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Why Ole Miss Should Place More Emphasis on Recruiting the Entire State of Florida

Ole Miss should place more emphasis on recruiting areas of Florida away from Fort Lauderdale and Miami.

Would Ole Miss like to land top five recruiting classes by way of signing numerous prospects from the SI 99 Rankings? Of course. Recruiting is not that easy, and that includes how the Rebels recruit the state of Florida. The Rebels have been heavy on recruiting the South Florida talent, and to an extent, that’s okay. It’s still not the end-all be-all for recruiting in the Sunshine State, however.

Can Ole Miss propel its roster by finding hidden talent in other areas of Florida? Yes, it definitely can. Is it possible for the Rebels to start landing more talent in less populated areas of Florida as well? You bet.

Some might say that recruiting areas of Florida away from Miami would be too timely or costly. As noted in Thursday’s article, Ole Miss Recruiting South Florida and Elijah Moore, the Fort Lauderdale and Miami areas are incredible. That’s why college coaches flock to those metro areas. Fair enough, but there’s talent all over Florida that even extends beyond cities like Orlando, Jacksonville, and Tampa, even if those specific high schools are somewhat close by to those cities.

This article aims to show that the programs that go a little bit further, are the ones that truly find top talent. It’s not just the programs like Coastal Carolina or Troy, or even South Carolina or Indiana either. All of those teams offer a plethora of Florida recruits. With that, here are four players that are evidence that Ole Miss should probably dig into Florida even more than it already does, as well as doing so earlier and earlier than it has in the past. To begin, here are two players that came from high schools near Orlando as examples.

UCF has been an improving program over the past several years, and one of the ways it is doing so is finding hidden gems in the greater Central Florida area. Remember the record-setting four touchdown receptions for Buffalo Bills wide receiver Gabriel Davis against the Kansas City Chiefs during the NFL Playoffs?

Gabriel Davis UCF Buffalo Bills

From the 2021-22 NFL Playoffs, Gabriel Davis's eight catches for 201 yards and four touchdowns agains thte Kansas City Chiefs shall not soon be forgotten.

He is a former UCF player after barely being recruited from Sanford (Fla.) Seminole. For UCF, his 2019 season of 72 receptions for 1,241 yards and 12 receiving touchdowns is still one of the best performances in UCF history.

For the class of 2017, Davis came to UCF as the 1,880th ranked recruit by 247 Sports. After that great 2019 season, Davis launched his NFL career a year early because his draft stock was high enough to forgo his final year of college eligibility. Keep in mind, UCF is the only FBS program that extended an offer to Davis. There’s another great example from UCF, and he’s another player from the Orlando area.

In the class of 2020, UCF found running back Johnny Richardson from Lake Wales High School, located in the southern section of rural Polk County. While only about 90 minutes from UCF and the east side of Orlando, it’s one of the most under-recruited areas of Florida. UCF found a gem.

With star running back Isaiah Bowser banged up for much of last season, Richardson’s blazing speed helped him to attain a 7.1 yards per carry average, as well as 733 rushing yards, which led the Knights. Richardson was the 1,440th recruit in America by 247 Sports. With two years of eligibility left, Richardson appears to be on an NFL path much like Davis.

UCF Johnny Richardson RB

Johnny Richardson is the speed back to complement UCF power runner Isaiah Bowser.

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For a truly prime example of how just about any team can strike gold in Florida, the next player takes the cake. Kansas hitting gold in Florida? Believe it. The Jayhawks even beat out Alabama, Auburn, Ole Miss, and several other big-name programs for this safety. The Jayhawks got in on him early and it paid off.

Within the Jayhawks 2019 recruiting class, safety Kenny Logan signs from Saint Augustine (Fla.) Pedro Menendez. That’s a school located just a little bit south of Jacksonville, and certainly not a prominent provider of top-notch recruits. While only being the No. 88 recruit in the state of Florida for the class of 2019 by 247 Sports, as well as 722nd nationally, Logan is lighting it up in the Big 12.

After being mainly a special teams contributor in 2019, Logan has a really good 2020 season as a sophomore. He has 58 total tackles, one interception, three pass breakups, one tackle for loss, one sack, and is a prime return man. He averages 26.5 yards per kickoff return, including a touchdown.

Logan’s 2021 season continues the trend. As the Big XII leader in tackles with 113, he’s obviously a stalwart. Those 113 tackles also lead the NCAA for tackles by a safety. Logan also reaches 10 or more tackles in a game five times, has six pass breakups, and five tackles for loss and a pass breakup.

Kenny Logan Kansas Safety versus West Virginia

Many college football programs probably wish they had a safety in the back end of their defense like Kenny Logan from Kansas.

Out of all the examples on this list, maybe Logan is the most glaring example that top talent is truly about getting on the recruiting trail and a school doing its own evaluations. Not every school got on the recruiting bandwagon for Logan right away. Maybe that’s why he turned down so many top offers and goes to a school like Kansas that is not known for winning in college football. Finally, one more player to note.

Another great example, and unique twist to recruiting Florida would be IMG Academy in Bradenton, about an hour south of Tampa. Andre Cisco starts out as what many might call a developmental player that comes from that program. He is now with the Jacksonville Jaguars after being a 3rd Round Pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

While only being the No. 97 player in Florida by 247 Sports prior to being a stalwart for the Orange, give credit to that Syracuse staff for finding this young man and watching him grow. His impressive career stats of 13 career interceptions, as well as leading the ACC in interceptions during his first two seasons playing for Syracuse, are great examples of how there’s all kinds of talent to be found in Florida. Do not go by just the stars, but truly evaluate each prospect and scout across Florida. Cisco’s only SEC offer: Vanderbilt.

Looking at Ole Miss recruiting the state of Florida overall, there are numerous players that can help the roster. Adding even one player that ends up being the next Davis, Richardson, Logan or Cisco can help to propel the Rebels to being an SEC title contender. 

Recruiting is fickle. Just maybe there needs to be a broader approach in the Sunshine State. It’s at least something that should be up for debate after looking at the evidence.

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