“If you don’t think South Florida is important to us…. as a coach at Wagner College, the first guy I ever signed, went on to be an All-American, went to Gulliver Prep (in Miami),” Dan Mullen.
The most important state in the Union in terms of football recruiting is Florida. There is a wealth of talent from the Panhandle to the First Coast through the orange groves of central Florida to the Gulf Coast and the Bay Area, but no locale is more talent-rich than South Florida. The Dade/Broward area is full of talent year in, year out.
I’ve heard recruiters say they’ll take a three-star prospect from South Florida over a four-star almost anywhere outside of Florida.
Mullen’s comment doesn’t strike me as odd; any coach would be crazy not to recruit what former Miami coach Howard Schnellenburger called “The State of Miami.”
Well, for months now, I’ve heard that’s just not the case. For months, I’ve heard the University of Florida has made the conscious decision to de-emphasize recruiting South Florida.
This is not to say that Mullen doesn’t have targets in South Florida, what I’ve been told is that he doesn’t value South Florida the way other Gator coaches have, or the way other coaches inside and outside the state, currently do.
My sources around recruiting in state have told me that during the first staff meeting after last December’s early signing period, Mullen made a comment that he wasn’t worried about losing a particular recruit or any kid from Miami or Broward because he won titles without many players from South Florida on his roster.
If he did say that, the statement is both true, and false, depending on how you look at it. The Gators’ 2006 national championship team had 14 players from South Florida. That’s not a huge amount, nor is it insignificant. That same team had 12 players from Gainesville high schools. Gainesville, obviously, has a much smaller population than South Florida. Most importantly, that team had Tim Tebow. He was one of 10 First Coast players on the roster.
That roster had a pretty even mix of in-state players from South Florida, the First Coast, the Tampa-Ft. Myers area and Gainesville along with 20 total out-of-state players to add to those from the Orlando area, Panhandle/Big Bend, and north Florida.
Back to the present day.
What does this tell you about Mullen’s valuation of South Florida? He let numerous coaches and support staffers from the previous staff go who had in-roads to South Florida when he was hired. Having coached at Mississippi State for almost 10 years, Mullen – and the coaches he brought with him – weren’t fixtures in South Florida. The new coaches Mullen hired aren’t known as ace South Florida recruiters.
He’s essentially starting from scratch there.
And remember, those coaches and staffers who were let go are responsible for recruiting a majority of the starters and best players currently on the roster and they also had the No. 1 ranked 2019 recruiting class at one time. Yet, not one coach was retained off the previous staff.
Dan Mullen’s first recruiting class at UF, the 2018 class, featured two South Florida recruits. Jim McElwain’s last class, the 2017 class, had 10.
I rest my case.
Reports indicate the Gators are looking to hire an analyst to develop relationships and run a camp in South Florida.
Think about that. South Florida, the recruiting hot bed of all hot beds, is being left in the hands of quality control guys. This means Mullen is essentially allowing recruiting services to dictate who he feels the best prospects are and just shooting your shot with a few of the top guys. That’s not a focus.
Compare this approach with the University of Miami, obviously, FSU, and other major Power 5 teams who are pouring over the recruits in the area, trying to create deeper in-roads. Florida has one of its younger coaches, Brian Johnson, who is from Texas with no real experience recruiting the area, in charge of Broward and Dade?
Most teams put their ace recruiter in charge of that area.
It’s almost as if Mullen took a look at the map of Florida and put a circle around Dade and south Broward and said, ”hey guys, this area here, least important area in country to me. Johnson, your area, have fun.”
When looking at what’s important to a school, one must look at how they allocate their resources. This isn’t showing much effort.
Recruiting is a marathon and not a sprint. As kids commit and decommit you start getting a better idea of where your school stands in regards to prospects.
I get a lot of intel from sources inside of The Big 3 programs in the state of Florida, a lot of it rumors, but typically where there is smoke there is fire. From what I’m being told, it could be that Mullen really just feels that those Meyer UF teams didn’t need to rely heavily on the Broward/Dade influence.
Recruiting boards change. Maybe once a few prospects are missed, Mullen will put a bull’s eye on his remaining South Florida “targets.” When all is said and done, Florida will sign a class that is 20-plus and likely includes a couple South Florida players. One has to wonder, however, what it could be if that area was really a focus.
Also interesting to wonder is how players currently on the team from South Florida would feel if they were to think their coach is not high on the area they call home. Will recruits from the area feel like they’re not really important since he doesn’t need them to win?
Article Originally Appeared on Gridiron Now: http://gridironnow.com/gators-appear-to-be-de-emphasizing-south-florida-recruiting