The Art of Recruiting

Many of you have asked me about certain players over the last 15 months in regards to Florida offers so I thought I would take this time to talk a little bit about the Art of Recruiting.

One of the things you need to be aware of is this, if a potential prospect fits what the coaching staff wants to do and has the ability to play at the University of Florida and not just play but play at a high level they will get a look. Florida is light years ahead as far as evaluating talent at an early enough stage to be able to identify these players. There are numerous things behind the scenes as to why or why not certain prospects may or may not get an offer. The staff doesn't pass out offers like candy. At a program like the University of Florida they can't take that chance.

I have said it in the past and will say it again, if Florida wanted to have 20 verbal commitments for the class of 2009 they could be done right now. This is where it becomes somewhat of a poker game. Some kids (Trey Burton) make no mistake about wanting to be Gators regardless of who offers and they follow up on that commitment. Other kids may try and use the Gators as a stepping stone to get an offer from the team that they really and truly want to play for. No reason to mention any names here but this happens all the time.

A ton of kids claim official offers from Florida and that just isn't the case, but this is a good thing for Florida. It's the Southern Cal mentality where every kid in the nation wants to be able to let the free world know that they have offers from not only Florida but Southern Cal, LSU, Ohio State, Oklahoma and Texas. It actually creates more offers and possibilities for the prospects if other teams think they have these offers. Make no mistake about it, Florida is one of the powers in recruiting year in and year out.

Meyer and the rest of the Florida coaching staff has taken recruiting to another level and it leaves other teams trying to do anything they can to play catch up. Friday Night Lights is a prime example. Meyer started doing this at Florida, and we have already seen one rival start doing the same thing to create that piggy back effect off of the attention and buzz that it's created.

In a word, Friday Night Lights is genius. It gives the staff a chance to bring in the top talent for the current season and gives them an incredible edge on the following class. Think of it like this, the current recruiting class of 2009 was identified long ago so now the job is to maintain those prospects at the highest recruiting level possible.

In today's world of recruiting it's almost as if high school football is only three years because if you are not on a kid by the time his senior year rolls around it's too late. There are a handful of kids that play their way into an offer based on what they do over the course of the senior season but not often. The class of 2010 is all about identifying the top talent and putting feelers out so see where they stand and then the staff acts accordingly.

Some people ask if it's better to offer all the in state kids first then work the out of state kids later. It depends on what your recruiting philosophies are. It is no secret that most kids do stay close to home. Sure, many kids leave the state and want to get away from the nest but generally speaking I think it is safe to say that the in-state schools are hard to beat. I think that most teams feel that they always have that ability to offer out of state kids first because they feel they can dip into the in-state talent anytime they want to fill any voids.

LSU is a perfect example but only for one reason and one reason only. They basically don't compete against anyone within their own state. If LSU wants a player from the state of Louisiana they nine times out of ten are going to get them.

At Florida it's a little tougher because they have Florida State and Miami to deal with and regardless of what those teams do they will pull some players in that direction. Not to mention teams like Ohio State, LSU, Tennessee and Georgia and many more trying to cherry pick the state.

For the Gators it's a balancing act of getting in on all out of state players early enough so they are not 100 percent behind the in state schools. But at the same time they don't have the luxury that a team like LSU has of not offering players within the state because so many teams are trying to come in the state and get these top players. When a program is down or not one of the powers they must offer kids before the other teams to have any chance of landing them. An example of this is South Carolina. The Gamecocks were all over Nu'keese Richardson and Jon Bostic as early as they could to try and get a jump on the in state schools. In the end did it matter? No, but that's what teams need to do to compete for these top tier players.

The other thing that plays a factor in deciding who gets offers and who doesn't is distance. Meyer has identified certain states that his staff will recruit and recruit until the bitter end some of them are Florida, Georgia and New Jersey. The simple fact is that any player from Texas to California may not get a serious look based on how far away they actually are. Remember the farther away a kid lives the less likely that player will end up in the class. New Jersey is a bit different because of some of the ties on the staff to the area. The Gators have done a tremendous job recruiting the state of New Jersey and will continue to do so moving forward.

The Gators might be a bit of the exception to the distance rule since all the kids that Meyer has signed has actually increased each year. In a nutshell Meyer and his staff have the ability to get the top tier out of state prospects coupled with the state's very best and that is a deadly combination.

At the end of the day, I can tell you what a prospect and his family are saying but that doesn't mean it will work out that way. A number of factors go into me telling you that I think a player will or will not be in the Florida class. Recruiting is all about gathering the best possible information to be able to make an educated guess as to where a player ends up. The only thing about recruiting that is certain is nothing in recruiting is certain. The only thing you can do is look at the facts, how many times has a prospect visited, does he or his family have ties to the program, does he have former teammates that are on the roster, proximity, depth chart, system, ability to compete for conference titles, national titles, campus, academics, facilities, relationship with the position coach, relationship with the head coach, is the head coach an offensive or defensive coach, coaching stability, where did the prospects parents go to college, etc.

These are all factors that go into making this decision not to mention those factors are all from the prospects point of view. The staff still needs to decide if the player will benefit the team.

I guess the point I am trying to make is there are so many moving parts in recruiting it can at times be overwhelming for potential kids and families. Meyer and the rest of the staff handle recruiting better than any staff in the country when you look at all the teams they must compete against in their own state and with what they have been able to accomplish out of state.

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