JACKSONVILLE, FL - JANUARY 02: Head Coach Will Muschamp of the Florida Gators celebrates with his players after defeating the Ohio State Buckeyes 24-17 in the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl at EverBank Field on January 2, 2012 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
The off-season recruiting interview series continues as Lance Davis of Florida blog Alligator Army stops over to talk Florida Gators recruiting. With 15 commitments, to quote George Strait, Will Muschamp has been able to "bring Texas East", copying the Longhorns' strategy of landing most of the class early in the process.
Florida signed a consensus top-three recruiting class in 2012. What was the most important thing that Florida did in its 2012 class? Was there any sense of disappointment with the way Florida closed?
The key for Florida in 2012 was addressing the needs on both lines of scrimmage. Will Muschamp constantly refers to the SEC as a "line-of-scrimmage league," and Florida lacked depth and talent on both lines. The Gators signed 10 players on the line of scrimmage: eight on defense, but only two on offense. While the two offensive linemen – D.J. Humphries and Jessamen Dunker – were considered elite prospects, Florida needed to sign more than two. That’s being addressed in the 2013 class. There was definitely some sense of disappointment on Signing Day. Florida was in the mix for a number of elite prospects, but ultimately came up short on all of them except Dante Fowler. Tracy Howard was a Gator until he took a surprise visit to Miami the weekend before Signing Day. UF finished second or third for Stefon Diggs, Darius Hamilton, Nelson Agholor, Josh Harvey-Clemons and Avery Young. So, I’d consider the way Florida closed a disappointment, but the overall class was a success.
What misses in the 2012 class must now be addressed in the class of 2013? On the flip side, what position(s) were not a need with the 2012 class due to returning players, but will now be a need in 2013 due to graduation/attrition?
Offensive line and wide receiver are the biggest needs in 2013. Florida needed to sign three or four linemen in 2012, but only signed two. UF will look to sign five in 2013 and already have three committed. Laremy Tunsil is the top offensive lineman on the board. Well, he’s the top overall player on the board. But he’s a huge prospect that Florida can’t let get away. The Gators let wide receivers Nelson Agholor and Stefon Diggs get away and came away without an elite receiver in the Class of 2012. Florida will sign three or four receivers in 2013 and gained a commitment from Ahmad Fulwood, the top receiver on the Gators’ board, at the Orange and Blue Debut.
Which commitment(s) in the 2013 class have been the most important for Florida?
Nick Washington. Once he committed, Florida’s chances with Ahmad Fulwood, Washington’s close friend, went way up. The two visited Florida shortly after Washington committed, and Fulwood almost committed then. He ultimately committed at the spring game. Another one of Washington’s close friends, DeMarcus Walker, is close to pulling the trigger for the Gators. He came close to committing at the spring game, but will visit Alabama this weekend before making a decision.
Which commitments to other schools have been the most damaging? Will Florida be able to flip the recruits committed to the other schools, and if not, who will Florida pursue to fill the need?
So far there hasn’t been a recruit commit elsewhere that has been a huge loss for Florida. If Charlie Weis were still offensive coordinator, it’d be Brice Ramsey, a current Georgia commit. Currently, I don’t see Florida flipping any recruits as of now. But it’s still early, so once more prospects commit, who knows?
Quarterbacks Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel are both true sophomores. This has transfer written all over it. Does Florida’s recruiting approach assume this as well?
Regardless of what either says, I still feel the loser of the quarterback battle will transfer. I think the coaches feel the same way, and that’s part of why they added Skyler Mornhinweg to the 2012 class. Florida plans to add another one in 2013, and that should provide solid depth if one of Brissett and Driskel transfers.
How many recruits do you expect Florida to take in the 2013 class? If possible, can you provide a position breakdown?
I see Florida signing a class of 23-25. UF will lose around 17 players to graduation, two or three underclassmen could enter the NFL Draft, and after attrition I expect there will be around 23-25 spots available. I see Florida signing one quarterback, three running backs, three receivers, no tight ends, five offensive linemen, one defensive tackle, two defensive ends, five linebackers and four defensive backs.
Let’s talk negative recruiting. Do you buy the rumors that Florida has been the victim of negative recruiting due to Aubrey Hill’s lack of developing receivers, or previously, Charlie Weis’ weight and use of a cane? If so, what can Muschamp do to combat the practice? What do you make of allegations from Miami folks that members of Florida’s staff were engaged in negative recruiting in the 2012 cycle?
