It’s not a surprise to see a recruiting class change drastically under a coaching chance. It will happen with Jimbo Fisher at Texas A&M and will inevitably happen at Tennessee if/when the Volunteer fans allow the administration to make a coaching hire.
Not surprisingly it’s already happening in Florida, where Dan Mullen has been in charge a little over a week. In the past week the Gators have lost a few commits with the threat of losing more, but the revamped staff has also identified new targets and are pursuing commits from other programs as the Dec. 20 early signing period draws near.
The first loss was 3-star cornerback Divaad Wilson from Northwestern High School in Miami. Wilson backed off his pledge to Florida on Nov. 30, the same day Mullen announced that Randy Shannon would not be retained as defensive coordinator. Shannon was named the new defensive coordinator at UCF on Tuesday.
In the past two days 3-star athlete Jalynn Williams from St. Petersburg, Fla., and 4-star lineman Curtis Dunlap also backed off their pledges. The changes have Florida’s class sitting outside of the top 10 at No. 12, according to 247Sports.com composite rankings.
Blake Alderman, the Gators’ recruiting analyst for 247Sports.com, said that such changes should be expected with a new coaching staff taking over and pursuing targets they have relationships with.
“There are always some changes in a recruiting cycle when you’re dealing with a coaching change,” Alderman said. “However a few of these guys that have jumped ship don’t really fit into what Florida is planning to do under Mullen or had little contact with the new coaching staff once Mullen was hired. So I think some of these recent defections are mutually beneficial.”
One of the bigger questions is 4-star Matt Corral, the highest-rated and highest-profile commit in the Gators’ class. Corral wasn’t recruited by Mullen when he was at Mississippi State and the quarterback is going to visit Ole Miss this weekend. Meanwhile Mullen and his staff are entertaining several other options at quarterback and are looking to make a splash as shown by Mullen’s recent in-home visit with 5-star prospect and Georgia commit Justin Fields.
Alderman says that while Corral doesn’t necessary fit everything that Mullen wants from his quarterbacks, the coach has shown the ability to adjust around the talents of his signal caller and would expect the same to happen if Corral sticks.
“I don’t think Corral is a perfect fit to the exact mold of what Mullen wants to do QB-wise, but he’s a guy that can tailor his offense around his QB like an Alex Smith or a Chris Leak,” Alderman said. “Things did get off a little slow communication-wise with Mullen and Corral, which I think has led to him taking some visits.
“Ole Miss will get Corral on campus this weekend, but Florida has yet to use their official as well. Getting him on campus the weekend of Dec. 15 would be the final visit before the early signing period. So if Florida sets that visit up, it gives the new staff the final say before pen goes to paper.”
Either way expect Mullen and his staff to be aggressive in recruiting to secure another top 10 class for the Gators. Also expect some new targets to pop up in the final weeks as Mullen looks to pluck some prospects who committed to him at Mississippi State and others he was targeting while coaching the Bulldogs.
“I think Florida fans expect those top 100 kids every year,” Alderman said. “Granted you have to fill in some lower 4 and 3-star guys in there, which are the ones you’d like to hit on as a ‘diamond in the rough’ type. Still overall with Florida being around tons of in-state talent has them in a good position to sign a top class yearly. Signing those top 100 kids is what Florida will need to do to get back go their winning ways.”
Alderman added that Mullen is targeting taller wide receivers and more athletic offensive linemen. He is also going to be aggressive with junior college prospects who can help on defense like defensive linemen Dorian Gerald (College of the Canyons) and Noah Jefferson (Arizona Western College) and linebacker Chauncey Manac (Garden City, CC).