-style offense with Charlie Weis at the controls was a masterstroke.
Biggest win: Considering the need for an elite offensive tackle prospect, UF’s biggest prize is five-star D.J. Humphries from Charlotte, N.C., who spurned Auburn, South Carolina and Tennessee.
Head-to-head: Florida has won a number of key battles for commitments. The Gators took OLB Lorenzo Phillips out of Louisiana, flipped south Florida DB Willie Bailey from Miami’s class and took Atlanta-area RB Mike Davis and two four-star defensive tackle prospects out from under Georgia’s nose.

Rankings: ESPN No. 2, Rivals No. 3, Scout No. 6.
The Skinny: The Seminoles are on a roll, looking to follow up last year’s top class with another contender for the No. 1 ranking. Coach Jimbo Fisher has scored big all over the southeast, with key recruiting victories against Florida and Alabama.
Biggest win: It’s always a recruiting coup to win a Texas prospect who has an offer from the Longhorns, and even more special when it’s the No. 1 player in the country. DE Mario Edwards is the crown jewel of this class.
Head-to-head: The ‘Noles surprised many when they got five-star QB Jameis Winston and four-star DE Chris Casher out of Alabama. FSU also pulled five-star DE/LB Dante Fowler (St. Petersburg) and four-star S P.J. Williams (Ocala) right out from under Florida.

Rankings: ESPN No. 6, Rivals No. 5, Scout No. 5.
The Skinny: With a massive scandal smeared across Miami, Al Golden and the Hurricanes have to wonder just what will survive in the wreckage. Several top prospects have already downgraded the status of their commitments to soft.
Biggest win: In the heart of Miami Gardens, basically UM’s backyard, the ‘Canes scored with five-star running back/cornerback Randy “Duke” Johnson, who swears he will stay loyal to Miami. The U also got two of Johnson’s teammates, including four-star LB Keith Brown.
Head-to-head: It’s almost a shame to think this class could fall apart after Golden did so much quality work in the state of Florida. The ‘Canes nabbed an amazing 19 of 23 verbals from the state of Florida, beating out every rival at least once or twice in the process.

Rankings: ESPN No. 4, Rivals No. 8, Scout No. 7.
The Skinny: There may not be a more consistent recruiting winner than the Crimson Tide. Nick Saban has built a juggernaut. You’d have to go back to 2007 to find a year in which Bama wasn’t in contention for the No. 1 class.
Biggest win: Panama City’s Eddie Williams, a five-star safety who stands 6-foot-4, 210 pounds, will probably end up at linebacker someday but regardless of where he plays he will make an impact. He chose Bama over Florida and FSU.
Head-to-head: Saban gets the pick of the litter and has pulled several key prospects from Georgia (like four-star LB Dillon Lee from Buford) and Florida (like four-star WR Chris Black of Jacksonville).

Rankings: ESPN No. 8, Rivals No. 10, Scout No. 9.
The Skinny: Gene Chizik is certainly capitalizing on the Tigers’ unblemished national championship run. Of Auburn’s 13 pledges, a whopping 11 are rated four-star prospects by
Biggest win: Auburn’s most high profile verbal is quarterback Zeke Pike, who is rated among the top five at his position by Rivals and Scout. He picked Auburn from among 30-plus offers.
Head-to-head: The battles between Auburn and Alabama are legendary. This year the Tigers have snagged three elite prospects — TE Ricky Parks, RB T.J. Yeldon and DT Tyler Nero — away from the Tide.

Rankings: ESPN No. 12, Rivals No. 7, Scout No. 8.
The Skinny: The Tigers are a recruiting machine for one reason — they own the state of Louisiana. Fifteen of 18 verbals are Bayou Boys. Les Miles and Co. rarely lose a battle in-state and typically finish in the top 10 nationally. This year will be no different.
Biggest win: Patrick Peterson’s brother, Avery Johnson, is a coveted four-star wide receiver from Florida. It’s unclear, however, if this is a win (yet) because he has flirted with Florida, Georgia, FSU and others. Johnson remains tenuously committed to LSU.
Head-to-head: LSU doesn’t have to go outside its home state very often, but when it does it’s usually to raid neighboring Texas. This year’s haul includes four-star DE Danielle Hunter and three-star DB Jalen Mills.

Rankings: ESPN No. 11, Rivals No. 9, Scout No. 11.
The Skinny: Steve Spurrier has gradually built his program into a force to be reckoned with. The recruiting gods are definitely smiling on the Gamecocks these days. Landing the No. 1 prospect in the nation last year (DE Jadeveon Clowney) was a huge shot in the arm, and SoCar continues to hum along.
Biggest win: Four-star WR Kwinton Smith is another massive target at 6-4, 200 pounds. He chose the Gamecocks over offers from Florida, Auburn, Alabama, LSU, Tennessee, and many others.
Head-to-head: Right on the heels of Smith’s verbal, SC got another big-time WR in Shaq Roland, who spurned Alabama and Georgia. Spurrier has absolutely plundered the state of Georgia with seven of his 18 commitments.

