RECRUITING: Coaches hit recruiting trail hard

The University of Florida coaching staff began its recruiting campaign in earnest Sunday, the first day the NCAA allows coaches to be on the road. Half the staff spent Sunday flying into Gainesville from Utah, but the others were either on the road seeing recruits or spending a good portion of the day talking to recruits on the telephone.

NCAA rules allow only seven coaches can be on the road at one time to recruit. The Gators plan to have all but offensive line coach John Hevesy and quarterback coach Dan Mullen on the road this week. Hevesy and Mullen are joining the Florida staff fresh from Utah's big Fiesta Bowl win over Pitt. Defensive coordinator Charlie Strong and head coach Urban Meyer will tag team this week as one will be in the office while the other is out on the road.

Coach Meyer needs to spend less time on the road as the NCAA allows only one home visit from the head coach to each recruit. The staff will be putting together a strategy to ensure that Meyer's home visit is set at the right time to maximize his effectiveness as a recruiting closer.

This will be the first chance for Mullen and Hevesy to get a good look at Gainesville. They didn't come to Gainesville in December when Coach Heater and Coach Meyer came early to get a start on recruiting. While Meyer and Heater were getting the recruiting efforts started, Mullen and Hevesy remained in Utah to help with bowl preparations.

The Gators are not expecting a large contingent of visitors this week with only four presently scheduled. Originally, this was going to be a huge weekend, but we've been told that the weekends of January 21 and January 28 will see the bulk of recruiting visitors in Gainesville.

Moving the recruiting dates back will help the coaches and should give the Gators better odds to land a solid recruiting class. The new coaches will have a little bit extra time to get settled into Gainesville as well as associating names with faces on the present roster.

Some may remember the funny story of Coach Zook and his first recruiting weekend in 2002. At a function on the first night, Zook didn't know his own players from the recruits, so he told his coaches "recruit them all." Getting acquainted with their new roster will help the new coaches match recruits with host players plus it will allow more time to implement a weekend schedule of events.

The second and more obvious benefit of moving visitors back is getting the last shot at landing the recruits. The final visit is always the one that remains freshest in a young kid's mind.

If there is a danger in this strategy it is that recruits have a chance to commit elsewhere so the visit to UF is cancelled. This will happen more than the coaches and fans want but considering Florida's circumstances of a coaching staff chance, it is a risk worth taking. Shuffling the dates can also mean that the visit lists could fluctuate wildly during those last two weekends. Not only could the kids be changing the dates to accommodate their schedules, UF could possibly pick up a visit or two from an unexpected player who suddenly makes an appearance on the Gator radar.

Hold onto your hats Gator recruitniks. The next month will be a wild and crazy time here at Gator Country. Things will be moving fast and furious, but our staff is committed to bringing you the best possible coverage in the most timely fashion.


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