Florida began the day with a consensus top ten recruiting class, and they’ll probably end with one, too. But that’s not to say the class didn’t endure a roller coaster ride on Signing Day.
Brian Burns’ commitment to FSU was the Gators’ first clue that maybe the day wouldn’t go so well. In fact, the only two hats he put on the table were FSU and Georgia. And soon thereafter, Florida lost fellow defensive lineman Shavar Manuel, who flipped to FSU.
But then the Gators scored big time by landing extremely gifted wide receiver Tyrie Cleveland, flipping him away from Houston and fending off Arkansas and TCU for his services. Cleveland was apparently torn over where to go, delaying his school’s Signing Day ceremony as he mulled it over. But a letter of intent is a letter of intent, and Florida got one from him- and they really needed one from him, because, well, how many different times do you want to read about how badly Florida needs wide receivers?
That turned out to be the Gators’ lone pickup of the day, though. Florida then watched longtime cornerback commit Aaron Robinson flip to Alabama, four star offensive lineman John Simpson commit to Clemson and five star corner Kristian Fulton pick LSU over Florida and Arkansas.
Relatively speaking, though, this actually wasn’t a particularly busy Signing Day for Florida (remember the Cece Jefferson mess last year?). And because the Gators only landed one of their top targets, some fans are calling the day a bust. But there are two big reasons why you shouldn’t.
First of all, committing on National Signing Day itself is no more important than committing on a random Tuesday in July. Letters of intent are letters of intent; they all count just the same in the eyes of the NCAA. When recruits commit to Florida (or anywhere) does not make one shred of difference when it’s time to take the field in the fall. Only the most die hard recruiting fanatics remember that Antonio Callaway was actually considered the Gators’ backup plan to Ryan Davis at the wide receiver position, and that he committed to Florida over Miami on Signing Day last year. All most Gator fans know him for is his on-field production, not how he came to choose Florida; the point is that he did, and now he’s the Gators’ weapon to utilize.
The fact is that Florida actually took care of most of their needs before Signing Day. They filled their quarterback need with Feleipe Franks, their kicker need with Eddy Pineiro, their cornerback need with Chauncey Gardner, their safety need with Quincy Lenton and Jeawon Taylor and their wide receiver need with Josh Hammond and Freddie Swain all well before Signing Day even got close. Jim McElwain and his staff set themselves up to not need such a tremendous day today with the work they did early in the recruiting cycle, and so when they didn’t get it, they merely remained in the same not-incredible-but-still-solid position they were in before, even with the losses of Manuel and Robinson.
And second, the Gators did gain a big pickup today in Tyrie Cleveland. No Signing Day that includes landing a top 100 player, especially at a position of need, can possibly be labeled as a bust. It’s disappointing that Florida didn’t land Burns, Simpson or Fulton and lost Robinson and Manuel, but because of the dire need for wide receivers, landing Cleveland completely balances out all those losses.
For those of you who care about rankings, Florida is still going to finish with a top ten class. More importantly, though, is that the Gators filled their needs in this recruiting cycle. And as Signing Day draws to a close, that’s the main thing that we should take away.