Gators appear to be de-emphasizing South Florida recruiting

Miami skyline

“If you don’t think South Florida is important to us…. as a coach at Wagner College, the first guy I ever signed, went on to be an All-American, went to Gulliver Prep (in Miami),” Dan Mullen.

The most important state in the Union in terms of football recruiting is Florida. There is a wealth of talent from the Panhandle to the First Coast through the orange groves of central Florida to the Gulf Coast and the Bay Area, but no locale is more talent-rich than South Florida. The Dade/Broward area is full of talent year in, year out.

I’ve heard recruiters say they’ll take a three-star prospect from South Florida over a four-star almost anywhere outside of Florida.

Mullen’s comment doesn’t strike me as odd; any coach would be crazy not to recruit what former Miami coach Howard Schnellenburger called “The State of Miami.”

Well, for months now, I’ve heard that’s just not the case. For months, I’ve heard the University of Florida has made the conscious decision to de-emphasize recruiting South Florida.

This is not to say that Mullen doesn’t have targets in South Florida, what I’ve been told is that he doesn’t value South Florida the way other Gator coaches have, or the way other coaches inside and outside the state, currently do.

My sources around recruiting in state have told me that during the first staff meeting after last December’s early signing period, Mullen made a comment that he wasn’t worried about losing a particular recruit or any kid from Miami or Broward because he won titles without many players from South Florida on his roster.

If he did say that, the statement is both true, and false, depending on how you look at it. The Gators’ 2006 national championship team had 14 players from South Florida. That’s not a huge amount, nor is it insignificant. That same team had 12 players from Gainesville high schools. Gainesville, obviously, has a much smaller population than South Florida. Most importantly, that team had Tim Tebow. He was one of 10 First Coast players on the roster.

That roster had a pretty even mix of in-state players from South Florida, the First Coast, the Tampa-Ft. Myers area and Gainesville along with 20 total out-of-state players to add to those from the Orlando area, Panhandle/Big Bend, and north Florida.

Back to the present day.

What does this tell you about Mullen’s valuation of South Florida? He let numerous coaches and support staffers from the previous staff go who had in-roads to South Florida when he was hired. Having coached at Mississippi State for almost 10 years, Mullen – and the coaches he brought with him – weren’t fixtures in South Florida. The new coaches Mullen hired aren’t known as ace South Florida recruiters.

He’s essentially starting from scratch there.

And remember, those coaches and staffers who were let go are responsible for recruiting a majority of the starters and best players currently on the roster and they also had the No. 1 ranked 2019 recruiting class at one time. Yet, not one coach was retained off the previous staff.

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