Urban renewal (cont.)
Posted: Tuesday February 6, 2007 2:41PM; Updated: Wednesday February 7, 2007 10:35AM
Certainly, Florida and USC are hardly the only recruiting powers out there. Texas and LSU have become regular staples in the top five and Tennessee is headed toward its second top-three class in three years. But as long as Carroll and Meyer hold their current jobs, it's easy to imagine USC and Florida battling each other for No. 1 on an annual basis.
"Florida and USC are the two biggest octopuses in the [recruiting] game right now," said Wallace. "They have the widest reach."
The parallels between the two programs extend beyond their head coaches. Both benefit from a large and talent-rich home state. Both offer the luxury of warm-weather climates. And both boast recent national championship trophies.
Where the Trojans and Gators have truly distinguished themselves, however, is in their ability to recruit nationally. The foundation of any good class is locking down the best in-state players (or in Florida's case, getting more of them than Florida State or Miami) but, "the difference between Florida and Southern Cal [compared with] Texas and LSU is they can go into another state and get the No. 1 kid out of that state," said Farrell.
In USC's case the past few years, that's meant luring the likes of WR Dwayne Jarrett and LB Brian Cushing from New Jersey, RB LenDale White from Colorado and WR Mike Williams and LB Keith Rivers from Florida.
A year ago, the Gators beat out USC and others to land star receiver Percy Harvin out of Virginia. It was a sign of things to come. This year's class of Gators will likely include top-100 catches from South Carolina (Dunlap), Georgia (Newton) and Connecticut (tight end Aaron Hernandez) and highly rated defensive end Justin Trattou from New Jersey.
Perhaps no prospect better exemplifies the Gators' current drawing power than Trattou, a long-standing Notre Dame commitment who was not even on Florida's radar a month ago. The combination of the Gators' title-game domination of Ohio State, in which defensive ends Jarvis Moss and Derrick Harvey stole the show, and the Irish's decision to hire a new defensive coordinator, Corwin Brown, who plans to change ND's scheme from a 4-3 to a 3-4, prompted Trattou to take an unexpected visit to Gainesville the weekend of Jan. 19. Six days later, he became the third of six four- or five-star recruits who have publicly committed to the Gators just since the national championship game.
"Recruiting is all about momentum," said Meyer. "Kids want to play for winners. We're kind of the hot team right now."
Florida's relentlessness in recruiting has rubbed some the wrong way. Trattou is one of a staggering eight players who've decommitted from another team to play for the Gators. The others include blue-chippers Wilson (from USC), Dunlap (from South Carolina), Brantley (from Texas) and twin offensive-linemen Michael and Maurkice Pouncey (from Florida State).
Switching commitments has become an increasingly common trend in recruiting, however, and Florida is hardly the only team that's benefited from them this year. (The Gators themselves have lost a couple of previously committed players to other schools -- DE D'Angelo McCray to Illinois, CB Bert Reed to Florida State and DE Sidell Corley to LSU, and they could lose a fourth, CB DeMarcus Van Dyke, on Wednesday.)
"That's to their credit. They're taking no prisoners," said Wallace. "You better believe all the schools that are getting kids taken away from the Gators are now trying to take away players from other schools."
That "take-no-prisoners" approach begins with Meyer, a relentless recruiter who always seems to be focused on his next wave of stars. Last weekend, while most teams around the country hosted a final round of official visits from prospective signees, Florida had its class nearly wrapped up and hosted 35 of the state's top high school juniors. On Saturday night, Meyer flew to Miami to attend the Super Bowl. It's not clear how much of the Colts' victory he actually watched, however.
"I spent half the game text [messaging] recruits," said Meyer.
Here's guessing this won't be his last top-ranked recruiting class.