The Importance of National Coaching Changes and Florida Recruiting

Brian Smith

With several prominent programs changing coaches – Florida State, Missouri, Arkansas, and Ole Miss to name a few – there will be several assistants changing schools as well. It just so happens that recruiting is about relationships built by those coaches that will be moving to new destinations.

A school that led for or even gained a commitment from an elite recruit can quickly be trailing when a coach leaves a program. That’s the theme. When selecting a college destination, it’s not that recruits do not look at several factors before deciding. They do. More importantly, more recruits continue to go further from home than ever before, and one assistant coach can be the liaison between recruit and school.

Whether it be LSU, Alabama, Ohio State, or Clemson, major programs will recruit across the country. Gone are the days of regional recruiting. Alabama and Clemson routinely recruit the state of California, just as an example. Speaking of Clemson, a big note must be discussed.

Clemson losing top assistant and recruiter

The University of South Florida will bring Clemson co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott to Tampa to be the Bulls’ head coach. Prior to his ascension within the coaching ranks, Scott earned the right to be called one of the nation’s top recruiters.

Do not be shocked if Clemson loses a recruit because of Scott heading to the University of South Florida, and it could be more than one recruit. Some of the prospects Scott and the Tigers wanted were still deciding. Losing Scott could also impact players considering Clemson, in addition to the prospects already committed to the Tigers. Additionally, the high schools that Scott built relationships within Miami, an area Clemson really made headway with the past several years, could be altered.

Replacing an elite recruiter

Whether it’s Scott, or a coach like Mike Locksley leaving Alabama last year to take over the head coaching duties at Maryland, or Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer stepping down, programs must move forward when losing a top-notch recruiter.

So far, the Gators have not lost an elite recruiter under head coach Dan Mullen’s watch. When the Gators do lose that guy (and it will happen at some point), they must be ready. It’s not if, but when, it will happen.

As of today, there’s no news out of Gainesville about any Gator coach definitely leaving the program. That’s great news, because this is a good coaching staff and one that’s done a pretty good job helping to rebuild the Florida program. That should lead the Gators to continue to build upon the relationships they made throughout Florida and beyond.

Building relationships with high school coaches

Let’s discuss the most important area for the Gators recruiting: South Florida. Florida currently holds commitments from six prospects that reside in the greater Miami-Fort Lauderdale area. Coaches moving on to a new school such as coach Scott moving to the University of South Florida could be a special option for the Gators to land a prospect otherwise likely to head some place not called Gainesville, FL. This is not just about Clemson.

It could be a coach leaving any particular school that holds a commitment from a Miami-area prospect. It does not even need to be a perennial top 25 program. Further, it could be a prospect simply leaning to a school other than Florida.

Bowl game success or failure

Just say it. Florida should house Virginia in the Orange Bowl. Which, oh by the way, is in Miami, where the Gators continue to look for top prospects. If the Gators go out and smash the Cavaliers (I believe they will, and you should too), it will benefit recruiting as recruits will be watching across the land. There’s a flip side as well.

Which team(s) around college football lay an egg in the bowl game? Last year, the Sugar Bowl pitted Georgia against Texas. The Longhorns thoroughly outplayed the Bulldogs and won 28-21. Did it cause Georgia to lose its entire recruiting class? Of course not. Still, losing as a big favorite did not help along the recruiting trail. Perhaps another SEC team will be the one to lay an egg this year.

Will Alabama players be focused when playing Michigan? Rumors of several Alabama players mulling their prospective NFL possibilities could be cause for concern. More specifically, which Alabama players will even play?

Several different programs’ coaching staffs will wait to find out if players decide to sit out their final college game before entering their name into the NFL Draft. It’s something that changes the outcome of bowl games and possibly recruiting.

Final thoughts

Realistically, only a few programs that have not yet reached the College Football Playoffs have a chance to reach those same playoffs during the next few years. It’s a small group, to be honest, and the Florida Gators happen to be one of those teams. One of the keys for the Gators making that trip is finalizing the 2020 recruiting class by adding a few more blue-chip recruits.

The Gators currently hold a really good recruiting class, but it could end up being the catapult to the playoffs in years to come if Florida can land a few more difference makers. Maybe it’s just that one recruit, like wide receiver Xzavier Henderson (6-3, 180 lbs., Columbus HS - Miami, FL). He’s long been considered a lean to Clemson. With coach Scott headed to the University of South Florida, maybe the Gators pull off the upset -especially considering his ties to Florida in his brother, Gators cornerback C.J.

Coaching changes matter. Keep a close eye on them - they dramatically impact recruiting. Between now and the first Wednesday in February, the Gators could conceivably gain a commitment that’s not even on the radar right now. That’s recruiting.