Recruits were hit hard Sunday by the news of Will Muschamp’s firing at Florida.
The move will eventually lead to better 2015 recruiting results for the Gators, but prospects were not happy about seeing the embattled coach lose his job.
Byron Cowart, a five-star defensive end from Seffner Armwood, attended UF’s overtime loss against South Carolina on Saturday.
“I want to say it’s shocking to see him go, but then again it’s not,” Cowart said of Muschamp. “I’m flabbergasted. Things like this happen. I’m still interested in Florida, but I’m sad for him.”
Cowart, the top-ranked overall prospect on Rivals.com, has been personally recruited by Muschamp since his sophomore year of high school.
“This is not just a coach that I talk to every now and then,” Cowart said. “I’ve actually met this guy and built a relationship with him. It’s a business, though. I just feel for him. I know he’ll start over and find another job.”
Cowart said he doesn’t have a preference on what kind of coach UF hires, but he’s confident that it will be a good one.
“I’m not worried about that,” said Cowart, who plans to decide on signing day. “This just let’s me know that Florida is serious about their football. Whoever Florida hires is going to be there because they know he can make things happen. I know Jeremy Foley is not going to get just anybody.”
Cowart is one of many recruits who will now be in wait-and-see mode with Florida’s coaching search.
“I don’t really know what to say right now,” said Jeff Holland, a four-star linebacker from Jacksonville Trinity Christian. “Me and coach Muschamp had a really good relationship. It’s tough.
“It really doesn’t affect my interest in Florida. I really just have to see what the new coaching staff looks like, but I still love Florida to death.”
Under Armour All-Americans Cowart and Holland have favored UF for more than a year, but the uncertainty surrounding Muschamp has kept them and other recruits of their caliber from pulling the trigger.
The Gators have nine verbal commitments for 2015 at this time, and their class is ranked 32nd by ESPN, 54th by Scout, 62nd by 247Sports and 72nd by Rivals.
The only Florida commits who appear to be wavering are U.S. Army All-American wide receiver Derrick Dillon of Franklinton (La.) Pine and consensus four-star quarterback Sheriron Jones of Moreno Valley (Calif.) Rancho Verde.
Another U.S. Army All-American, tight end Devonaire Clarington, said his interest in the Gators is on hold for now. The four-star prospect from Miami Booker T. Washington attended the LSU game last month and plans to officially visit in December.
“It’s depressing,” said Clarington, ESPN’s top-ranked tight end. “Now Florida has to get a new coaching staff. It’s hard for me to be interested in Florida when I don’t know who the coaches are going to be.
“The good thing is my official isn’t till next month, so I’ll have a chance to meet the new staff. If I like them, then Florida is still an option. I want the next coach to keep T-Rob.”
Defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson, Florida’s ace recruiter, is the primary contact for UF with Clarington and several other 2015 targets. Of all the current assistants, Robinson may have the best chance of staying on with the new staff because of his recruiting ability.
Gators offensive line commit George Brown hopes Mike Summers remains in Gainesville, but he’s solid to Florida no matter what.
“I want coach Summers to stay, I really liked him,” Brown said. “But regardless of what happens, I’m still a Gator. I just love the university and I love Gator Nation.”
Five star Martez Ivey on Muschamp news: “Dont have much to say. Its about winning games but you can’t commit to a school off a coach.”
— Blake Alderman (@MistaAlderman) November 16, 2014
CeCe Jefferson on if he’s still considering UF: “Definitely man, as long as coach Lawing is there I’m still considering.”
— Derek Tyson (@DerekTysonESPN) November 16, 2014
I’m lost of words for coach Muschamp. But he is a great coach, and a even better man on a personal level. Nothing but love for him!
— Adonis Thomas (@_SimplyThatGuy5) November 16, 2014
Even Though I’m A Nole I Have Nothing But Respect For Coach Champ On The Field And Off
— DreamTeam (@GeorgeCampbell0) November 16, 2014
Coach Muschamp is a great coach and a great man. I have the utmost respect for him.
— Tyler Jordan#71 (@tyjordan58) November 16, 2014
— Heavy Chocolate (@_bsandifer) November 16, 2014