Two weeks ago, Florida was in the midst of a recruiting roll, having just picked up Demarcus Robinson and positioned itself to have potentially the best Class of 2013 in the country. The Gators have seen Robinson flip back to Clemson and Will Grier commit since, and have had the chill of the dead period intercede, but the recruiting roundtable I put together back then with SB Nation recruiting editor Bud Elliott and former Alligator Army recruiting writer/Gators recruiting expert Lance Davis is totally still valid ... because I asked some general questions that couldn't be submarined by decommitments.
Here's that roundtable. Enjoy it, and let me know if you have any other questions for future roundtables in the comments, because I'm hoping to make this a recurring feature.
Florida's now up to
26 25 commitments and looks poised to have a consensus top-three recruiting class. What's been the secret to Florida's success on the recruiting trail?
Bud: 11 wins, momentum and building relationships from an earlier date are key factors. Florida is arguably the premier program in the SEC — certainly so in the lifetime of current recruits. Its location in Florida, and resources, are excellent. Florida should be expected to pull top classes on an annual basis, and for the most part in recent years, it has.
Lance: Continuity of the coaching staff and that staff's relentlessness and to keep recruiting prospects who seem out of reach. Winning certainly helps, too. Florida is one of those few schools where, if you win a lot of games, you can pretty much handpick players. I don't think Will Muschamp is at that level yet, but a 10-win season next year could get him there.
Do you think Florida is selling success or playing time more right this second?
Bud: The answer probably has to be success, given that UF lost 11 games in the previous two seasons. The 2012 year is obviously much better and easier to sell. But that's not to say that Florida isn't selling playing time. That's being done, for sure, but perhaps at fewer positions than before.
Lance: It's hard to pick between success and early playing time, because Florida offers both. If I had to pick, I'd say early playing time, especially on offense, and more specifically at running back and receiver. There's also potentially a lot of playing time up for grabs in the secondary with Josh Evans graduating and Matt Elam potentially entering the draft.
What position has Florida recruited best and why?
Lance: Muschamp has put together an insane group of secondary commitments. Vernon Hargreaves III could be an early-impact guy, as well as Marcell Harris. And there's a chance Florida isn't done, with the quiet Mackensie Alexander still weighing his options.
Bud: Can I cheat and include transfers here? If so, it's the offensive line, with transfers Max Garcia transferring in from Maryland and Tyler Moore, formerly of Nebraska. To that, Florida is adding massive JUCO Trenton Brown, Cameron Dillard, Octavius Jackson and Roderick Johnson. UF will be able to offer a good bit of playing time, particularly in 2014, and I think that has a lot to do with their offensive line haul. Additionally, UF's running style probably appeals to offensive line recruits, who generally prefer to attack, as opposed to setting in pass pro.
Florida's had a number of recruits decommit (or, in the case of Tre Bell, apparently get urged to decommit), only to replace them quickly — and often with more and better prospects. Is that attributable to the riskiness of taking commitments on junior film alone, the improvement of Florida's pitches and appeal, a combination of both, or something else?
Lance: Muschamp is good about not accepting commitments early on from players he doesn't find good enough to commit that early. Whether he encourages certain players to seek other opportunities or something else, I'm not exactly sure. Tre Bell put on a poor showing at The Opening, if I recall correctly. Maybe it is just the riskiness of taking commitments off junior season film. Muschamp doesn't make that mistake often, though.
Bud: I worry about placing an overarching reason on the phenomenon as a whole, because each instance is unique. In some instances, Florida's excellent season helped the Gators get in on a few prospects for whom they might not have previously contended. There is no doubt that taking early commitments carries a certain amount of risk, but I'm not sure Florida has "processed" more kids than many other top schools.
It doesn't seem like Florida's going to lose any coaches now that Joker Phillips is in the fold at wide receivers coach. What coach, besides Will Muschamp, would be hardest for Florida to replace from a recruiting perspective?
Bud: I think the hardest to replace might just be Brent Pease. It's not that he is an amazing recruiter, but rather that if he left, Florida would be finding its third offensive coordinator in as many years. Defensively, Quinn would be a tough loss, but everyone is always going to view the defense as Muschamp's, much like Alabama and Nick Saban. Continuity matters some in recruiting, and Pease offers that on the side of the ball opposite of Muschamp's strength.
Lance: D.J. Durkin or Travaris Robinson. Durkin did insane work last year in North Carolina, and Robinson connects with the players and, sometimes more importantly, their parents. No doubt, retaining the entire staff is huge for recruiting.
Of these big-time in-state prospects Alex Collins, Laremy Tunsil, Mackensie Alexander, and Matthew Thomas, who is most likely to be a Gator?
Lance: In order of most likely to least: Alex Collins, Mackensie Alexander, Laremy Tunsil and Matthew Thomas. Collins is basically down to UF and Miami with FSU lurking. He visited UF in early December, and I'm sure he'll make it to Miami sometime before Signing Day. It's probably about 50-50 with him.
Bud: Thomas is out because he's never really been interested.
The other three are interesting. Tunsil has consistently had Florida in and out of his dynamic leaderboard, with the most recent having the Gators on the outside looking in (Georgia, Alabama, Florida State and Ole Miss). Alexander is very tough to read, which means that I'll go with five-star running back Alex Collins. Out of South Plantation High School, Collins was well known by Florida analysts, but a bit of an unknown on the national scene. He decommitted from Miami last month, and was thought to be a lock to Florida State, but the loss of running back coach Eddie Gran has changed things up. He visited Florida earlier in December, and many believe the Gators have a real shot to land him.