Momentum is the theme in Florida

Momentum is the theme in Florida

The theme of this Florida notebook is momentum, as there's a big game tomorrow between the Gators and Hurricanes. Momentum can certainly be on the positive side for the Seminoles and on the other end for the Bulls. All of this plus news and notes regarding official and unofficial visits regarding some of the recruits from the Sunshine State.

I have always believed that there is no greater wealth of football talent then what you find year-in and year-out in South Florida. Bottom line, that part of the Sunshine State is the battleground of Florida.

For the University of Miami, it is their backyard. The Hurricanes never have to stray too far away to land the bulk of a recruiting class. The key for the ‘Canes is to evaluate and recruit the right prospects for what they do. There are just simply too many players and at the end of the day they won't get them all.

Having said that, you can take it to the bank that Florida and Florida State want their share. But it's so tough because they have to beat the ‘Canes and everyone else in the country who are trying to get their slice of the South Florida pie as well.

I see the dynamics shifting to a degree, at least in the short term. First, Miami is back recruiting and recruiting at a very high level.

Second, coaching changes at the assistant level altered the playing field. Assistant coaches James Coley and Eddie Gran are no longer in Tallahassee. Coley is now a member of the Hurricanes staff while Gran has been reunited with Cincinnati head coach Tommy Tuberville. These two coaches were recruiting assassins in south Florida for the Seminoles. Certainly Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher replaced them with very good coaches and recruiters but it will take some time for Florida State to duplicate the high degree of success they had down there.

Then you have the Gators. Sure they landed players from that part of the state, but never with the same success as Florida State. But as we have seen with this recruiting class for Florida, that changed. I can't recall a Gator staff that pulled players in a single class like wide receiver Ermon Lane (Homestead), defensive tackle Khairi Clark (Hollywood Chaminade-Madonna), cornerback Chris Lammons (Plantation), running back Dalvin Cook (Miami Central) and safety Quincy Wilson (Ft. Lauderdale University School) from south Florida. Florida has typically recruited very well over the years but not in south Florida. Is this a one-time thing for Florida coach Will Muschamp or is this is sign of things to come for the Gators?

Now, I have never been a big believer one game can really sway recruits. But it can carry some weight and create a lot of momentum for that winner.

What will a win do for the Gators or Hurricanes, who meet at noon on Saturday in Miami?

From a Florida perspective, it will help them carry their recruiting momentum that they have created in south Florida. Sure they have those recruits committed but there's still a very long way to go until national signing day. They have to hang on with Miami and others nibbling away at their pledges.


Al Golden

For Miami, they are trying to show everyone that they truly are an ascending program. A win against Florida will be a nice validation to what Al Golden and his staff are doing in Coral Gables. The program and roster are notably better under this regime than under former coach Randy Shannon. It's early and there's no telling how far this team can go this season. A victory over the hated Gators would be huge for Miami and give further proof to all the prospects they are ascending.

But quite honestly this game will impact recruits in the class of 2015 more than anything. Much of this is predicated on the fact the process is so accelerated. I mean, the ‘Canes already have two dozen recruits committed to the 2014 class. But looking ahead to next year's crop there will be a ton of high-end elite prospects in attendance. Defensive backs Calvin Brewton (Miami Central), Shawn Burgess-Becker (Coconut Creek Monarch), wide receivers Deon Cain (Tampa Bay Tech), Ryan Davis (St. Petersburg Lakewood), Jovan Durante (Miramar), linebackers Jeffery Holland (Jacksonville Trinity Christian Academy) and Sherrod Pittman (Jacksonville First Coast), offensive guard Kendrick Norton (Jacksonville Trinity Christian Academy), running back Jacques Patrick (Orlando Timber Creek), wide receivers Devante Peete (Ft. Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas), Da'vante Phillips (Miami Central) and athlete Torrance Gibson (Plantation American Heritage) all say they will be there at the game.

It will be a great one to watch and very interesting to see what kind of impact it has in the never ending intense recruiting battles in South Florida.


Did they find their guy?
It was quite a debut for red-shirt freshman quarterback Jameis Winston on Monday night for Florida State. He was simply sensational in leading the Seminoles to a road victory at Pitt.

One thing I have said over and over for the past few years in that no team outside of Tuscaloosa, Ala. has recruited better than Fisher and Florida State. They have had some talented teams over the past year or two but inconsistencies at quarterback stymied their offense. Now it appears they found their guy in Winston.


Jameis Winston

I know, I know… it's one game. But what a game.

He set the bar high. This is a talented young signal caller with a wealth of talent around him. The offensive line is stout and he has some good players on the perimeter at wide receiver. If there is an area of concern it's with their running game because of injuries, depth and attrition. They had a big hit at that position over the past few weeks. At least for the first part of the season they may have to rely on Winston's arm more than Fisher would like. But hey, if he plays anywhere near the level he showed earlier this week then Florida State could go on a nice run.

So, if Winston is the guy and plays at a high level, what could this do for Florida State recruiting? They have already recruited well. It's a rock solid 2014 class that's almost complete, as they only have spots for four or five more. The impact of Winston will be felt in the coming classes of 2015 and 2016. Those prospects were watching on Monday.

"Winston is the man," said Tyrek Cole from Miramar, one of the top junior cornerbacks in the state.

Orlando Timber Creek 2015 running back Jacques Patrick echoed similar thoughts.

