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Florida Gators' uncertainty alters Sunshine State recruiting

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Florida State and Miami are holding their own in the state. But with the Gators struggling, out-of-state schools are swooping in. Can Florida turn it around?

California. Texas. Florida. The big three states in college football recruiting are recruited by almost every school, regardless of distance. And often, whoever controls those states is near the top of the college football world.

The state has 46 blue-chip prospects this year, and 32 are currently verbally committed.

This year, Florida State controls the Sunshine State, with nine commitments rating four- or five-stars on the 247Sports Composite, including four of the state's top 10 in safety Derwin James (Haines City), cornerback Tarvarus McFadden (Ft. Lauderdale's American Heritage), running back Jacques Patrick (Orlando's Timber Creek) and receiver George Campbell (Tarpon Springs' East Lake), having added Patrick and McFadden just this week. Twelve of Florida State's 20 commitments come from the Sunshine State, and the class ranks second only in the country to Alabama.

The team with the second-most blue-chips from Florida? Miami, with five, including a trio of running backs in Jordan Scarlett (Ft. Lauderdale's St. Thomas Aquinas), Mark Walton (Miami's Booker T. Washington) and Dexter Williams (Orlando's West Orange). In all, 15 of Miami's 20 commitments are from the state.

Prospects leaving the state

One emerging trend is the number of top prospects who are leaving the state. Only 14 of the state's 32 currently committed blue-chip recruits are committed to Florida schools (43 percent). That percentage is lower in comparison to the 50 percent mark of the 2014 class, the 46 percent from 2013, the 47 percent in 2012 or the 51 percent in 2011.

This year, the team with the third-most blue-chip recruits from Florida is actually Clemson, with four, including five-star receiver Deon Cain (Tampa Bay Tech), receiver Ray Ray McCloud III (Tampa Sickles), offensive tackle Jake Fruhmorgen (Tampa Plant) and tight end Garrett Williams (Orlando First Academy).

The teams with the next most? Alabama and West Virginia, tied with three apiece.

Gators

One major reason for the increase in talent fleeing? Florida. The Gators do not have a single four- or five-star recruit committed from the Sunshine State. In fact, Florida has only two prospects rated in the top 100 -- Nos. 57 and 95. Only four of Florida's nine commitments are from the state. Over the last four classes, the Gators have signed 34 Florida preps rated four- or five-stars, so this is wildly out of the norm.

Prospects speak well of Florida's young, energetic staff. It connects well with recruits. But given the uncertainty going forward with the future of coach Will Muschamp, recruits are taking a wait-and-see approach to pledging for the Gators.

Sports Illustrated's Pete Thamel reported that other Florida commitments have looked into flipping their pledges, only to be turned away.

Just how tough has it gotten for embattled Florida coach Will Muschamp? So much that an SEC assistant told The Inside Read that his program has turned away several Gators commitments who want to change their pledges. "We like who we got better," the assistant said.

That could change, of course, as some of the state's top prospects are still considering the Gators.

Uncommitted

Let's look at where the remaining blue-chip prospects in the state may be leaning.

  • Offensive tackle Martez Ivey, of Apopka, is a battle between the Gators and the Auburn Tigers.
  • Defensive end Byron Cowart, of Seffner Armwood, is also considering Alabama, Oregon, and FSU, but the vast majority of recruiting experts see him in orange and blue.
  • CeCe Jefferson, of Baker County, is enamored with Ole Miss and interested in Alabama, but is still expected to sign with the Gators at this point.
  • Athlete Torrance Gibson, of Ft. Lauderdale (Fla.) American Heritage appears headed to Ohio State to play QB in Urban Meyer's spread option attack. Many schools believe he could be a great receiver.
  • Receiver Da'Vante Phillips, of Miami (Fla.) Central is considered a lock to Florida State.
  • Florida is very much in the mix for four-star lineman Kendrick Norton and four-star linebacker Jeffrey Holland, both of Jacksonville's Trinity Christian, with Auburn being the biggest competition there.
  • Miami appears to be in a strong position for tight end/defensive end Devonaire Clarington, of Miami (Fla.) Booker T. Washington.
  • Athlete Tim Irvin, of Miami (Fla.) Westminster Christian, is strongly considering Miami and has interest in Florida, as well.
  • Guard Jalen Merrick, of New Smyrna Beach, is very interested in Florida, Florida State, Arkansas and Miami.
  • Cornerback Davante Davis, of Miami (Fla.) Booker T. Washington, is going to be a very interesting battle between Miami, Florida State, Florida, Ohio State and Georgia, with plenty of official visits left.
  • Receiver Ryan Davis, of St. Petersburg Lakewood High School is picked by many to attend Florida State, but Florida seems like the much smarter bet at this point, as FSU seems unlikely to have an open scholarship at the position with three current commits and Phillips on the way.

It's also worth keeping an eye on receiver Antonio Callaway, of Miami Booker T. Washington, and defensive end Shelton Johnson, of Delray Beach Atlantic, both of whom are quickly rising up the recruiting rankings. Callaway will be an intense Florida-Miami battle, and Florida State is hot after Johnson.

Despite having such a poor class on Halloween, all is not lost in Gainesville. But it also doesn't appear that recruits are in any hurry to make a move until they determine whether Florida will make one of its own.

DT particularly weak

Schools looking for defensive tackle help are advised to look outside the Sunshine State this year, as no defensive tackles are currently ranked in the top 120.