2010 Class is Reflection of Program

One of the biggest selling points for the Florida Gators to prospective recruits is the program and its people. When prospects leave Gainesville and like the trip, they are usually talking about the players and the coaches and the people they met in Gainesville. The nation's top recruiting class in 2010 was started early and nurtured through communication with people in the program.

Urban Meyer stood in front of the media on Wednesday to talk about his latest recruiting class with the Florida Gators and remarked on some of the things that make it easy to recruit to Florida. First off, there is a great school and athletic program to sell to. Then it comes down to the people.

"The keys to recruiting are a lot like the keys to making a great sale," Meyer said when talking about the consensus top recruiting class in the country. "The first one is having a great product and we obviously have that here at the University of Florida. From our academics to the football program to the success that we've had in the last five years here – it's a product that a lot of guys would like to be a part of. But it goes much deeper than that. A big part of the product, which we make sure is not overlooked, is the current players on our team. I've seen it destroy a recruiting class and I've seen it basically build a recruiting class."

"...our current players love going to school here and they love playing football here. A lot of people ask how a top-ranked recruiting class happens, it happens because of a great coaching staff that is able to sell our product to the guys who will be soon joining us on campus."

The product they are selling more than anything is the chance to go to a great school and know that you are going to get something great out of that chance. Meyer believes his players present a true picture of content with their school and the program. The institution that is the University of Florida sells itself.

"I think it's the place itself," Meyer said. "The history of Florida, academically, has gone from a very good school to an elite academic school. That's obviously helped the reputation. If you ask any kid in the state of Florida if they want to come to UF, a lot do, but with the admission requirements, it's become a top-shelf school.

"Of course our staff is so proud. But if you walk into the locker room, not everyone is going to be 100 percent happy, but I'll tell you what, these kids like going to school here. They're treated right, it's a great place, they're well-coached and they play in a great stadium. They are the best salesmen for this program. We're dealing with a group of guys that love to play."

It also takes more than just the kids to want to come to Florida. Selling the academics for the most part is a major pull for the prospect's parents. Florida ensures parents that their kids will be taken care of well after graduation when they earn their degree at Florida.

"A lot of times in recruiting you walk in and a player tells you that academics are important and you look at their transcripts and you know its not," Meyer said with a grin. "When you walk into a home where the family is sincerely interested and you lay out the things we do, it's big. And it's just not academics. In the last few years, we have made perhaps the strongest push in our program to focus on life after academics. They see the emphasis we place on not just the four years spent at Florida, but the time after graduation. I've never seen an effort like what our staff and the Office of Student Life places on Recruiting Roundtables and job affairs. As a parent, that's appealing."

These are the things that sell the University of Florida every year in recruiting. However, this class was different. This class faced some great adversity in the middle of the hot recruiting season. When Urban Meyer resigned on one day and then changed his mind to take a leave of absence, the recruiting class felt a big shake.

Doubt showed up in every one of the prospect's minds. When Meyer said he was coming back, the national media weren't buying it. Recruiters were using the media to try and sway recruits from Florida and all the uncertainty involved. The Gators saw one recruit (Matt Elam) drop his commitment to Florida and pledge to Florida State. Eventually Elam would come around and reaffirm to the Gators, and a lot of the rest of the class staying together was in part to two of them really believing in Florida and just getting that word across to their class mates.

Quarterback Trey Burton and defensive end Lynden Trail were Gators and it wasn't going to matter who was at the helm, they were going to remain Gators. They decided to set out and settle this class down. In the end, Meyer could see a lot of the intangibles in this class to the one that just left as the winningest in SEC history.

"I knew Trey Burton was kind of the anchor of our class, he was the 'Pied Piper'" Meyer said. Lynden Trail is a guy that we're very close with and that I'm personally very close with. I didn't realize that was going on. They were both making calls and keeping the class together. With all the social networking sites, like Facebook, it's amazing the way these guys communicate. It's a lot like the recruiting class in 2006. When that group got together, they found a way to put a good recruiting class together. I found this group was always talking to each other. When they come on their visits, they are a close-knit group from meeting at Friday Night Lights and just talking all the time."

Meyer enjoys the recruiting process when he can communicate with families and prospects that can rationalize things. There were some nasty rumors going around about Meyer and his organization this recruiting cycle, but usually it just took Meyer a phone call to clear up the nonsense.

"When you're dealing with intelligent families and people that understand and they hear some crazy rumor, it's easy...you pick up the phone," Meyer said. They can hear all the rumors they want, but when you pick up the phone and talk to someone you know and trust, it's as easy as that."

