“I think we have a national brand,” said Florida head coach Dan Mullen shortly after taking the reigns of the Gators football program (as reported by 247Sports). “Our focus is always going to be within the state of Florida, but we also have a national brand trying to go out and recruit the top players from America.”
Mullen and his staff have certainly traveled the country, offering many of the highest ranked prospects in the 2019 recruiting class. Clearly, California has been a key destination for this staff as no less than thirty Golden State prospects have been offered scholarships by Florida.
But, has Mullen forgotten his own state in his pursuit of landing a top class?
The state of Florida has 39 prospects in the 247Sports Top-250. The Gators currently have commitments from zero of those thirty-nine.
If that isn’t alarming enough, in-state rivals Florida State (7) and Miami (5) are crushing it on the in-state trail. In fact, Clemson (2), Georgia (1), Penn State (1), Oregon (1), and even Mullen’s former boss, Urban Meyer (Ohio State, 1) have all landed more commits from the top prospects in the state.
None of this would matter if Florida had landed a few of these west coast recruits. Unfortunately, to this point, it hasn’t happened.
In the last three weeks, Florida has missed on four prospects from outside Florida’s usual recruiting footprint.
On June 20, #1 CB prospect Derek Stingley (Baton Rouge, LA) chose LSU over Florida. July 6 brought a pair of disappoinments as #11 TE Jahleel Billingsley (Chicago) chose Alabama and #5 CB Chris Steele (Bellflower, CA) committed to USC. Most recently, on Thursday, #10 TE Ethan Rae (Orange, CA) announced his commitment to USC.
As of the publishing of this piece, Florida has landed only one 2019 prospect outside the SEC footprint (4-star QB Jalon Jones). The Gators currently rank #31 in the 247Sports recruiting rankings, one spot behind powerhouse, (sarcasm) Duke.
Yes, Dan Mullen is at a new school, but that can’t absolve him of Florida’s current recruiting situation.
Because Willie Taggart is the new head coach at Florida State and the Seminoles sit at #12 in the rankings. Furthermore, Mississippi State, the school Mullen left for Florida, is sitting far ahead of the Gators at #11.
Mullen can correct all this, and by no means is this recruiting season a lost cause. Florida is firmly in the mix for several local top prospects and Friday Night Lights is right around the corner. Landing 5-star RB Trey Sanders, 4-star CB Kaiir Elam, 4-star CB Tyrique Stevenson, and 4-star TE Keon Zipperer would make The Gator Nation forget the summertime woes.
It may be time for Mullen to quit ‘California Dreamin’. As David Waters of Gators Breakdown told me, “The Florida ‘brand’ had taken a hit, and while these (west coast) recruits had a lot of good things to say about UF, asking a recruit to come across country when the program has been struggling is asking a lot. Even when the Gators are winning, it’s hard to pull out of California. I think Mullen could have underestimated that Florida isn’t what it once was.”
Waters continued, “UF should make the biggest effort in the state of Florida. You’re in a talent rich state, nail that down.
Hopefully, the time spent out west was not at the expense of the in-state recruits.”
*Chomp Talk would like to express a sincere appreciation to David Waters for providing his opinion on this subject.