So who benefits from Zook's dismissal on the recruiting front? Almost everyone the Gators compete against in the recruiting battles. Over the past three recruiting seasons Florida has more than held its own against in-state rivals Miami and Florida State. The Gators beat the 'Canes for cornerback Dee Webb, linebacker Earl Everett and wide receiver Andre Caldwell. They turned FSU commitment Marcus Thomas to Gainesville. Florida didn't win all the battles -- no one does -- but they won their share.
The bottom line is that 'Noles and 'Canes are dominant recruiting powers and things could become slightly easier for them, especially this season. Florida also goes head-to-head with teams like Georgia and Tennessee for top-notch prospects. And we have already seen one Florida commitment, cornerback Demetrice Morley, back off his Gator pledge. As of today, Morley is headed to Knoxville. So maybe the Dawgs, Vols and others will capitalize, at least initially, until Florida gets its new coaching regime in place.
Any new staff at any college football program in the nation always faces an uphill battle to begin with in their first recruiting campaign. It was tough for Pete Carroll at Southern Cal, Nick Saban at LSU, Bill Callahan at Nebraska and Sylvester Croom at Mississippi State. And for whoever takes over in Gainesville, whether it's Steve Spurrier or someone else, things won't be so easy right away. The pattern, more times than not, no matter who you are or where you are, is that the first recruiting class is a challenge.
It's simple. Recruiting is about building relationships with these prospects, their coaches and families. Instead of having months and sometimes years to recruit players, new staffs have just weeks, as Signing Day looms.
What does this mean for the Gators? First things first, they need to hire a coach and they need to do this as quickly as possible. More importantly, they need to find the guy who's the right fit for the Florida program. That coach then has to bring in a staff and they need to evaluate the existing team. Then, they need to identify the recruiting needs and go get some recruits. Again, the new UF staff will have weeks rather than months and years to do this. It will be tough.
Zook was putting together another great class before his firing. One of the Gators' elite recruits is now headed to Tennessee rather than Florida. Some committed players, like quarterback Jonathan Garner, want to go to the University of Florida no matter what.
Others, like defensive back Avery Atkins, will wait it out, take visits and see what happens.
The Gators were in line to potentially land the nation's most sought-after recruit in wide receiver Derrick Williams. He graduates in December and plans to enroll at the school of his choice in January. What will he do now? What about in-state talent like offensive linemen Eddie Haupt and Ronnie Wilson, linebacker Spencer Atkins, running back Paul O'Hara, wide receiver O.J. Murdock, and cornerback Bryan Evans? These in-state prospects loved Zook and his staff.
What will Florida's new staff do? What will these recruits do? It'll be interesting, to say the least, for all parties involved. And that includes the Gators, Seminoles, Hurricanes and everyone outside the Sunshine State.