"You try not to worry about (the rumors). You worry about the things that you can control – your family, your players, your program and staff. If you put your energy and focus on those things, then you'll be good, but you can't worry about the ‘stuff,' because it will beat you down."

The Gators class is tops in the land according to Scout.com. It really isn't that close. Twelve top 100 prospects including the nation's No. 1 defensive line class and the best defensive back class are a big reason for the ranking. This may be the best defensive line haul in a while.

"I'm not sure I've seen a defensive front as good as this one," Meyer said. "When you look at Ronald Powell, Sharrif Floyd, Leon Orr, Dominique Easley and Lynden Trail, those are some serious guys. I just think in certain areas, it's the best we've ever done."

Powell is the crown jewel of many jewels in this class. All the way from the San Diego area of California, Powell made several trips to Gainesville before he eventually signed on to play here.

"He came to camp during the summer, to Friday Night Lights and also to some games and we actually had our hands on him and were able to work with him," Meyer said. "He can be an All-American and be a tremendous tight end. Obviously we plan to use him mostly at defensive end, but he will catch some passes here at Florida."

Meyer has been shying way from recruiting the West coast. It is extremely hard to invest the time and energy to go out there and come away empty handed more times than not. The talent this time was too much to overlook.

"I challenged Brian White and told him I didn't want to recruit California," Meyer said. "I wasn't anxious to get in that plane for all those hours. I didn't want to be known as a national recruiter but a regional recruiter. However, when you flip on that video and you see how Josh Shaw plays and you see Ronald Powell comes out here and is the best player in the country, I challenged Coach White (to go get them).

Another huge piece to the defensive line puzzle was defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd. The No. 1 defensive tackle in the country according to Scout.com became good friends with Powell, but Meyer quickly grew to like everything about the monstrous defender.

"I hate to say that I have a favorite yet, but he's one of my favorites because of where he comes from. He gets on a bus for an hour and a half to go to school and he comes from a tough situation. He's a 3.0 student and he takes care of himself. He comes from a great high school football program. He has a mentor who is a former player and who gives him great guidance and is a good guy. His high school coach is awesome and he and (Florida offensive coordinator) Steve Addazio had a relationship for many years.

"We actually went out there pre-Sugar Bowl and we were behind a certain school. I didn't think we had a chance but an hour-long meeting turned into a three-hour meeting and we felt that door start to open a little bit. He committed to us that day. You all will enjoy being around him, he's a great kid."

A huge piece to making this a very special class is the addition of a big time running back. Meyer has been unable to sign the top back on his recruiting board in any of his years on campus at Florida. That changed in 2010 when Mack Brown signed on Wednesday. Brown was without a doubt the No. 1 back on the board throughout the entire process. Meyer made it a point to personally recruit Brown and his family.

"I love Mack Brown," Meyer said. "He has a great mom and his father was kind of the family member that I got closest with. I think he might be the highest-rated back we've gotten since we've been at Florida. I watched him on tape (again this week) and it reaffirms why we want him. We need to have him ready to go right now. He has the size to become a 210-pound back, which we need."

Another big piece to the puzzle for Florida was safety Matt Elam. Probably the best player in the South regardless of position, Elam was a guy that enjoyed his name in the paper and reading it on-line. The younger brother of NFL safety Abram Elam, Meyer was confident in returning Elam to the fold when he wavered in his commitment in early January.

"I have known Matt for ten years," Meyer said. "I recruited his brother (Abram Elam) while I was at Notre Dame and his mother and I are very close. He comes from a terrific high school program. Matt is a young man, like a lot of these guys, who like a little bit of publicity, but he's a great kid. The best part about the whole deal is that he's on our campus right now. (Director of Strength and Conditioning) Mickey Marotti is getting some of that stuff out of him in the weight room right now (grinning)."

Meyer loves Elam's versatility and believes he certainly could be a two-way player for the Gators.

"He could be a 'wildcat' player because he's tremendous with the ball in his hands, but his future is as a safety at the University of Florida."

Florida finished with the second rated receiver class in the country and signed a group that will go a long way in filling their needs at a position that lacked an abundance of true playmakers last year.

