While this may seem like a landslide that's either just begun or about to begin, remember, just a year ago in mid-July the Gators also had the exact same number of commitments. Kalvin Baker of Columbus (GA), Dee Morley of Miami Killian, Avery Atkins and Jonathan Garner of Daytona Beach Mainland, Gerald Williams of Ft Lauderdale Boyd Anderson, Vlad Richard of Sunrise Piper, and Louis Murphy of St. Petersburg Lakewood all gave verbal pledges to the Gators. There was even one "silent" commitment out of Jacksonville, a certain defensive back who went north on signing day.
In terms of numbers, it's the same now as it was then but that is where the similarity ends. When the Gators got the seventh commitment last year, recruiting came to a screeching halt for awhile. Because of my previous position on Florida's football staff, I had access to a lot of recruiting information. After the big rush of seven, Florida had a lot of players teetering on the verge of a commitment but they just kept holding back rather than go public with a commitment. One of the reasons players wouldn't pull the trigger was because there were so many rumors swirling about how Coach Ron Zook might get fired if he didn't win a certain amount of games. Players were taking the wait and see approach and when Zook got canned after the Mississippi State game, most of those big name guys decided to write the Gators off.
There are no rumors that Urban Meyer is going to get fired. He's brand new and with a seven-year contract that sends a clear message to recruits that he's going to be here awhile. So the innuendo about instability that was hurting Zook won't hurt Meyer.
Recruiting without rumors and innuendo to fight is a big reason that things are different this year. The comparisons of last July to this July end quickly because numbers are the only similarity. This year it is like sharks circling and getting ready for a feeding frenzy. It would take something monumental for Florida to lose its recruiting momentum right now. The Gators are in the hunt for almost every big name recruit out there that doesn't have a commitment to some school already and you can sense that at worse, there will be a steady stream of commits to UF. In a best case scenario, the dam is going to burst.
If you have been a member of our message boards over the last year plus, you would know that I don't make recruiting statements out of the clear blue. If I don't have solid reasons to make a statement, I won't make it. I spend a lot of hours on the phone every day with many of the top recruits in the country and everything they tell me indicates that we need to strap on our seat belts because it is going to be a wild ride that is going to include some of the best players in the country committing to Florida.
What is becoming so obvious is that it was a trial run for the Florida coaching staff back in January when they were burning the candle at both ends, going 23 hours of every 24 until signing day. The lessons learned in that month have been evaluated and Florida's staff is showing that it can definitely compete with the best recruiters in the Southeastern Conference and in the state of Florida. From the info we gather talking to recruits, it seems that Florida's staff is perhaps the best prepared when it comes time to make their pitch. When they go after a kid they've already done their homework and they have a good feel for what's important. Kids talk about how quickly they become friends with the Florida staff. What I also like is that the Florida staff is only going after players they know can be as successful off the field as they are on the field. They will be no character reaches.
A sure sign that the approach the Florida staff is taking works is that in so many cases, the recruiters of Florida's rivals are only now getting around to offering players that the Gators offered six or eight weeks ago. This is a clear indication that the Florida coaches identify the talent they know can fit Florida's mold early and then waste no time getting an offer to the kid.
When Gator Country paid a visit to a Broward County high school back in May, we were interviewing several players whom the Gators are recruiting. A certain assistant from a Southeastern Conference school dropped by and when saw Franz and me interviewing players he just shook his head and smiled.
"You guys are everywhere," he said. "And if you guys are here that means the Gators got here first, too."
As Franz and I traveled the state following Coach Meyer, we hit one school after another to build up the Gator Country recruiting database. We were often amazed that kids who grew up fans of another school were impressed that the Gators had been first on the scene to watch them practice and first to make a scholarship offer. We have also been amazed at the number of outstanding recruits with certain schools practically at their back door who have an offer from the Gators but not one from the school that's just a hop, skip and a jump away.
Early indications are that the Gators will sign as many as 30 recruits for the 2006 class. They can count five back to the 2005 class as they undersigned by six and will likely have one non-qualifier. Florida won't reach for players that the staff doesn't see fitting in with the system on the field and the rules for off the field. That means if there aren't 30 willing to buy into the total program, they won't sign 30. At this point it doesn't look like that will be a problem.
The breakdown of the 30 players should go something like this: Two quarterbacks, three running backs, four wide receivers, five to six offensive linemen, five to six defensive linemen, three to four linebackers, five to six defensive backs.
It is interesting to watch how the staff is also going after a lot of players who are capable of fitting in at one or more positions. They want athletes who love to play football and it's my opinion that they believe there is no substitute for athletic ability and a feel for playing the game. What position those guys play can be determined later. You can always find a position for a great athlete.
When Jevan Snead became Florida's second commitment back in May, I made a rather bold prediction on the Gator Country Insider Message Boards that Florida would have at least 15 public commitments before the first game against Wyoming. I see no reason to back down from that prediction. There is a little less than two months before the Wyoming game and the Gators have seven in the fold with all indications that this is just the tip of the iceberg
This has the feel of a snowball ready at any second to give way to gravity. If the snowball starts rolling it could become a full fledged avalanche.