With just 10 days to go until Signing Day 2011, InsidetheGators.net takes a closer look at the three most important recruiting factors for Florida as the Gators head down the recruiting stretch.
How this class is ultimately viewed will depend greatly on these three factors:
1) HOLDING ON TO THEIR OWN
Since Will Muschamp took over as head coach of the Florida football program, three prospects have decommitted from the Gators - Chase Hounshell, Ryan Shazier and Nick Waisome. A fourth, Jeoffrey Pagan was already wavering before the coaching change took place.
That is a pretty big hit for a class that wasn't high on numbers in the first place.
Now, with 10 days to go and seven of Florida's 15 public commitments are already enrolled, leaving but eight current commits to keep an eye on. Five of those eight (Jabari Gorman, Chris Johnson, Hunter Joyer, (Louchiez Purifoy and Trip Thurman) seem to be as solid as a rock.
That leaves prospects such as Tommy Jordan, Valdez Showers and Ja'Juan Story to keep an eye on. That isn't to say that all or any of the three are wavering in their commitment, but for various reasons all three bear watching over the next 10 days.
Jordan: Though he told his hometown newspaper that he was still solid in his commitment to the Gators, the fact is, if everything was perfectly okay, he wouldn't have went back home after enrolling early. The fact that he was once very accessible, but now avoiding interviews only adds to the intrigue.
Showers: He told GBN after his official visit to Gainesville that he was solid in his commitment to UF. However, with Michigan hiring a new coaching staff - including former UF defensive coordinator Greg Mattison dropping down from the NFL - whether or not Michigan would make a push for him was in question. According to Josh Helmholdt here on the network, the Wolverines haven't been in contact.
Story: He took his final visit over the weekend when he tripped to Columbus to check out the Buckeyes. According to a text he sent to GBN, he is still committed to the Gators. Muschamp is scheduled to meet with him on Wednesday. OSU's Jim Tressel will be in as well.
The way things are going, if the staff can hold serve with what they have and keep the current 15 commits, that would have to be considered a minor victory.
2) DON'T START PANICKING & START REACHING
Up next, and just as important, is don't take commitments just for the sake of taking bodies.
To paraphrase what a former Florida assistant told GBN a couple of years ago: In recruiting it isn't the ones that get away, it's the ones you take who aren't capable of contributing and you are stuck with for four or five years that hurt you the most.
Not to attempt to give advice to a coaching staff which obviously knows more than any of us, but if you didn't think a young man was capable to contributing to the Gators a month ago, then what's changed on his end that he miraculously is somehow able to now?
At the very end of his first recruiting class Ron Zook took Todd Bunce and MacKenzie Pierre. Though neither ever caused an issue off the field, the fact is neither of them ever contributed on it. When Zook got the ball rolling recruiting wise in the following years, don't you think there was a time or two, when numbers were tight, that he wished that he had a couple of more scholarships available?
You are much better off carrying those numbers over to the next recruiting cycle when you have a full year in which to build relationships with the prospects of 2012.
3) FILL BIG NEEDS ON DEFENSE
While Florida could use another offensive lineman and with the way the depth chart currently looks, an additional quarterback would be a welcome sight - the Gators have a couple of big needs on defense that outweigh any concern they have on the offensive side of the ball.
Though a couple of top notch defensive linemen and linebackers are more of a need than a want - at the very least the Gators have to have at least one more defensive tackle and linebacker and wouldn't say no to a premiere pass rusher.
Six weeks ago, it appeared as though Florida would have no problem filling their needs at linebacker. The Gators already had Ryan Shazier in the fold and were either the outright leaders or in the top two or three for top end prospects such as Curtis Grant, Stephone Anthony and Lamar Dawson and were still in the running for A.J. Johnson. As of today - Shazier is gone and Dawson and Johnson are no longer possibilities - leaving Grant and Anthony remaining on the board. Of the two, UF has the best shot of landing Grant, and they are likely no better than tied 50-50 with Ohio State at the moment.
At defensive tackle/nose guard Florida is still in the running for top tier prospects such as Johnathan Jenkins and Elkino Watson and Timmy Jernigan. If UF can land one of the three the Gators would have to walk away smiling. The problem is, with 10 days remaining, all are likely leaning elsewhere as of today. A week ago, UF had to be considered the favorites for Watson, but a late offer by Miami and a weekend trip to Coral Gables has to have him thinking.
As for a premiere pass rusher, with Anthony Chickillo off the board - gaining one in the class of 2011 may no longer be an option for the Gators. Curt Maggitt has the explosion, but lacks anywhere near the weight and strength to contribute at end any time soon - and is more likely an outside linebacker candidate at his current size.
Jermauria Rasco is due in this coming weekend, but Florida has a lot of ground to make up in order to gain his signature.
If UF can keep what they have, not have to reach for projects that more than likely won't pan out and add another defensive lineman and linebacker (or two), then the Gator Nation should be satisfied with the effort from the new coaching staff while looking for bigger and better things to come.