Recruiting does slow down during the college football season. There’s no denying that. Plenty of prospects make official and unofficial visits to the schools near the top of their lists, but most commitments come before or after the regular season. However, it’s not a dead period at all. In fact, it’s far from it. There are plenty of verbal commitments to be had, and the occasional early enrollee to sway. Once the season starts, everything speeds up. Coaches know this and so do recruits. The news may not be as fast and furious as it will be in January and February, but it will still come. Need an example? Look no further than the Gators’ 2012 class – four-star (according to Rivals) defensive tackle Dante Phillips committed to Florida on October 25, 2010. Nearly 11 months later and Phillips is still part of the Gators’ class.
October 2010 was a hot month for Florida when it came to recruiting. Not only did Phillips commit, but so did four members of the 2011 class, including one that had an inside track to a starting position before going down with an injury. That would of course be tight end A.C. Leonard. One of the nation’s better TE prospects, Leonard was rumored to have wavered on his choice throughout the process, but in the end stuck with his commitment and became a Gator. One week after Leonard gave his verbal, Clay Burton committed to Florida. In a much-less-than-six-degrees-of-separation tale, Burton was moved from the defensive line to tight end to provide depth after Leonard’s injury. The day after Burton committed, Mike Blakely joined the bunch…moving right along. And earlier in the month, Chris Johnson came aboard. Even October 2009 was good to the 2011 class. De’Ante Saunders – who is seeing plenty of time as a member of the Gators secondary – committed on October 20, 2009.
The 2010 class only brought in two commits during the season, but one has rapidly climbed his way up the depth chart and the other has become more than a fan favorite. On October 5, 2009, Booker T. Washington (Miami, FL) teammates Quinton Dunbar and Lynden Trail gave their verbal pledges to Florida. Less than two years later, Dunbar seems to be in prime position to be the next big thing at wide receiver.
While the 2009 class bucked the October trend in the case of one recruit, it also kept it alive with two others. Defensive end Kedric Johnson and offensive lineman Kyle Koehne were both three-star prospects who joined the 2009 class during October 2008. A few days before that month started, Dee Finley – a prep school attendee at the time – reaffirmed his commitment to Florida.
The 2008 class saw four players commit during the regular season and three more do so almost immediately following the finale against FSU. Brendan Beal, Jeremy Brown, Troy Epps and five-star prospect Will Hill were all in-season commits, while Frankie Hammond, Jr., Omarius Hines and Byran Jones gave their pledges just after the matchup with the Seminoles. Brown, Hammond and Hines are all still contributing to the Gators today.
The list goes on: Duke Lemmens, Cam Newton (yes, that Cam Newton; do you know of another one?), Jamar Hornsby (batting 1.000 with those last two names, huh?), Maurice Hurt, Justin Williams, Jeremy Mincey, and others.
Sure there’s not a Percy Harvin or Tim Tebow among the group – although at the time, we all thought big things were ahead for Hill and Newton showed greatness in different shades of orange and blue – but there’s an obvious importance to in-season recruiting.
The main reason is the visit. You never know what a recruit will do at a visit or just after returning home from one. There’s not a coach in the country that would tell you they wouldn’t want a target to commit on his visit to their school. It doesn’t happen all the time, but it happens enough to keep you dreaming. Florida will host a number of visits during the season and if you’ve learned anything from this recruiting cycle or Will Muschamp’s style he brought with him from Texas, the new head coach likes prospects committed and sure of their decision early.
It all boils down to this: don’t sleep on recruiting just because the games have begun. Many recruits will drag the process out until the very end – and as recent history has shown us, even beyond signing day in some cases – but some will surprise. There’s a chance after every game and after every weekend. Florida’s class isn’t full just yet and we won’t be waiting until February to find out who some of the remains parts are.