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Urban renewal

Boasting a loaded class, Florida has become USC East

Posted: Tuesday February 6, 2007 2:41PM; Updated: Wednesday February 7, 2007 10:35AM
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Known as a prolific text messenger, Florida's Urban Meyer employs an aggressive,
Known as a prolific text messenger, Florida's Urban Meyer employs an aggressive, "take no prisoners" mentality in recruiting.
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A charismatic, uber-energetic head coach takes over a tradition-rich program fallen on hard times. Despite a rocky first season, he manages to take the recruiting world by storm, convincing a host of elite prospects from around the country they can step in and play right away. Then, after leading his team to a surprisingly successful second season, he takes his recruiting dominance to an even higher level to the point where he's now basically cherry-picking whichever five-star prospects he desires.

Such was the story of USC's Pete Carroll back when the Trojans began their remarkable run of four straight recruiting classes (2003-06) ranked No. 1 by at least one major service. Today, one could apply almost the same exact description to Florida's Urban Meyer.

A year after coming within a hair of the Trojans for the mythical national recruiting title -- and just a month after its stunning national title victory over Ohio State -- Meyer's program is not only expected to land the nation's top-ranked recruiting class Wednesday but is also suddenly drawing all sorts of comparisons to another recruiting powerhouse on the opposite Coast.

"They're the new USC," SuperPrep publisher Allen Wallace said of the Gators. "They're the new place to be right now."

"This is definitely one of the top two or three classes [this decade], along with Southern Cal's two really good classes [in 2003 and '04]," said Rivals.com analyst Mike Farrell. "They're getting anyone they want, anytime they want."

Heading into National Signing Day, Florida had commitments from 19 players rated as four- or five-star prospects by Rivals.com. The Gators landed nine of the nation's top-100 prospects, headlined by two of Rivals.com's top four defensive linemen (Carlos Dunlap and Torrey Davis), the No. 2 offensive lineman (James Wilson), two top-six quarterbacks (Cameron Newton and John Brantley) and a top-eight defensive back (Major Wilson). On Wednesday, they could add another top-100 prospect, receiver Deonte Thompson.

Only one other team has reeled in such a sheer amount of star power -- yep, USC. The Trojans will also welcome at least nine top-100 players, led by DE Everson Griffin, WR Ronald Johnson, LB Chris Gallipo and RB Marc Tyler. They were still awaiting word from the nation's top running back, Joe McKnight. It's only because they're signing a smaller class than most that the Trojans won't be able to finish No. 1 again.

For much of the '90s, Florida State was the "it" school in recruiting. Mack Brown turned Texas into a premier destination upon arriving in Austin in 1998. Miami was the "cool school" during the Butch Davis and early Larry Coker eras. Carroll, however, took recruiting dominance to a new level upon his 2001 arrival, drawing five-star recruits like a magnet. Now, he may have a worthy adversary in Meyer, who's become famous for the sheer volume of text messages he sends and high schools he visits.

"He's very, very active in recruiting," said Florida co-defensive coordinator Greg Mattison. "Kids definitely connect with him."

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