Who doesn't want to play for this guy?
Last year, we tried 50 For 50, and got halfway done before things cropped up. This year, Alligator Army is doing 100 For 100, with 100 articles in the 100 days leading up to the first Florida Gators football game of the 2012 season, and will run down storylines, profile players, examine history, and make some predictions. The only thing we can promise is that each day's entry will bring us all one step closer to "Herrrrrrrrre ... come the Gators!"
There are 19 days until Florida's September 1 opener with Bowling Green. There are 75 entries left in the 100 For 100 series. You'll get four entries per day from here on out.
Florida went 7-5 in 2010 in Urban Meyer's last year. The Gators went 6-6 in Will Muschamp's first year. There is reason to believe Florida could go 7-5 or 6-6 again this year, with the SEC's schedulers throwing Florida two road games in the season's first three weeks, the SEC East looking closer to rugged than it has in a while, LSU remaining on the Gators' schedule, and a season-ending trip to Florida State looming.
But, given how Muschamp and Co. have recruited to this point, I'm not entirely sure 7-5 would be all that bad for Florida's future.
There are only so many things college coaches can sell recruits on, and most of them start with "You want": You want to compete for championships, to develop into an NFL player, to play close to home, to get a good education, to play right away,
to get your high school coach hired as a recruiting coordinator, to play for the school you grew up dreaming about, in front of a crowd you always imagined chanting your name.
But, if you've played any of the NCAA Football games and/or have some facility with logic, you know that some of those pitches are more effective than others. Alabama can't tell players who are marginal that they will play right away; Kent State doesn't get to sell many players on their childhood dream school; USC runs into problems wooing kids from the East Coast; Florida State can't quite sell the world's finest education.
And, right now, Florida can't sell competing for championships immediately as well as many schools.
It might not matter, though, because while recruits are sometimes high on their own talents, and convinced that next year is going to be different with them and their fellow class members taking the field, they're not dumb, and rarely expect to lead major turnarounds. Do you think, possible nefarious actions aside, Auburn told Cam Newton he could be playing for a national championship in 2010? I'm guessing, but I think the main thrust of that pitch was Newton getting to work with Gus Malzahn, return to the SEC, and play with great talent on his way to the NFL.
Furthermore, Newton's recruiters probably said, at some point, "Hey, we went 7-5 last year, but we got better. We think we can win the SEC next year with you at quarterback. And if we win the SEC, who knows?" That's something Muschamp can sell, especially for 2013 and beyond, when Florida has more of his players in major positions, and he's already convinced 22 recruits to sign up for 2013, perhaps by using that.
So Florida's biggest weakness in recruiting might not be all that big, and Muschamp's strengths are many: He can sell the bright lights of the SEC and Florida because they're self-evident, UF's NFL history because of how many Gators ball out on Sundays, the chance to play right away because he's given it to many freshmen, the family feel of his program because of the blue-collar mentality he embodies and instills, and the proximity to home that Florida offers to Florida prospects and those in the Southeast.
Also, though every school tries to sell some variation of this, Gainesville is warm, and many people on campus are very attractive; those things aren't what coaches say to recruits when mothers are around, but they are certainly things that 17-year-old boys/men consider. Often.
Florida's recruiting machine was never broken, though Meyer's departure left it chugging along at a lower gear for a while. That machine is back near full operational capacity now. And, crazy as it sounds, it could very well be what allows Florida to land a top-five class after three straight five-loss seasons.