Florida Football & Recruiting Coverage
Monthly access for just 33-cents a day or go annual for just over 25-cents a day
- Florida offers portal running back
- Watch: A behind-the-scenes look at Caden Jones’ Florida official visit
- Watch: Florida’s 10 Most Important Commits
- Regular Season Report Card: Napier has a Muschamp like first season
- Florida players to keep an eye on as Portal Season is set to kick off
- Evaluating the Class of 2022
This article was originally published in February this year, actually, the day after National Signing Day. Inside the Gators is re-running this feature as a reminder of what recruiting was like under the previous staff.
Months ago, while Dan Mullen and his former staff were still in place and looked to be safe, Inside the Gators began undertaking an extensive behind-the-scenes look at Florida football recruiting. Now that Mullen, his entire on-field staff, and all but one member of his recruiting support staff are no longer with the program, it would come across as beating a dead horse to post everything that was said and name names. However, if nothing else other than a precautionary tale, there’s still some value in publishing some of what was told to us. To be clear, not everything said was negative. There were absolutely some positive responses, and if the previous staff was still in place, some of that would be mixed in here as well. However, with the turnover in staff, the focus is more on what went wrong and why that was the case rather than focusing on some of what they did well and could improve upon if they stayed.
MULLEN AS A RECRUITER
Mullen was never seen as anything other than an average recruiter. That was the case while he was at Florida under Urban Meyer and that narrative continued at Mississippi State. As posted above, I wrote when he was hired that he was going to have to surround himself with a top-notch recruiting staff if he was to succeed. While he had some ‘ringers’ on the staff, it was never enough. Honestly, no matter who he had brought in on his staff, I doubt they would have been able to overcome his ineptness. To be an elite recruiting staff, the head coach needs to be a closer. Mullen simply didn’t fit the bill.
|“Something that I don’t think was accounted for when he was hired is that yes Dan had SEC recruiting experience, but Mississippi and Florida are polar opposites in everything, especially recruiting. Florida’s population is exploding, but no one is moving to Misississipi on purpose. Most Florida recruits and their family don’t have the ties instate that the Mississippi kids and families have. In Mississippi, for a lot of them, they are born and bred in state and have loyalty to the two instate schools more than the Florida recruits have to the Florida schools. Mississippi is a poor state. Those kids know that their families can’t afford to come to see them two or three states over, so they stay close to home. In Florida, you have to go out and fight and win battles for the top recruits, but in Mississippi, you have to try to not lose them. It’s a different dynamic. If you go back and look it up when he was coaching the Bulldogs most of his top signees came from Mississippi. He didn’t have to go out and win them over, he only had to make sure he didn’t lose them. It’s a different approach that he never learned to adapt to at Florida. He thought, ‘Hey we’re Florida, we’re winning, I shouldn’t have to recruit you to come here, you should want to come here.’ He took that for granted and never changed his approach up.” – Former recruiting support staff member|
|“I’ll say this, Dan isn’t lazy at all. When it’s time to go hard, he’ll go as hard as any head coach out there. It wasn’t that he was lazy, it was that if you look at his approach with his staff, he wants them to put family first, go to your kid’s plays, watch them play sports, and don’t miss a birthday party or school function. Those are family-friendly and make for a great boss but you have to think, while you’re off doing family things other coaches are coaching and recruiting. That never stops. Dan would pick and choose when he wanted to go all-in, but didn’t take the stance that you have to recruit nonstop because that’s what other staffs are doing. It’s harder when you have young kids. [Nick] Saban‘s kids are grown so he doesn’t count, but if you asked Kirby [Smart] to answer you directly, he would say that there are times his kids have to take a back seat or don’t get his full attention because if you aren’t out on the field coaching, you better be on your phone recruiting.” – Former recruiting support staff member|
|“When we needed him to, he could get involved, especially with on-campus events. Outside of on-campus recruiting, there was a lack of pursuit out on the trail, although he did have some sanctions that prohibited him from doing that in the last two years. I love him, but he has a stiffness about him that makes it hard for him to interact in a genuine way with segments of players, players from different backgrounds. It could be awkward because it came off as unnatural. There are all kinds of examples of the staff having to do damage control for how he could come off at times. But during [Official] Visit weekends and when we hosted recruiting days, he would mix in and try to make connections.” – Former assistant coach|
|“I personally think Dan is one of the most gifted offensive minds in all of football – he truly is a genius when it comes to scheming and attacking opponents’ weaknesses. His downfall was the inability to build a cohesive culture and organizational structure for communication and expectations to flow top-down. To get to the core of the problem, recruiting is just not his thing. I don’t think he is a terrible recruiter once he is face to face with kids because there were plenty of targets that enjoyed time with him. He just was not relentless as a recruiter. In the summer and during fall official visits that weren’t on game days, Mullen and the staff were all over recruiting. If it something had to be done during practice or during the season, don’t even approach Dan about it. His way of thinking is that the personnel staff was viewed as the ones that were supposed to get the recruit and the coaches were there to coach them up. He would turn his passwords over and some of the recruiting girls would text off of Dan’s accounts. The problem with that is recruits don’t play for the personnel staff they play for coaches.” – Former recruiting support staff member|
