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One game can hold sway for recruits, but not always
The effects of Florida's national title victory won't be known for a while.
By JOEY KNIGHT
Published January 11, 2007
Florida's victory in the BCS title game Monday put an extra quarter-million in Urban Meyer's bank account, another glistening piece of hardware in the school trophy case and a surge in the sprawling Gator merchandise industry.
But what will it do for the football team's immediate and long-term recruiting efforts? It's hard to put a foam finger on it.
Conventional wisdom suggests the 41-14 annihilation of Ohio State will result in even greater recruiting momentum for the Gators, who already have what is projected as one of the nation's best signing classes 22 commitments so far for 2007.
Analysts - and some recruits - agree.
A victory "like that, I think it definitely does (help recruiting). It has to," said Gulf High two-way standout Alton Voss, who committed to South Florida last fall but still is being recruited by the Gators as an athlete.
"It certainly does (help), in particular for next year because it's going to give them a full year to brag about being national champions," added CSTV national recruiting analyst Tom Lemming, who has the Gators neck and neck with Texas for the top class of 2007.
"And it will help them this year with the kids who are left that they're still trying to get."
But others, including many nationally prized recruits, suggest the outcome of one game won't influence their ultimate decision.
"If they had lost, it wouldn't have changed my mind one bit," said Armwood defensive end Torrey Davis, a prep All-American who committed to Florida early last season. "I was going there because I like Urban Meyer and what he's doing."
Davis' sentiment echoed at least halfway across the country Wednesday.
Hempstead (Texas) receiver Terrence Toliver, who has narrowed his college choices to LSU and Florida, told the Times the outcome of Monday's game doesn't influence his decision.
Ditto for Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas safety Major Wright, being recruited by both the Gators and Ohio State, among others.
"Any team is capable of having a bad game or a great game," Wright said. "I wouldn't let one game make my decision. What matters to me are things like graduation rates, great environment, great coaching staff, somewhere I'm comfortable."
"I think a lot of guys might go there now because they won the national championship, but that's not a good reason," Davis added.
But presume, for a moment, that some do base one of the biggest decisions of their lives on the outcome of one game. Will that automatically benefit Florida?
"Winning a title like that works both ways," said veteran Hillsborough High coach Earl Garcia, who has sent dozens of players to Division I schools including current Gators freshman Jarred Fayson and ex-UF offensive lineman Shannon Snell.
"Recruiters for other schools will use the old, 'Well, you can go to Florida, but you're going to have to wait your turn. Or you can go to fill-in-the-blank and play right away or maybe play a lot sooner.'
"Now with a team like Boise State, there's a case of winning a bowl game helping you a whole lot. Now, they are going to get some kids who a month ago didn't know what a Boise or a state was."
Lemming concurs, to a degree.
The success "does scare some players, but those aren't really the players Florida is going to be recruiting," he said. "It hasn't hurt Southern California; they're getting all the players they want and have won two national titles."
Similarly, Meyer was getting commitments from most of his coveted prospects well before taking the field Monday night. In fact, Lemming said UF likely will edge Texas for the No. 1 spot in his recruiting rankings because Meyer has a few more scholarships to give.
And, just maybe, a few more youngsters clamoring for them today.
"Everyone kept saying Florida was the underdog," Voss said. "And for them to pretty much come out and blow out Ohio State has to impress everyone in Florida and around the country who is being recruited by them."