It’s possible, and I’m sure there was some negative recruiting to a certain extent, but there’s nothing to make me believe it was blatant. Aubrey Hill has only been at Florida for one full season, so blaming him for the lack of developed wide receivers would be inaccurate. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time Charlie Weis has been the victim of negative recruiting. As far as his weight and cane, I could see that being difficult for some coaches to leave unmentioned. It’s crazy the things coaches will do to gain an advantage with a recruit, though. So while I don’t have any reason to believe it happened, I wouldn’t be shocked if it did. For Muschamp, though, it’s all about selling the University of Florida. The weather’s great. The conference is always competing for national titles. He’s been able to sell early playing time, something Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher did effectively his first couple seasons at FSU. You can get a great education at UF. As Muschamp said at SEC Media Days in 2011, "I really don’t worry about what anybody else does. I worry about the University of Florida."
Let’s talk recruiting base. The state of Florida has long been known for speed, and perhaps lacking a bit of power. There’s an interesting dynamic going on in the state right now that has Florida State, Florida and Miami all looking to recruit big players, both on offense and defense. Despite the abundance of speed in the state, all three seem to be willing to give up a considerable amount of speed for any appreciable increase in bulk. Does Muschamp have the right idea, or is there a certain "Moneyball"-esque inefficiency that is not being exploited by the Gators, Noles and Canes?
Muschamp seems to want to build Florida into the Alabama mold and overpower opponents with size all over the field. I don’t think it’s anything new, but rather it’s that styles of play are cyclical. The saying "history repeats itself" applies to styles of play, too. But here’s the secret about Urban Meyer’s Florida teams that were built on speed: they were power teams, too, just not in the traditional manner. Tim Tebow was the power back. Receivers like Riley Cooper and David Nelson were over 6’4", 200 pounds and were great blockers on the edge. The defense, built around Brandon Spikes, was tough, nasty and overpowered offenses. Muschamp does, however, seem to be placing a much higher priority on size. The styles of offense and defense he wants to run don’t call for a lot of players who can run a sub-4.4 40; it calls for players who can manhandle the opposition with size and strength. I think Muschamp, Jimbo Fisher and Al Golden have the right idea, just because it’s going to take bulk to beat the big boys. A great example is last year’s Oregon-LSU game.
What is Will Muschamp’s recruiting style? Where would you rank him against the other recruiters in the conference? Does he have the ability to turn off the defensive coordinator mentality and win in living rooms?
Nick Saban is certainly the cream of the crop when it comes to head coaches and recruiting. His consistent top-five classes speak for themselves. Will Muschamp has only signed two classes, only one of which he had the whole year to recruit. His first class, he was handed Urban Meyer’s recruits and only had two and a half months left till Signing Day 2011. His first full recruiting year, 2012, was a huge success, signing a top-five class nationally. And he’s well on his way to doing that again this year. So I’d definitely put him up there as one of the conference’s top recruiters, even with the small sample size. He was known as a top-notch recruiter as an assistant coach at Texas, too.
Of course, Muschamp doesn’t do it all himself. Let’s talk assistants and staff. Who are the recruiting assistants we should know?
Linebackers coach D.J. Durkin tore it up in the Class of 2012, particularly in North Carolina. He took the lead on the recruitments of Jonathan Bullard, D.J. Humphries, Rhaheim Ledbetter and Alex McCalister. Rivals.com named him the recruiter of the year for 2012. Another solid recruiter is defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson, or as recruits call him, "T-Rob." You see in a lot of interviews with Florida targets, many of them mention their relationship with Robinson and how he’s a funny, relaxed guy.
With 15 commitments, Florida is well on its way to another top recruiting year. Which recruits do you feel confident in the Gators’ chances of landing?
As of now, I’m confident Florida will land offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil, one or two of defensive backs Vernon Hargreaves III, MacKensie Alexander, Leon McQuay III and Marcell Harris (probably Harris) and defensive ends Elijah Daniel and DeMarcus Walker. For the remaining players, the coaches will likely wait to see more film, get the guys in for camps, evaluate their senior seasons and then establish which prospects to prioritize.
A big thanks to Lance Davis for joining us to talk Florida recruiting. For more on Gators football recruiting, visit Alligator Army.
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