The Art of Recruiting

In the ever so changing world of recruiting coaches find themselves always looking for that competitive edge on the rest of the competition. It is that balance of the feeling you get when a prospect walks into your office looks you square in the eye and says, ‘Coach, I want to be a Gator or Tiger or whoever the team may be.'

For the University of Florida it truly is the one percent of the one percent that we often hear head coach Urban Meyer speak of. There is a reason that 99 percent of the players that verbal to Meyer and the Gators make it in, they truly do recruit the best student athletes in the nation.

Certainly there are hundreds of different philosophies about early enrollee prospects, prospects that go to prep school or even the junior college route. The most famous junior college route was that of former super safety Reggie Nelson. For the most part though the Florida staff wants to get the players in as soon as possible and get them acclimated to major college football. Most make there way on the field through special teams play early on and then start to make an impact on either the offensive or defensive side of the ball.

In terms of recruiting the playing field is supposed to remain level with NCAA rules and regulations coupled with each teams university/academic policies. On more than one occasion over the years we have seen players that wanted to commit to the Gators only to find that they couldn't make it in but found ways to get in elsewhere. It is the nature of the beast to a certain degree and neither the staff nor school will sacrifice its integrity for the better of the program. If you are a fan of a university that has these principles in place what more could you ask for?

Taking a look at this year's class (2009) the Gators sit on nine verbal commitments and look to bring in around 18-19 players before all is said and done. In contrast across the country teams like Ohio State and Auburn sit at 25 each followed by Texas A&M and Duke with 24 each. Central Michigan has 22 commitments while Rutgers has 21. LSU, FSU and Oklahoma all have 18 commitments for this year's class. So the question becomes why does Florida have only nine? They seek out the top players across the country and are willing to wait on them to the very end. They will certainly land more than there share of these top uncommitted players with players like Jarvis Jones, Jon Bostic, Denard Robinson and many more looking favorable for the Gators at this time. It begs the question what would you do? Do you take a bunch of early commitments and try to hang onto them while every major college coach across the country tries to steal them away.

It becomes much easier to negatively recruit against a staff and team once you know where a player is going. Do you slow play high B caliber players to wait on the superstars? At what point do your cut the superstar player to ensure that you still have a great shot with that B type player. Prospects today get offered earlier and earlier and when a team doesn't send them the written offer it becomes very difficult to catch up so to speak when they do finally offer.

Florida isn't in a position to fire off written offers to every player that wants one; if they did you would see the Gators have classes of 50-60 players each year. Take this years class for example while the Gators currently have nine verbal commitments they all bring something different to the table and look to be perfect fits at the respective position they are coming in to play. If the staff wanted to have 20 commitments right now the certainly could but they recruit the kind of players year in and year out that will wait until National Signing Day, not fun for the fans or the coaches but that's the price you sometimes pay for wanting the best. For Meyer and the rest of the staff it has been a philosophy that has paid off the last couple of years and if the feedback that I receive from prospects is any indication it will continue to pay off in the future.

Looking ahead to next year's class (2010) the Gators have two early commitments already with quarterback Trey Burton and offensive linemen Ian Silberman, two of the best at their respective positions in the state of Florida and throughout the Southeast. Right now by my count that number could be at seven. Again though you're talking about players that have played basically four games of their junior seasons in high school and all want written offers by the time September arrives. It puts a huge emphasis on the coaching staff as far as making early evaluations and being confident enough in them regardless of what other teams are doing in terms of offers.

I can tell you right now that a certain program that the Gators recruit against will offer kids solely based on whether the Gators offer without even seeing the players in person or on film but they feel they will be behind the eight ball if they don't. It puts the coaches in a precarious position. Offer to early and that could be a disaster and if you offer to late you might not be able to catch up. Identifying the players that have enough talent to play for the Gators is only the first step in a long line of determining factors that determine if they play for Florida. Where are they on grades, do they have a chance to qualify? Do they have mutual interest in the Gators or is there some outside force that will prohibit them from becoming Gators?

It is a very delicate and sometimes difficult process in determining how potential players can or cannot impact your program. The easy part is saying this or that player is fantastic he would definitely have a positive impact on our respective program. If determining whether or not a kid could play was the only thing that you needed to take into consideration this wouldn't be that difficult but there is so much more than player's physical abilities that that factor in this decision. Is he of high character, is he a team guy, will he be a leader on and off the field, has he reached his maximum physical abilities and does the player have that drive and determination to play at this level?

One thing that I have learned is that recruiting is not an exact science not by far. There doesn't seem to be some magic formula or equation that equals success. Having said that Meyer and his staff seem to have that quote on quote perfect blend that has translated into year in and year out the best recruiting classes in the country.

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