High heat: What Dalvin Cook's flip from Florida to FSU means for the Gators

USA TODAY Sports

Dalvin Cook flipping to Florida State both hurts Florida deeply and sets up some dominoes the Gators desperately don't want to see fall.

Miami Central running back Dalvin Cook decommitted from Florida and committed to Florida State in a televised announcement on ESPNU on Tuesday night.

ESPNU displayed a graphic that listed Cook as a Florida State commitment coming back from a commercial, and said on air that Cook had committed to Florida State, "as you just heard," without airing Cook actually committing to FSU.

Cook, who committed to Florida in April, flipping to the Gators from Clemson, had flirted with the Seminoles for months, as their program rose and Florida's fell under the weight of scads of injuries.

And his decommitment is the biggest blow possible to Florida's recruiting for the Class of 2014. Cook's flip to Florida State sets up dominoes that may be knocked down in short order over the next six weeks.

Cook's close to a bunch of South Florida recruits — first and foremost, he's very tight with Florida commit Ermon Lane, regarded as one of the best prep wide receivers in the country, but he's also close to Florida commit J.C. Jackson, and has hung out with Florida target Adoree' Jackson for much of his time at the Under Armour All-American Game practices this week. Cook's got the sort of magnetic personality that makes other people want to hang with him, and is a leader — but he's also an explosive playmaker, and the sort of player who makes his team better in part by making his teammates' lives easier.

If Cook had followed through on his commitment to Florida, he would likely have shored up the commitment of Lane, and could have been a draw for both J.C. Jackson, despite his wavering on his commitment for months, and Adoree' Jackson, a player Florida has as good a shot at pulling out of USC's back pocket as any team outside Los Angeles. Cook's commitment to Florida was probably most of the reason why Da'Vante Phillips of Miami Central committed to Florida at Friday Night Lights. And he might have been a beacon for other players in the wake of Florida's 4-8 season: Cook sticking with the Gators through the storm would have been a powerful sign that there was reason to believe Florida could be mighty Florida again in short order.

That's not what happened, though.

Instead of all that, Cook has chosen a white-hot program with the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, an undefeated 13-0 record, and a fantastic shot at running the table for a national title in Pasadena. And while Cook joining FSU alone is cause for Florida fans to mutter "The rich get richer" under their breath, Cook's flip could very well bring a flip for Lane and/or J.C. Jackson, and might help FSU substantially with Adoree' Jackson as well.

Cook would almost certainly see the field sooner in Gainesville than Tallahassee — Florida needs a playmaker desperately, and could get creative with Cook, while Florida State has returning burners at many positions, even if running backs Devonta Freeman (who also went to Miami Central, and who hinted in an Instagram post that Cook would commit to FSU) and James Wilder Jr. head to the NFL — and yet he's passing on the team that needs him most and would feature him most prominently for what could be less playing time early on in a program that appears to be finely-tuned and poised for a run of dominance.

That hurts a lot, both for the Florida program and the fans that love it, not least because it feels like a sea change from a paradigm with Florida on top in the Sunshine State to one with Florida State lapping the field.

And though Florida's going to have a chance to change its future in 2014, and will be able to scramble a bit to restructure its Class of 2014 in the next six weeks, it will have to do so without the recruit most likely to make an early impact on the field. It's going to be a long, hot offseason for fans, who will be breathing the flames heating Will Muschamp's seat.

The lone silver lining to take from Cook's flip? He did it on December 31 — merely adding to Florida's year-long flop in 2013, rather than scribbling the first bad note onto the ledger for 2014.

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