Florida lost its first commitment since the season started on Tuesday when linebacker Jerome Baker flipped to Ohio State.
Unfortunately for the Gators, Baker is likely a sign of things to come.
With UF coach Will Muschamp’s job in jeopardy, the once-promising outlook for Florida’s 2015 class can’t even be seen through orange and blue glasses now.
“The recruiting class is done,” said Mike Farrell, the national recruiting analyst for Rivals. “I think it’s going to fall apart, and then you’ll see a resurgence once they get a new head coach. If they do things right and hire him before Christmas, they’ll make a strong charge down the stretch.”
The Gators currently have 10 verbal commitments, and their 2015 class isn’t ranked higher than 44th nationally by Rivals, Scout or 247Sports. But with several top prospects still uncommitted and planning to decide on signing day, Farrell feels UF can finish well with a coaching change.
“Florida is a great place,” he said. “It’s got the college atmosphere, the tremendous tradition, the great fan base, the big stadium. And when it comes to recruiting, Florida is a Ferrari.
“But right now, the program itself has so much negativity around it that these kids will see positivity elsewhere and gravitate towards it. Some kids that get turned off will regain interest, but it has to be a home-run hire that they know.”
UF athletic director Jeremy Foley issued a statement Monday indicating that Muschamp was still being evaluated. But in Farrell’s opinion, waiting until the end of this season to pull the plug will hurt recruiting.
“From what I’ve seen over the years, it’s always better to fire a coach during the season,” he said. “Some schools don’t do that, but it’s always better. You can name your interim coach, who is usually a highly respected member of the staff and a pretty good recruiter, like D.J. Durkin.
“Then you have an opportunity for that coach to say, ‘I might be the guy next year or I might be on staff.’ But with Muschamp, there’s zero percent chance he’s going to be retained. So you might as well send somebody out on the recruiting trail who has a chance to be retained.”
Although Farrell and the majority of the college football world thinks Muschamp’s days in Gainesville are numbered, some of Florida’s top recruiting targets don’t want to see him go.
Five-star prospects Damien Harris, Jacques Patrick and CeCe Jefferson all supported Muschamp on their Twitter accounts Tuesday.
@Damien_D1Harris I agree with this 100%
— The Boy Nino (@jacques_patrick) October 21, 2014
@cecejeferson7 they better bro.
— The Boy Nino (@jacques_patrick) October 22, 2014
UF offensive line commit George Brown told The Sun he’s worried about Muschamp’s job, but it’s not a determining factor in his recruitment.
“It’s definitely something that I think about, but I just love the University of Florida,” Brown said. “It’s not just the coaches. It’s the campus, the academics and the relationships I have with everybody there. I feel like I made a great decision. If a coaching change does happen, that won’t affect me.”