Florida’s big recruiting weekend was tainted Thursday with Dan Quinn’s departure to the NFL.
The former UF defensive coordinator will still be in Gainesville when the Gators welcome three of their top targets and a total of 10 verbal commitments. With Quinn on campus to give recruits some closure and linebackers coach D.J. Durkin already hired as his replacement, Florida is able to avoid the instability and uncertainty that usually comes with a coaching change.
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Almost every question I received this week was about Quinn in some form or fashion, so I’ll provide as much insight as I can in this blog.
How does the loss of Coach Quinn affect recruiting? — Darrius, Brian, Herb, Joe, Kaleb, Ken, Marcus, Mike, Tony
First of all, it looks like UF coach Will Muschamp won’t lose any members of his 2013 class as a result.
Most recruits gravitated toward Quinn’s abilities on the sidelines, not the recruiting trail. He was definitely a personable coach and could build relationships, but his NFL background attracted prospects more than anything. Fortunately for Florida, it can still offer that with defensive line coach and future Hall of Famer Bryant Young.
Not to take anything away from Quinn and the phenomenal job he did at UF, but this has been and always will be Muschamp’s defense. He may not call the plays, but all of them go through his headset and his imprint is evident all over the field. Recruits recognize that and want to play in his system.
The most likely commits to waver because of Quinn leaving were defensive tackle Caleb Brantley and defensive lineman Antonio Riles, but both spoke with The Sun on Thursday and said they are still solid with the Gators.
Brantley: “That’s a big loss but I think we’ll be OK. I’m not going anywhere. Coach Young is my primary recruiter and will be my position coach, so he’s really the coach that matters the most to me.”
Riles: “It really hit me. But it’s going to be a better deal for coach Quinn and his family, so you have to understand where they’re coming from and learn to live with it. Coach Young is going to be my position coach when I slide inside (to defensive tackle) and he told me they’re still going to run the same scheme. So I have nothing to worry about.”
The last defensive lineman commit who is not enrolled early is Jordan Sherit, and he weighed in on Twitter along with others.
DE Jordan Sherit: “It’s still Muschamp’s defense. I wish Coach Quinn nothing but the best, one of the realest coaches I’ve ever met. … All this means is that in 4 years I’m trying to head to Seattle!!”
DB Nick Washington: “Congrats to Coach Quinn and his new job, wish I could have played for him. I’m still a solid commit to the Gators though.”
DB Keanu Neal: “I wish Coach Quinn the best. A pretty big loss, but life goes on. We’ll be fine.”
CB Vernon Hargreaves III: “Coach Quinn is a Gator at heart! Always.”
LB Alex Anzalone: “Sad to see a great coach and man leave in Coach Quinn, but he had to do what was best for him. Go Gators.”
LB Matt Rolin: “Sad to see not only a great coach but a great person leave. Wish Coach Quinn the best of luck with the Seahawks!”
DT Darious Cummings: “(Durkin) is a great coach.”
The only recruit who seems affected by Quinn is 2014 defensive tackle commit Travonte Valentine.
“It’s tough,” he said. “Coach Quinn definitely had a big impact on my recruitment. I wouldn’t say it hurts Florida’s chances, but it definitely hurts me that he’s gone. I’m going to need some time to think things over.”
Quinn shouldn’t have a negative impact on Florida’s 2013 defensive tackle targets because they are primarily recruited by Young, who works exclusively with the interior linemen. I could see this hurting the Gators at defensive end, but Auburn commit Tashawn Bower might be the only realistic option left. Both USC commit Jason Hatcher and Mississippi State commit Chris Jones said prior to the Quinn news that they will no longer visit UF, and Elijah Daniel has reportedly ran into academics issue again (more later).
As for Durkin, I think it’s a great move by Florida. He deserves the opportunity and is one of the best recruiters on the staff. In fact, he was the Rivals.com National Recruiter of the Year for the 2012 class.
Do we have any shot with Robert Nkemdiche? — Uncle Willie, Marcus, Matthew
The slim chance Florida had is now like Quinn — gone. I know Muschamp is the lead recruiter and filled the defensive coordinator opening fast with Durkin, but Quinn was close with Nkemdiche and would have been his position coach.
Regardless, Nkemdiche is a long shot for UF because of his heavy ties to Ole Miss. As most of you know, his brother plays for the Rebels and their mother wants them to attend the same school. Here’s a great Q&A with her and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about Nkemdiche’s recruitment, although that interview was before Florida became a factor (or at least a visit destination) for him.
What’s the latest on Elijah Daniel? — Tamayo, Matthew
The Avon (Ind.) defensive end has always had grades concerns and it kept him from taking an official to UF in the fall. However, in early January he told several media members, including yours truly, that his academics had improved. He maintained that position with me up until last week.
But reports have since surfaced that suggest Daniel’s latest semester didn’t go so well and his Feb. 1 visit is unlikely. If he doesn’t make that trip, he won’t be in Florida’s class. Daniel has not responded to my calls or texts this week, which leads me to believe he has come up short in the classroom.
If things remain that way, look for the Gators to make Bower their top priority moving forward.
That’s all for this week! Be sure to put your questions for the next mailbag in the comment section below!