Rankings: ESPN No. 17, Rivals No. 24, Scout No. 31.
The Skinny: Mark Richt is taking care of business on his home turf, as 10 of Georgia’s 12 verbals are in-state prospects. UGA will benefit from a deep and talented crop in the state this year.
Biggest win: The Jacksonville Bolles connection struck again, as Florida lost another high-profile offensive lineman when five-star John Theus followed his brother to the Dawgs.
Head-to-head: The Bulldogs got a package deal in defensive teammates Jonathan Taylor and James Deloach, who picked Georgia over FSU. The two also had offers from Florida, Alabama, Auburn, LSU and South Carolina.

Rankings: ESPN No. 21, Rivals No. 25, Scout No. 23.
The Skinny: Derek Dooley had Big Orange fans worried with just two verbals deep into the summer. But the Vols have bounced back in July with 13 more, including seven prospects with four-star ratings from ESPN.
Biggest win: The Volunteers needed a running back in the worst way and were able to pluck four-star LaDarrell McNeil out of Texas. He picked UT over Texas A&M and Oklahoma State.
Head-to-head: Four-star WR Drae Bowles picked the Vols over Vanderbilt and Arkansas. The Vols also grabbed another key commit away from Texas A&M in MLB Dalton Santos and pulled four verbals out of Georgia.

Rankings: ESPN No. 25, Rivals No. 37, Scout No. 36.
The Skinny: Shocked to see Vandy even mentioned in this context? You’re not alone. New coach James Franklin has come on like gangbusters, selling his stalwart academic institution as another Stanford-type of program. It’s working.
Biggest win: Four-star RB Brian Kimbrow picked VU over Auburn, Tennessee and Notre Dame.
Head-to-head: The ‘Dores have pulled four significant prospects — all on defense — out of talent-rich Georgia.

Contact Jeff Barlis at (352) 374-5066 or and follow at


  1. I think we have a good shot at beating bama and fsu if we can score on bamas defense and pressure their young quaterback I think its a possibility. As for fsu I thinl they are overrated in my opionion we will see for sure this weekend

  2. Who says they’re winning now? The QB that just committed is’nt any more impressive than the TWO studs we signed this year. I know they’re stock piling DEs (5 I think) but they can only play 2. We have a huge edge when it comes to recruiting the secondary. Our OL class is shaping up to be the best in the country and we just, a year and half ago, signed what many called the best DL recruiting class, maybe ever. I’m not ready to concede anything to FSU.

  3. Concede to FSU????? Are they joking? What have they won lately? They finally had a decent season last year? Big deal and they won what????
    If I recall we won 2 National Championships in the last 5 years and 3 13-1 records in that period and we call 8-5 a down year? Heck that is an FSU good year in the last 8 years…..
    Bottom line is FSU is always going to be an also ran to the winners in the SEC! In addition when you kick in the strngth of the ACC Vs SEC when the BCS voting kicks in they will never get a shot at the BCS title game unless its a weird year in the SEC( aka we eat our young)..
    They won some recruits when Urban was having a hard time …but in the long term who do they want to play for? The gators with a Pro Coaching staff and a phenominal Stadium and the SEC following or the ACC which has won how many National Titles in the last 6 years??? Do I hear the number ZERO versus 6? Thought so!!!
    Enjoy the SEC Noles, you want no part of us game after game after game
    Go Gators!!! Bob in Jupiter, Fla…

  4. Come on guys. We can’t forget history or we are doomed to repeat it. FSU was the top dog in the 90’s, and we shouldn’t be so mean spirited in our comparisons. Love thy neighbor and all that. Please can’t we all just get along? I know the Gators will be back in the mix soon enough, but my word those Noles look good this year.

  5. Plenty elite athletes in state of FL…… but how about a sharper eval-system….. I tire of a nation leading runner showing up at Oklahoma who
    was born-raised & trained on FL soil (Richardson-‘Bama) plus some we mis-evaluate & don’t pursue?
    Hey, get an australian rugby guy for punting. check on tall, fast,
    big-hands basketball player for pass receiver…. they exist.

  6. FSU will sign Eddie Goldman and Tracy Howard….we will finish with Diggs and either Jenkins, Bullard, and SPence. We will be right there either 1 or 2.

    RealityBItes…….FSU was only top dog because of UF and Miami probation. There is NO lOVE for those bastards…..period

  7. FSU wont sign Tracy Howard and it won’t even be close. I hate that rumor. I know that high school program well enough to know the influence those coaches have on the kids and calling the kid an FSU lean is absolutely misguided

  8. The only thing made everyone say FSU is back was that they beat the Gators. This led to a better recruiting class for FSU. If and when FSU loses to the Gators this year, it will crush their spirit. Their strength right now is that the players are buying in and believing. But it’s more delicate than it appears. Crush them this year and the effect will carry over for years to come.