"That man [Winston] is the truth," Patrick said. "I expected him to do well. He'll be another first round QB coach [Jimbo] Fisher has coached up."

Again, it's one game of a long season. But he has the Seminole nation excited about the possibilities for this program and recruits have taken notice as well.


Adversity hits Bulls early
The Bulls had some stunning wins over the last decade. They beat Auburn, Florida State and Notre Dame on the road. A few short years ago USF was ranked No. 2 in the country.

On Saturday night they lost to FCS-level McNeese State. They lost to McNeese State 53-21. This was a home loss in Willie Taggart's debut as the Bulls head coach.

Quite frankly, this was shocking.

The question is what's next for Taggart? To his credit he did nothing but good things since he was named the Bulls coach in January. There has been excitement and enthusiasm surrounding the program since his arrival. He closed out the 2013 class well considering the short recruiting window and has done good things with the 2014 class, especially locally in the Tampa Bay area.


Willie Taggart

Taggart had created a ton of good momentum for the program.

Then, they lost to McNeese State. The Bulls travel to East Lansing and face Michigan State tomorrow and host Miami in a few weeks. Conference games await.

It's going to be a struggle. The roster needs to be revamped. They have major issues on defense, at quarterback and at wide receiver.

Recruiting, and recruiting well, is imperative. A poor season will only make recruiting that much harder. That same momentum he created prior to Saturday simply won't be the same. It can disappear as quickly as it came.

Sure he can sell prospects on early playing time. But more bad losses like the one Saturday certainly won't help their cause.

At this point players committed to USF are holding firm. But will that last? Can the Bulls finish like they started? Competing teams will come after their pledges hard. It happens all the time, whether you are a big-time program or one striving to reach that status. It's much harder to hang on and close when you play poorly.

Perhaps USF outside linebacker commitment Jimmy Bayes (Immokalee, Fla.) said it best – "Well, Rome wasn't built in a day."

Still, Bayes insists he will visit schools like Auburn, N.C. State and Georgia Tech. Is this an omen? Well, yes and no. Bayes, USF's first commitment in this class, always talked openly about visiting other campuses. But as a coach you never want a committed recruit visiting elsewhere because you never know what will ultimately happen.

Bayes is one of their better commitments. Other notables recruits are Tajee Fullwood (Tampa Bay Tech), Deiondre Porter (Tampa Jefferson), Deatrick Nichols (Miami Central), Jarvis Stewart (Largo), and Nick Nataro (Estero). It's a good core group they have to hang on to.

Taggart openly campaigned to jump on the USF bus. He was the driver. Was Saturday night simply a speed bump in their road or the sign of something much worse?

Right now, there are a million questions surrounding this team. And how they play tomorrow and the rest of the season could greatly impact how they recruit.

Football coaches constantly preach adversity hits each team in every game and every season. They didn't handle it well this past weekend. Adversity hit and hit this team early. How they respond will prove huge in more ways than one.


News & notes regarding visits
Below are some news and notes regarding official and unofficial visits this weekend and in the weeks ahead for some of the prospects in Florida.

• Above you saw the some of the junior prospects that said they will be at the Florida/Miami game. There will be plenty of 2014 kids as well, many who are committed. Of course, a ton of the Hurricane pledges will be there but also scheduled for unofficial visits are Florida commitments Khairi Clark, Dalvin Cook, and Chris Lammons. USF pledge Jimmy Bayes says he will be there and as will FIU commit Javonte Seabury (Orlando Timber Creek).

• Bulldogs commitments, running back Sony Michel (Plantation American Heritage) and safety Kendall Gant (Lakeland Lake Gibson) will make their official visits to Georgia.

• Safety Tony Fields (Tallahassee Godby) will make an official visit to Michigan State this weekend.

• Running back Madre London (Ft. Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas) will make an official visit to Nebraska this weekend.

• Palm Beach Gardens Dwyer teammates Johnnie Dixon and Shawn Boone will make official visits to N.C. State this weekend.

• Defensive end Rohan Blackwood (Brooksville Nature Coast) will make an official visit to Wisconsin this weekend.

• Wide receiver Trevon Lee (Ft. Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons) told me he will make an official visit to Cal (9-13) next weekend. He's also setting up trips to Vanderbilt, Duke and Stanford. His last visit will go to Oregon, Nebraska or Ole Miss.

• Wide receiver Kenric Young (Gainesville) will visit Iowa State (9-14) and Indiana (9-21)

• Quarterback Alin Edouard (Hialeah) says he will make an official visit to Syracuse.

• Linebacker Greg Miclisse (Palm Bay Bayide) said he will make an official visit to Indiana (9-21)

• Linebacker Josh Black (Tampa Sickles) thinks he may visit Utah State next week (9-14) for an official visit. He also wants to set up trips to Arizona, Marshall, FIU and Bowling Green.

• Junior offensive tackle Jake Fruhmorgen (Tampa Plant) is not going to any games this week but says he plans on visiting Florida for the Tennessee game.

• Running back Dacorius Law (Haines City) said he is in the process of setting up official visits to Michigan State, Indiana, Iowa State, UCF and possibly Oregon.

Jamie has been covering college football recruiting since 1992 and is entering his ninth year with Scout.com and FOXSportsNext. He's currently a National Recruiting Analyst and Manager for the state of Florida. Jamie is also covering the NFL Draft for the network.
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