Signing Day 2010
Tennessee survived with Derek Dooley working wonders to salvage a strong
class. UCLA, Washington, Oregon, and California brought in enough great
players to not only pose even more of a challenge to the USC dynasty,
but to also boost up the Pac 10 and make it a nastier conference for the
next several years. Oklahoma and Texas were Oklahoma and Texas, Ohio
State was mediocre because last year it got just about everyone it
wanted, and Notre Dame was decent enough while showing that Brian Kelly,
if nothing else, will make life more fun around South Bend now that the
insufferable cloud of Charlie Weis is gone.
But the 2010 recruiting season was about three things: Florida, Florida
The Urban Meyer health issues weren't a negative in any way, and in
fact, they turned out to be a plus as he and his staff were able to
use the concerns to the program's advantage. There was almost a tired desperation about the way that Meyer
was able to do everything possible to get NFL prospect after NFL
prospect as the sprint for the last quarter
mile at the end of the marathon paid off big-time. However, if he wasn't fried before he sure looked
and sounded during every interview like he was beaten down and cashed.
Will a few weeks, if that, be enough time for him to recharge the
batteries? They'd better be.
Despite what many Gator e-mailers think, no, I don't hate Florida, I
don't have a problem with Meyer, and yes, I do want to see one of the
greats in the history of the game stick around. But there was something
a little too slick, a little too used car salesman, and a little too
unseemly about what Meyer and his staff were selling this time around.
Yes, the entire process and business of college football recruiting is a
big pile of steaming sleaze and it needs to be blown up and
eliminated (more on that another time), but this Florida class was
different and it'll be a class and a year that will be analyzed and
scrutinized as long as recruiting matters.
The recruiting wonks completely and totally missed the bus on what
happened (which is strange since they spend so much time chasing them
down), with just about all the big-name analysts saying that the Florida
class proved that the program is bigger than just one head coach.
While Ron Zook could be back at the helm and Florida would still bring
in a top ten class, the program doesn't get a haul like this, an
all-timer of a class, without Meyer telling each and every kid
that he would be there as the head coach and that the health issues
weren't a problem. If Meyer isn't there, no, Florida doesn't get all the
top-shelf players it brought in; there's a reason why the guy is one of
the best in the game, and it does a disservice to his recruiting and
coaching skills to suggest that just anyone could've done what he has to
put the program in this position.
The problem is that the act is now looking like an act and it's coming
across as manipulative. Whenever you hear a college football prospect
say that a coach is like a father figure, especially before the kid
takes his first class at a school, there's a problem. A coach isn't a
father figure at that point; he's a salesman. Meyer's job isn't to be a
dad, no matter what he and other coaches like to sell to kids who might
be cocky on the outside and nervous high school kids making the biggest
decisions of their lives on the inside. It's Meyer's job to win and win
big, and everything else is simply a means to that end. He could be
Father Flanagan and it wouldn't matter if he wasn't winning. There have
been plenty of wonderful human beings who did great things but were
fired because they didn't win enough football games.
This recruiting class is "unique" and "special" just like the last one
and just like the one before that and just like the one before that.
Meyer throws around words like love and family when it comes to recruits
and players, and yet when he announced his retirement the most played up
sound bite was from his daughter who gushed about how glad she was to
have her daddy back. How did that turn out?
Meyer might believe that he's doing some sort of greater good with
the players he's bringing in, but it's easy to love a prospect who's
going to win you a lot of football games. He's not going to "love" a
player without a bunch of stars next to his name. Florida football
isn't a family; it's a multi-million dollar business that needs talented
players to come in and make the machine go. To play upon the
intellectually and emotionally immature and sell the University of
Florida as anything more than a tremendous school and a great place to
play football is wrong, and to do it while there's still so much
uncertainty around the head coaching situation begs for more scrutiny and a
watchdog eye for the next five months as well as the next five years.
What if Meyer takes off for a few months and his health problems return?
Do you think for one single solitary second that he told any recruit
that he wasn't going to be there for the next five years? No, and
according to all accounts, he was telling every top prospect that he
would be the coach this fall, and possibly this spring, and everything
will continue to go on as if nothing ever happened. But what if his
health says otherwise? What happens the next time he wakes up in the
middle of the night with his heart about to leap out of his chest? Is
his football "family" then going to take precedence over his real one?
It has to after what he just sold to, arguably, the greatest recruiting
class in the history of college football.
Try as he might to diminish the idea of pressure, this recruiting class
actually heaps on more pressure then
before because there's no excuse whatsoever for Florida to not win at
least two national titles in the next five seasons considering the
talent level. It might not seem fair, but yes, at this
point, anything less than an SEC title and an appearance every year in
the national championship is a failure at Florida ... no pressure there.
Every school and every coach says whatever needs to be said and pulls on
whatever string needs to be pulled to try to get some ego-inflated, uber-talented 17-year-old to sign on the dotted line, and
what Meyer sold this recruiting season isn't anything different than what
any other coach would've done in the same situation. But now he has
painted himself into a corner after recruiting first and asking
questions later. Health issues and family concerns can't be taken into
consideration anymore and the players brought in now have to come first.
Meyer HAS to be the head football coach at
the University of Florida this fall no matter what, and he has to be
there for the next five years or else he just did nothing more
than play upon the emotions and dreams of a bunch of kids with no honest
regard or concern about their futures.
And you don't do that to family.
And that's why you take a risk and hire Lane Kiffin to replace Pete Carroll.
Carroll did a fantastic job in his tenure at USC. There's no debating that reality. However, it's not as if he was Gary Patterson at TCU or Mike Riley at Oregon State, turning two-star recruits into all-leaguers and NFL-caliber players by the time they were seniors. No, the Trojans rolled, in large part, because they consistently assembled killer classes that were resistant to attrition, transfers, and a few inevitable clunkers. Under far less than ideal circumstances, including taking the job a month ago and facing possible NCAA infractions, Kiffin has once again shown a knack for closing the deal and keeping Troy flush with blue-chippers. Plus, this haul gives Matt Barkley a slew of explosive targets, like Robert Woods, Kyle Prater, and Xavier Grimble, which will pay huge dividends in the passing game for at least the next two years. Even with the current uncertainty surrounding can't-miss OT Seantrell Henderson, the staff did a nice job of keeping this class intact, which is the best news the program has gotten in a long time.
By the way, that sigh of relief you hear from the south is coming from Steve Spurrier now that he finally secured the signature of Marcus Lattimore, one of the nation's top running backs. When was the last time South Carolina landed the state's premier prospect? It's been a while, which is why the coach absolutely had to win this battle after fending off the likes of Oregon, Penn State, Georgia, and most seriously, Auburn. With the bloom beginning to fade on Spurrier, he desperately needed something to get the folks around the campus excited again. Lattimore has the potential to be that type of Gamecock, and the kind of playmaker who pushes Kenny Miles right away for playing time and makes Stephen Garcia's life a little easier. Spurrier positively had to have Lattimore for reasons that extend well beyond just the 2010 depth chart.