Gators Hurt by Talent, Depth

I've tried to explain the recruiting process to people for about a quarter century, which means I'm doing a bad job of it or recruiting is in many ways inexplicable. Oh you can explain the process and you can explain the logistics, but you can never count on being able to explain the thinking of 18-year-old student-athletes.

The Florida Gators have it all; a great university, great tradition and two national titles in three years. What they don't have for 2009 is a great recruiting class, at least not by the standards set by national recruiting analysts.

Oh it's a good one and they likely wouldn't trade their haul with anyone, but it did end on a sour note. Florida lost Greg Reid and Nick Kasa a couple of weeks back and then saw Nu'keese Richardson and Marsalils Teague defect on signing day. Add those four to the 16 Urban Meyer and his staff signed and the Gators would have another top 10 if not top five class. Instead the comparatively small group that will likely have Florida in the 15-20 range when all is said and done.

But that's certainly good enough.

It stands to reason Florida would struggle to have yet another elite class. The Gators return their entire two-deep defense and 17-of-22 on the other side of the ball for 2009, meaning immediate playing time will be extremely difficult for the members of this signing class. For all the claims about academics and feeling comfortable, for the vast majority of players it's about getting on the field as soon as possible. Obviously that got in the head of at least three of the four guys mentioned above. Florida Coach Urban Meyer addressed the issue after signing the class of '09.

"We had a little bit of a tough deal. We have 22 players coming back on defense; not 11, not nine, not four; we have our top 22 coming back. I really take my hat off to some of these guys. When Jelani Jenkins, just a great football player who had many choices put on the Florida hat and said I'm going to be a Gator he didn't ask how many ‘backers we had (he said) I'm gonna go play. When Tim Tebow was recruited I don't remember him saying how many quarterback we have. He really didn't care. With Percy Harvin, (Brandon) Spikes that wasn't a big part of the conversation."

Meyer says overall he's pleased with the group he's bringing in.

"We've done a good job recruiting. Our staff has done phenomenal. You have little obstacles even when you win a national championship, however the ones we've brought in are tremendous."

If there was one area where Florida had to have success this year it was on the offensive line. The Gators started two senior tackles all year and also lost Jim Tartt from the blocking corps. The Gators certainly scored there, bringing in a five-man group that is probably the best offensive line class in the country. Meyer says when there's a position of need it's really up to that position coach to make sure it gets filled. He praises offensive line coach and newly appointed offensive coordinator Steve Addazio.

"The way we break this recruiting down is that everyone has an area and each guy is the General Manager of his position. I've been on staffs before where guys complain they don't have enough players. There's none of that at Florida because your job is to get your players. And Steve, you look at who he's brought in here since he's been the offensive line coach. Our offensive line was the best in the Southeastern Conference. Probably one of the top two in America and I think the No. 1 offensive line in America. We're going to have two tackles leave and you got some other good players who have the potential to play in the National Football League so we had to bring in five. To bring five players atone group or one unit that's hard because usually they "X" each other out. We addressed the tackle issue, the guard issue and the center issue. That's one of the best recruiting jobs I've been around."

We'll see over the years what this group delivers to the Gators on and off the field. And will also watch with interest how the four who changed their minds pan out. Either way, Florida is loaded for 2009 and beyond.

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