Recruiting in Florida is about to get wild after influx of high-profile coaches
Some big names are restarting their head coaching careers in the Sunshine State
Let's run off the names of the seven FBS head coaches in the state of Florida now, shall we?
Jimbo Fisher. Mark Richt. Jim McElwain. Charlie Strong. Scott Frost. Lane Kiffin. Butch Davis.
In other words, recruiting in Florida is about to get wild.
Retirees move to Florida to kick back and relax as they get older. In college football, coaches now head to the Sunshine State for their version of a new lease on life.
Most of the Sunshine Seven endured their share of slip-ups through the years or otherwise they wouldn't be at their jobs in Florida. Still, these are household names. Now they'll be fighting for attention -- and fighting off outside recruiters -- in one of the nation's most talented football states.
Tier 1 -- The SEC Bloodlines: It's a coach with a national title and SEC ties who turned down LSU (Florida State's Jimbo Fisher) vs. a coach who's among the 10 winningest coaches in SEC history (Miami's Mark Richt) vs. a coach who's the first to reach the SEC Championship Game in each of his first two years (Florida's Jim McElwain).
Tier 2 -- The Comeback vs. The Newcomer: It's a coach who just got fired at Texas and once beat the Gators in the Sugar Bowl (South Florida's Charlie Strong) vs. a coach who ran Oregon's offense and has Phil Knight on his speed dial (UCF's Scott Frost).
Tier 3 -- The ex-NFL head coaches: It's a coach who helped recruit USC's dynasty and failed with the Oakland Raiders (Florida Atlantic's Lane Kiffin) vs. a coach who helped recruit Miami's dynasty and failed with the Cleveland Browns (FIU's Butch Davis).
At this rate, Jim Harbaugh will turn IMG Academy in Bradenton into a monthly practice venue for Michigan.
The state of Florida probably needed some juice. The Seminoles, Hurricanes or Gators played in eight of the 16 national championship games during the BCS. So far in the College Football Playoff era, none of them have played for the national title. Florida State, the best of the bunch in the state, got blown out by Oregon in the 2014 semifinals.
The Seminoles have lost the ACC title two straight years to Clemson, which signed more top-100 Florida recruits in 2014-16 (five) than the Gators (four). The leaders for top-100 Florida recruits, as rated by 247Sports' Composite rankings, by where they signed in the past three years: Florida State 16, Miami six, Clemson five, Ohio State four, Florida four, LSU three.
You know it stings Gators fans that Urban Meyer has signed as many top-100 players from Florida as McElwain, who is facing some criticism from fans for not doing more than winning two division titles in a down SEC East. UF is currently ranked 20th in the 247Sports Composite rankings for 2017.
So far, six of the top seven committed top-100 incoming recruits in Florida say they're headed to Alabama, Ohio State or Auburn. The leaderboard for committed top-100 Florida recruits in 2017: Alabama four, Ohio State three, Florida State three and Texas A&M two. The Gators have zero.
This is the backdrop for Fisher vs. McElwain vs. Richt. They're not really competing for many of the same players as Strong, Frost, Kiffin and Davis. The average recruiting rankings for Florida schools over the past three years: Florida State 3rd, Florida 14th, Miami 20th, USF 59th, UCF 65th, FAU 91st, FIU 101st.
But you better believe these coaches will bump heads at least some on the recruiting trail and while fighting for national and local media attention. These coaches are too savvy and well-known for that not to happen.
There needed to be a perfect storm for these high-profile coaches to all reach Florida at once.
Richt was a very good coach who kept losing just the right games at Georgia. Bulldogs fans didn't want nine wins with the wrong losses so Richt was fired and landed at Miami, his alma mater and a shell of itself from the days of The U. Miami fans were invigorated by Richt's presence in 2016.
Frost turned down other jobs for several years while waiting for the right one he felt had a high ceiling. UCF opened when George O'Leary went 0-12 in his final season. Frost immediately went 6-6 in his first year at UCF, whose research shows that one in 99 high school players in Florida signs a Division I scholarship, compared to about one in 400 in California and Texas.
Kiffin was so unhireable due to his rocky years with the Raiders, Tennessee and USC that he desperately took a job at FAU, which has won 19 games in the past six seasons. Perhaps Kiffin, who is only 41, wouldn't have been in this situation had he worked his way up as a head coach. Instead of "failing up" as he did in the past, Kiffin will restart at the bottom.
Davis was out of coaching since 2011 because he was connected to the North Carolina academic fraud scandal and one of his assistants was a runner for an agent. So now Davis joins FIU, which has won 17 games in the past five seasons.
Strong, who once flourished at Louisville, flamed out in three years at Texas but left the Longhorns loaded with talent for Tom Herman. Instead of becoming a defensive coordinator under Willie Taggart at Oregon, Strong will replace Taggart at USF, which is 10-2 this season.
All of the coaches are betting on themselves. Their Florida schools are betting on their names and connections in the state.
Who knows how the Sunshine Seven will play out? This much seems certain: Recruiting in Florida will be very, very entertaining.
It's highly advisable each school's compliance officers keep their NCAA rulebooks nearby.
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