The Big Game's Affect on Recruiting

<B>SPECIAL REPORT</B><BR> Yesterday, I had a chance to speak with <B>Ernie Sims, Earl Everett, Justin Midgett, Dee Webb, Aubrey McPhadden, Joe Cohen</B> and other recruits about Saturday night's game in the Swamp between Miami and Florida. How would the loss affect Florida in the recruiting wars?

One of the great things about the recruiting process for prospects is Saturday afternoons.  Each fall during the college football season, recruits can attend games anywhere they want to go.  It is called an unofficial visit.  The bigger the game the more prospects that will be there.  It doesn't matter if your favorite team is in Norman or Knoxville.

This past Saturday, in the biggest game of the young college football season, Miami traveled to Gainesville to take on the Gators.  The Swamp is one of college footballs best "game-day" atmospheres and it is a great recruiting tool for the University of Florida.  It is arguably the loudest college football venue.

Well on Saturday night, there were a few hundred prospects there to witness the Hurricanes beating the Gators.  And it was a very convincing win for the defending National Champion and number one ranked team in the country.  How would this affect the recruiting for both Miami and Florida? 

One thing is for sure, Miami and Florida State are the kings when it comes to recruiting.  FSU has set the standard for the last fifteen years or so.  Miami has really come on as of late, especially when Butch Davis took over for Miami a few years back.  Florida was always somewhere in the middle.  The Gators always had their moments with Coach Steve Spurrier in the recruiting wars but they were never consistent like the Seminoles and steady like the Hurricanes.  Quite honestly, these two programs have recruited on another level.  

But something significant happened in January… Steve Spurrier resigned at Florida and Ron Zook took over.  In the month he and his staff had to recruit, they did a good job under extraordinary circumstances.  The new Florida staff has been working overtime in the recruiting wars.  Since Signing Day, they have been laying the foundation for this season's recruiting campaign.  They have worked their tails off to put themselves in position to have a banner recruiting year.  But just as critical as working hard and laying the foundation, the real season is vital to their recruiting success.  Recruits want to know and feel secure, that the Florida program will not regress under the new coaching regime.

That is why there was more on the line on Saturday night than just bragging rights.  The winner gets the edge in the important recruiting wars.

With Florida taking such a drubbing in the vaunted Swamp, in front of their fans with all those great prospects looking on, how will this affect what happens for the Gators on Signing Day?

In contrast, Miami's win was so impressive, could that persuade even more recruits to Coral Gables? 

Here are what some of the nation's top prospects said about the big game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Saturday night.

Ernie Sims is the country's top player.  He plays running back and linebacker for Tallahassee (Fla.) North Florida Christian.  Sims likes all three Florida powers, Auburn and Georgia.  He went to his first game in the Swamp on Saturday night.  "It was a great game and they both played hard," said Sims.  "Miami was just too good… too powerful.  But that was my first game in the Swamp and it was the loudest place I have ever heard.  Miami's win didn't change anything in regards to recruiting with me."

Sims may publicly say things that are status quo with him but the same can't be said for one of the state's top offensive lineman.  At one time this spring, this big OL was leaning to the Gators.  "That game changed how I now look at Miami," said Aubrey McPhadden, from Jacksonville (Fla.) First Coast High School.  "They were the dominant, aggressive team.  I watched both lines but Miami's was simply overpowering.  I have been to the Swamp before but that was the craziest and loudest I have ever seen and heard it.  Right now, I just like all three Florida schools and LSU."

"That was the third game I saw at Florida and I have not seen anything like that," said Earl Everett, the state's number two prospect from Bushnell (Fla) South Sumter High School.  "That was just an intense game.  I was surprised at how bad Miami won.  I thought it would have been much closer but the ‘Canes turned it up a notch.  But the game doesn't really change anything for me.  I will make the best decision for me.  And it is still the same schools – Miami, Florida, Georgia, South Florida and Nebraska."

Two other recruits that are high on both the Gators and Hurricanes didn't make it to the big game.  One didn't go because he couldn't make it and the other didn't want to attend because he would have been embarrassed.

"I watched the game on TV," said defensive end Kirston Pittman, who's brother Thomas played for Florida a few seasons ago.  "Florida had a chance to win but they messed up some opportunities.  You can't do that against Miami.  They are just too good.  That game changed my outlook with Miami.  They looked great and they lose all those defensive linemen.  They will all be in the league (NFL).  Right now, I like Miami, Texas, Florida, Oklahoma and Florida State."

"I didn't show up because I am a Miami fan," said Demetr

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