Early Commitments Define Muschamp's 1st Class

It's never easy to recruit when you have a new coaching staff. Behind other staffs in so many different ways, the staff has to build relationships, scout prospect film, and judge personalities while trying to persuade the one's they want to commit. Florida's head coach made it a point to capitalize on a recruiting class that was mostly assembled upon arrival and not stray to just add numbers.

When Will Muschamp took over the head coaching position at Florida just eight weeks ago there was some immediacy in regards to recruiting that he needed to attend to.

The Florida Gators were sitting at 16 commitments when former head coach Urban Meyer retired. It was a solid group of prospects that would eventually be the core of his Muschamp's first signing class. Despite all the work that had been done, each of these prospects was going to have to totally be re-recruited to Florida. It wasn't an easy task.

"To come in in the short term, we did a nice job of securing the class we had, which we had to re recruit all of those guys because of all the mass changes with our staff," Muschamp told the media Wednesday when the met to discuss the 18 prospects that had officially signed letters of intent. "The staff did a nice job of securing those guys. Just really pleased with what we had, and Urban [Meyer] and his staff did a great job with those guys that were already committed to the university. And then coming back and supplementing some other guys to our football team.

Not all of the prospects stuck with the Gators. There were three casualties that decided they were better served somewhere else. However, Muschamp said Wednesday that he believes it was important to recruit each and every one to stay on board simply because of the trust that was displayed from the initial commitment between the two parties for each prospect.

"I think it's important," he said. "They committed to the University of Florida. So I work for the University of Florida, and I was committed to them. I think that's important. We want to honor that commitment. That's what I was going to do. I think that's the honorable thing to do. So we offered the opportunity for all of those young men to have that opportunity to be committed to Florida.

"Some of those young men decided they wanted to be here. The ones that do, we're going to prosper and move on and have a great career."

The Gators are planning a drastic change on offense and at least some changes on defense that will start to take shape in the spring. There undoubtedly will be conflicts with personnel in regards to their fit in the new styles. The same may be for the committed prospects, but Muschamp says that is something that will work out as they move on and in some cases the staff will adjust accordingly.

"That's part of the hard part of the transition," he said. "As far as where you want to go schematically, you watch the film from last season, but I still have certain concerns about position. Where do these guys fit with what we want to do offensively, defensively, special teams? And that's a little bit of the issue you get into, where do we need to recruit? What do we need to build up right now?

"I think that all 18 guys are for our system, and I believe that. I think it's your job as a coach to evaluate the talent, to evaluate the player, and to put him in a situation where he can be successful. We're not going to take a scheme and throw it on our player and say, this is what we are. We need to adapt what we do to where we can put the players in the best situation where they can be successful. That's what good coaches do, in my opinion, and that's what I know we're going to try to do to put them in situations where they can be successful.

"It's certainly easy to look at numbers and say, yeah, okay, well. But from a quality standpoint, where do you need to build depth on your football team? That's something we'll know more about as we work through the process."

The small number of the class was never going to be a problem for Muschamp. In fact, the one thing he was not going to do is ‘reach' for a prospect that he felt cannot help the Gators win football games.

"With the 18 kids we've got, I'm excited about them," he said. "Excited about what they bring to the table. They all come in different packages, but I'm excited about what they're bringing to the Gators.

One thing that allowed him to be selective is a roster that he believes is already a pretty good one and a senior class with all of nine players in it. Filling the roster to capacity this recruiting cycle would mean signing a lot fewer players next cycle.

"We have a smaller senior class for next season," Muschamp said. "So I didn't feel like at the end of the process, to make an emotional decision in offering guys that I didn't think could play at, on or off the field, a championship level at the University of Florida. And I'd rather have held those scholarships to the next season to give our staff a whole year to evaluate and recruit.

If the right guys wanted to come Florida would have inked 25, as usual in recruiting, you don't get them all. In the end, he stayed with the 18 with the possibility of a couple of more prospects that the Gators could sign late.

"We could have signed 25 initials, and I held it at 18 there with some other possibilities," he said. "But I'm excited about our signing class coming in.

Muschamp talked about getting started with the recruiting cycle. When he arrived, he was a one man show while using the services of some of the former assistant coaches to help keep the class form totally folding up.

Of utmost importance were the prospects that were supposed to enroll in class in January.

"(On the first day after being hired) I was unable to see any recruits," he said. "(I had) Wednesday, Thursday, and a half day Friday to work on the midyear recruits because some of them had taken their visits to Florida and had never met me. So I had to get in those homes immediately and was seeing three and four young men during the day during that period and that time.

"We have seven midyears that are in here: Jeff Driskel, A.C. Leonard, Javares McRoy, Mike Blakely, Pop Saunders, Clay Burton, and Kyle Christy. All of those young men are doing really well."

It was helpful that the former staff pinpointed so many prospects that could enroll early and Muschamp recognizes the importance of getting the early enrollment prospects into school.

"Coming midyear is great from the standpoint of you're getting way ahead academically, and also from a football standpoint, you're able to go through spring ball," he said. "It's huge to get a guy midyear, but they have to be totally into it because they're not going to be able to go to the prom. They're not going to be able to do some of the things your senior year of high school, it's a great time in your life. You have to be all in to want to do this. It's an exciting time in their lives."

The Gators landed their share of stars and at the same time had some stumbling blocks along the way. Getting to know the prospects and the people around them is very difficult with just one visit the head coach is allowed to make.

"I had a lot of ‘this school' or ‘this person has been recruiting my son for a year now', and I have one in home visit in January. That's tough in one night to be able to recruit and sell what we're trying to do."

There are a couple of holes that weren't filled in the defensive front, but overall it was a very nice opening class for Muschamp…a class that should set up well for his second go around.

"(The) University of Florida is a great place, and I'm excited about our future and excited about having a full year to recruit some players in the 2012 class," he said, all ready to move on.

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