Some fans are expressing disappointment with Florida's decision to focus on the defensive side of the ball in the class of 2012 despite the Gators' two years of offensive woes. UF signed 11 front seven recruits, and 14 of the 23 recruits were classified as defensive players. Considering UF returns 10 of 11 starters on that side of the ball, this seems a little excessive on its face.
However, there are a host of reasons that anyone thinking this class is somehow disappointing is crazy.
First and foremost, you sign what you can get, and Florida signed either the best or second-best defensive unit in the nation. If the defensive players are gravitating toward Will Muschamp, then he shouldn't shun them to throw his resources at a group of offensive players who don't really care about him. Recruiting works on 18-year-old psychology, which means you pretty much go with whatever works at the time and roll with it. Muschamp selling players on his defense worked out amazingly.
Second, defense is the side of the ball that matters in the SEC ... and that's actually selling it a bit short. Defense is the only thing that matters unless your team is harboring a Cam Newton. Only Newton could overcome the grip of defense that has dictated the best teams in the SEC over the last six years. Check the list of champions:
- 2006: Florida, No. 2 SEC defense, No. 6 nationally
- 2007: LSU, No. 1 SEC defense, No. 3 nationally
- 2008: Florida, No. 3 SEC defense, No. 9 nationally (Alabama: T-No. 1 SEC, No. 3 nationally)
- 2009: Alabama, No. 1 SEC defense, No. 2 nationally (Florida: No. 2 SEC, No. 4 nationally)
- 2010: Auburn, No. 9 SEC defense, No. 60 nationally
- 2011: Alabama, No. 1 SEC defense, No. 1 nationally (LSU: No. 2 SEC, No. 2 nationally)
I included other teams in the national title hunt in parenthesis. Another thing to note: All of those champions were at least in the top 10 nationally, with the exception of Auburn, which sat at mediocre No. 60.
Offensively, though, the champs were usually at or near the top of the conference, but only rarely at or near the top of the national rankings. The 2010 Auburn squad was the only SEC champion to be amongst the top 10 teams nationally in total offense).
- 2006: Florida No. 2 SEC offense, No. 19 nationally
- 2007: LSU No. 4 SEC offense, No. 26 nationally
- 2008: Florida No. 1 SEC offense, No. 15 nationally
- 2009: Alabama No. 4 SEC offense, No. 42 nationally
- 2010: Auburn No. 1 SEC offense, No. 7 nationally
- 2011: Alabama No. 2 SEC offense, No. 31 nationally
As you can see, the offenses range from excellent (2010 Auburn, 2008 Florida) to merely decent (2009 Alabama), while all but one SEC champion's defense was OMG AMAZING. The "defense wins championships" mantra rings most true in college football.
Moreover, the SEC has frequently faced a better-ranked offense in the title game, but only in 2007 (Ohio State) and 2010 (Oregon) did the non-SEC team field the better defense — and, in both cases, the SEC squad's defenses dominated the game. Muschamp may not have gone into recruiting with the idea that he was going to almost double up his offensive recruits with defensive guys, but because he went about it that way, he probably placed Florida in a more advantageous position for the future in the SEC.
And being in a great position in the SEC is about the same as being in a great position nationally.