Sunday Brunch: Did Urban Meyer leave the cupboard empty?

Al Bello

Sunday Brunch asks the simple question: Did Urban Meyer really leave the Gators and Will Muschamp with an empty cupboard?

FlaGators: When I was first presented with this question, I thought no. Even after thinking about it quite, a bit I'm still going to say no. It's well understood that Urban Meyer left Florida with a depleted team in terms of overall numbers (read: lack of depth), and a top-heavy team, but I don't think the cupboard was bare by any means.

Think about it: Meyer left a team largely comprised of starters from his era (minus a few positions, like quarterback) that went 11-2 under the guidance of someone more capable than himself in leading it. Do I think he left a full cupboard? No. But that doesn't mean it was empty.

Just take a look at the numbers.

In the 2013 NFL Draft and the "free agency" period that followed it, 14 former Florida Gators got drafted or signed contracts with NFL teams. That's pretty good. Two of those draftees being in the first round and six signing free agent contracts after the conclusion of the draft. That's not the sign of a bare program at all.

But like I said above, that doesn't mean the roster was full either. The Gators have signed 20, 23, and 29 players in their three post-Urban recruiting classes, respectively. While that doesn't mean that things are terrible in terms of numbers, the larger classes have been taken to correct a depth issue that emerged in 2010 (Urban's last year) and persisted in 2011 (Muschamp's first year). (For comparison: Meyer's 2010 recruiting class had 27 players, his 2009 class was just 16 players deep, and his 2008 class was 22 players strong; Dee Finley was also part of both the 2008 and 2009 classes, so it's probably better to say the 2008 class was actually 21 players.)

I still think that the Gators are more talented at the top than they have been in the past, but this draft just proves that Urban didn't really leave the cupboard empty, just poorly stocked in terms of overall numbers.

Star-divide

Andy: If you've been around here for a while, you know that I've written about the cupboard being empty before. But you also probably know that I've changed my tune on this over the course of two years: In 2011, I thought the dearth of great talent was largely attributable to Meyer and his staff; in 2012, I thought the emergence of playmakers on defense was largely creditable to Will Muschamp and his staff.

Now, I've come to a third and different conclusion, one that says the cupboard was neither empty nor full: Urban Meyer left Florida with a ton of raw, tricky ingredients. Some of them spoiled, and some of them have been salvaged by Muschamp and his staff. While I can't say Meyer left the cupboard empty, I will say this: Muschamp must have been slightly disappointed by its contents.

During this 2013 NFL Draft, Ohio State recruiting coordinator and Swaggernaut director Mark Pantoni tweeted this:

That's not true, of course. Of the 66 players who committed to Meyer from 2008 to 2010 (loosely, those players who were eligible for the 2013 NFL Draft), eight got drafted. If Meyer recruited you in 2010, you were more likely to transfer from Florida after Meyer left/resigned/did whatever he did than get drafted: Nine of the 27 players in Meyer's vaunted 2010 recruiting class transferred from Florida, and only two have been drafted so far.

Additionally: Of the eight that got drafted, two (Sharrif Floyd and Matt Elam) spent more time under Muschamp than Meyer, five (Jon Bostic, Josh Evans, Mike Gillislee, Jelani Jenkins, and Jordan Reed) spent as much time under Muschamp as Meyer, and five (Floyd, Elam, Bostic, Jenkins, and Evans) came from the defense that Muschamp is responsible for, with two safeties that Muschamp personally coached being drafted.

And some of Meyer's biggest recruiting coups in those three years, like Andre Debose, Omar Hunter, and Xavier Nixon, simply have not panned out to the degree that Meyer hoped (publicly) that they would.

Muschamp and his staff rebuilt a program that he has repeatedly called "broken" by working with those raw ingredients to turn talented, unfocused players into leaders and high-quality prospects. Look at the Big Four of that 2010 class: Floyd always had his head on straight, but Elam, Dominique Easley, and Ronald Powell have all come of age under Muschamp, and Easley and Powell sticking around for their senior years is testament to Muschamp's coaching and relationship skills.

If you want to give Meyer credit for identifying that those players had talent, that's fine, but Meyer was not able to get it out of them in 2010, and left Florida in disarray. Muschamp deserves more of the credit for making Florida fearsome again, turning first-round talents into first-round picks, and doing so despite being left a disorganized cupboard full of raw ingredients.

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