"We lost five juniors to the draft and obviously lost some talented players on offense and defense," Meyer said. "I don't know if there's ever a rebuilding year, but if there was, this would be one for us. If you look at the receivers we have had here in the last few years starting with Dallas Baker, Bubba Caldwell, Chad Jackson and then you go to Louis Murphy and Percy Harvin and then this year we lost Riley Cooper, David Nelson and Brandon James. We have to start replacing them with real guys. All those players that I talked about helped us lead the SEC in offense the last few years in a row. They were a very productive group so we put an emphasis on going out there and finding some difference-makers. Quinton Dunbar, Chris Dunkley, Solomon Patton and Adrian Coxson are all options. Then we have Gerald Christian and Michael McFarland as tight ends."

Florida set out in the very beginning of this recruiting cycle to sign two offensive linemen. From start to finish, the top two players on the board along the line were Ian Silberman and Chaz Green. The Gators got just who they wanted on signing day including Green who was a hard fought battle with Tennessee for most of process.

"Coach Addazio and I eyed him starting his junior year," Meyer said. "He's one of the best offensive linemen in America. We had him in camp for two years. He's from Tampa, and his parents are great people. We have a need in that position.

"His mom and dad were Tennessee graduates – great folks. At one point, we felt he started to slip (to Tennessee), but Coach McCarney kept on it, he is relentless. I credit McCarney because he stayed alive with it and Coach Addazio had some time physically working with him. When Chaz told us he was coming, that was a great day for us."

With all the stars and the guys that were recruited from the very beginning in this class, there were also some surprises along the way. January brought on three guys that were never on the recruiting board in previous months and all three of them signed with the Gators.

"We were not on (linebacker) Michael Taylor's radar and he wasn't on ours. Westlake High School in Atlanta is one of the top high schools in America. It was our error not to be in the middle of all of that. He came down and was the Under Armour All-American MVP and even before there was transition with their staff, he made the decision he wanted to be a Gator and we are happy to have him.

"(Linebacker) Darrin Kitchens' high school coach is the father of former Gator Bobby McCray. He's a close friend of mine and has been telling me about Darrin for a long time. He came up on a visit and stole our heart. He's a tremendous linebacker.

"Lastly, we feel like Jordan Reed is going to move to tight end and with that, we wanted to look for a dual position player and found that in Tyler Murphy. You watch his highlight film and he's a freakish athlete with the ball in his hands and he can throw, so that's how it happened.

"We made a decision to make a run at some quarterbacks when we made the decision regarding Jordan Reed. Coach Addazio actually went to school with Tyler's father and there was a bit of a relationship there. He knew the high school coach very well, but I didn't know any of that. We were sitting around watching tapes of about 15 quarterbacks one after another and all of a sudden we got a feel for him as a player. I want to say that was two or three weeks ago."

This group of athletes that Florida signed could be described as freakish in their abilities. Florida always puts a prerequisite on speed when they are recruiting any player for any position. But this class adds a great deal of size to that speed. Four corners of 5-10 or greater height. Four linemen in the 300 pound range, from top to bottom, this is a class with overall size.

"I'd say big," Meyer said when asked to describe the class. "This is probably the largest group we've got. Chaz Green was a late commitment. Coach Addazio and Coach McCarney just did a fabulous job of recruiting some of those guys. McCarney hung on to Chaz Green when he wasn't going to come to Florida. Then we have Leon Orr, who can play both sides of the ball, by the way. We're talking about 300-pound guys. We have Sharrif Floyd, Ronald Powell and Lynden Trail (6' 8"). They're all big."

Florida also struck it rich in South Florida landing nine total players from Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties. It is never easy heading to South Florida for prospects, but Florida did a great job of mining the area this year. Meyer gave a lot of credit to former cornerback coach Vance Bedford who has moved on to be the defensive coordinator at Louisville.

"Coach Bedford did a heck of a job with that area," Meyer said. "We got kind of shut out for awhile down there. The hometown school was getting after it. We made a concerted effort to go down there. We hit one early with Gideon Ajagbe and now we have nine from South Florida. That's a lot – more than we've had in the past. The key now is that these guys have to have some success out here because everybody is watching. These guys have to have success, like Major Wright did and like Marcus Gilbert is having."

In the end it all added up to the number one recruiting class in the country. It was a class that had Meyer beaming just talking about them Wednesday afternoon.

In recruiting finishing second for a prospect gets you nothing. Finishing second in the recruiting rankings means you have a very good chance to succeed. However, finishing first just adds a little more pride to it all. Meyer loves being the recruiting champ and showed it when asked.

"It shouldn't (matter) but it does," he said with a grin when asked if he liked having the top class in America. "That's the competitive nature of it. Where we finish in rankings doesn't really matter in the big scheme and eagle-eye view. We come in tomorrow morning and people say we have the top recruiting class, that's great for about 24 hours, but then you have to get to work."


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