  9. I feel pretty good about this class. We just need to finish strong in the WR and DE department(which we will do). It is also a fact that our coaches are much better than FSU’s. College football is half recruiting and half coaching them after you get them. You have to do both to win the in the SEC.

  10. I didnt comment to Tick off other Gator fans. I just think that Jimbo is a Saban diciple and he is literally building a copy cat to Alabama. They are building 300+ linemen on both sides of the ball, killer 6foot 3 average sized linebackers and a great secondary JUST LIKE WE DID when we went 13-1 several years. As we know, Alabama gives us fits and if a team is building EXACTLY like Alabama and has tons of Florida atheletes to do it, it simply concerns me as a Gator! Whats so disloyal about stating the obvious??

  11. GatorGeorge has some valid points, but FSU is still far from Alabama’s level. Of the coaches Saban trained up, Will was the best, not Jimbo. And we also have to factor is Weis. Great football minds. I am excited about this coaching staff.

  12. I am a Nole but I come in peace!!! As a Nole reading your site, I give big props to the way you guys ran the yard for years, but DC Gator that the two schools takes turns going to the top and right now it is our turn. I never think that we are so good that we are just going to beat you guys just because we are FSU. That would be ridiculous because we recruit from the same pool! Even if we are undefeated when we meet you it doesnt mean we will automatically beat you. As far as coaches I have to disagree with Bob about coaching. Just because Weiss and other Gator coaches were in the NFL does not mean they will dominate 18-22 year old kids (See Weiss at Notre Dame where college defenses ate up the pro style offense they ran). Cory, you WILL NOT get Diggs and Spence to leave their states and come to Gainesville. Gator George, there is nothing wrong with stating the obvious. The obvious is that both teams are darned good.

  13. If teams are gonna get florida it better be this year and thats not a garuntee…Muschamp is not on a five year plan and he is really in the mix for some great prospects this year on top of the the top 4 class we have now..Bama, Georgia, FSU, even Clemson and Ohio Stae capitalized on Urban leaving as far as recruiting was concerned last year I could name players on each of those teams that would be at florida today if Urban was still the coach..So as Muschamp continues to develop relationships with the countries elite the richer in talent florida will continue to be. When Comparing FSU TO UF it is none…Better fan base…Better facilities…Better education…Just better…Soon it will be like it use to be Fsu getting what UF left over because we couldnt gray shirt them..

  14. GatorGeorge you have to remember that a lot of our fans are very young and have no concept of what losing was like. They live in the moment, and truly believe that any coach or player who signs with this university is the best in the country just because of the fact that they are a Gator. They can’t be bothered with the facts, it all based on feeling.

  15. GatorGuy,
    May I state something that you forget about when it comes to these kids who are only 17 to 18 year old when they are recuited? I have spoken to players here and they tell you straight out that the fact that Tallahassee has more women between FSU, FAMU and TCC and more things in the city than just FSU, it makes a difference. I think most of you guys think truly about football. If you can play, you will go pro whether you are at FSU or UF. Tim Jernigan recently said he loves Gainesville but it cannot compete with the sheer volume of women in Tallahassee, especially for African American men(FAMU is easy pickins and there is no pool of 15 African American women in Gainesville). Take off your football blinders and think like a 17-18 year old guy and tell me that partying and sheer volume of women do not matter???

  16. Cory,
    ARE YOU KIDDING ME??? THAT IS TOTALL B.S!!! The University of Miami has NO facilities, and dont even have a stadium on their campus and pull big time players, and many of them say it is because it is the city of Miami where women are in abundance and parties are held daily!!! You have better facilities than FSU overall, but you cant touch the partying or number of women in Tallahassee OR Miami. I agree with you that in football terms only, the University of Florida is very hard to beat, but you are out of your mind if you think thats all 18 year old men think about in choosing a college! WHERE IN THE WORLD HAVE YOU BEEN THE PAST 2 DECADES!!!

  17. NicktheNole……….You obviously have some issues as we know Gators and Noles cannot coexist in peace. I guess you are on our site as you got tired of trying to read the coloring pages on your sites. You disagree with Bob – well I disagree with you posting on this site. Keep your endless drivel for your friends in Tally – you will see what Weiss can do with an offense……..

  18. Just the facts its girls everywhere…Especially when you are a high profile football player so thats B.S. i see florida athletes in the club in Gainesvilleand I see plenty of them in Jacksonville and daytona on open weeks etc…Thats the lamess excuse you can give for that reason. And of course Tim go say that NOW… hE WASNT TALKIN THAT BEFORE URBAN LEFT THO…str8 up…GET REAL!!!!