|“If it wasn’t a quarterback, he wasn’t fully engaged. If it was a quarterback he was in his element. For the recruits at other positions, he never really gave a lot of effort and when he did he was pushed toward doing it. He isn’t the kind of person to go up and throw his arms around you and strike up a conversation. That wasn’t going to change, so there was a lot of backpedaling and explaining to recruits about the way he is. He’ll talk football all day long, but he isn’t the kind to get to know a recruit on a personal level unless the recruit played quarterback.” – Former recruiting support staff member|
LACK OF AN ORGANIZATIONAL STRUCTURE
This is a category where I can offer example after example of either poor planning or just total confusion. Some of it may not seem like that big a deal in itself, but when you start to add all the instances together, you can clearly see there was an issue. Take for instance a couple of cycles ago, three-star offensive lineman George Jackson, who was committed to Florida at the time, was on an unofficial visit to Florida during camp season. First of all, there was no dedicated parking for visitors, it was first come first serve in a parking lot that could fill up quickly. He parked and was told to report to the Heavener Complex. When he arrived at the Heavener Complex, he was told he didn’t need to check in, just go to the Indoor Practice Facility. When he walked back to the IPF, he was told that no, he had to check-in. Kevin Camps, on staff as part of the Art Department, was kind enough to walk with him as he went from the IPF, to the Heavener Complex, and back to the IPF. In the greater scheme of things, that’s not going to kill anyone, but that’s still over the top unorganized to have a visitor have to jump through all those hoops for something so simple. Last summer they inadvertently set official visits for the June 25th weekend, there were supposed to be a couple of official visitors like Terrance Gibbs and Jacorey Thomas. Then the staff wanted to cancel that weekend because class was out between semesters, making the campus empty and many players, including those who perform hosting duties, would be out of town. Gibbs was okay with rescheduling, but I was told that Thomas wasn’t. He felt like the staff tried to ‘big time’ him by trying to get him to cancel his Miami visit in favor of instead visiting Florida. Now, the Gators likely were playing catch up with him anyway, but I was told that blunder didn’t help matters.
|“Yeah, for sure it was disorganized, everyone was left on his own because there was no communication or structure in terms of the process of offering recruits from the coaching staff. We’d hear about offers being thrown out to rejects super late as panic offers. Mullen wasn’t very genuine with the kids and they knew it. On our side, the guys were great. Charlie [Skalaski] is a really good guy and is good at his job as an evaluator but he was miscast as the head of the recruiting department. There were talented guys on the back end, but with how the structure was, who the people were on the coaching side, and their level of respect for the personnel, it just wasn’t going to work and it didn’t.” – Former recruiting support staff member|
|“It felt like they dealt with us when it was convenient to them. They play in the same conference as Alabama and aren’t leveled up over Ohio State, so I didn’t understand why if coaches with those two teams said they were going to do something or invited us to campus on a certain day they stuck with it. Florida wanted you to work around their schedule more than they wanted to work with you around yours. There has to be some give and take, but other coaches appreciated us bringing our kids to their campus enough to work more with us. They were consistent. Florida was more like mass confusion. They knew we were coming but they acted like it was last minute or something.” – in-state 7-on-7 and high school coach|
|“This year, Jamarrien Burt’s commitment was approved by Coach [Jules] Montinar, but was never approved by Mullen or anyone else on staff. Graphics got a text to make his commitment poster and then boom 20 minutes later it was up and nobody had any idea, including Coach Mullen. What can you do now? Burt didn’t do anything wrong. He committed and his commitment was taken by Coach Montinar. Do you embarrass him by putting it out there that we didn’t want him? You don’t want to piss off his high school coaches. This is just one example of things that have happened that didn’t have to happen. The same confusion with regards to guys from the last  class. [Trevonte] Rucker and [Javonte] Gardner were borderline to be qualifiers, and if I remember correctly weren’t qualifiers at all in the end. [Adrein] Strickland should’ve never been a take, but we had to take him out of desperation. Then [John] Hevesy wanted to drop him but continued to drag him along, only to do it days before signing day. We felt bad so we helped him find a home at South Alabama. This all goes back to how disorganized we were. The coaches struggled to communicate with us and them through the process of how things would play out as they become closer to being non-qualifiers.” – Former recruiting support staff member|
|“The structure was not a major concern or out of the ordinary if it was run correctly. The main problem was it was not the best in terms of communication. There were too many times when the right hand didn’t know what the left hand was doing. On our end, there are some things that are out of the recruiting staff’s hands, including the budget, and there were times that we were running the show instead of being there to support the coaching staff. I think there are some talented recruiters that were there, but it turned out to be the perfect storm of Mullen not doing enough, or not caring enough, to oversee what was going on. I can tell you that really after 2020 season, it went from bad to worse. It really did feel like he [Mullen] just gave up.” – Former recruiting support staff member|
|“Depending on which side of the fence you are on as a have or have-not, an organized coach or not, the best or worst thing that has happened to college football staffs was Nick Saban coming up with these enormous recruiting staffs. You have a coach for each position, each area of the country, some just watch tape, some just talk to recruits. It’s sprawling out of control. It can work to your advantage if there’s strong leadership and everyone is on the same page, if you don’t have that it’s a bunch of guys freelancing. A position coach goes into the cycle knowing he has X amount of scholarships out of the 85 [NCAA maximium] and has a target of X amount in this cycle. He will go to bat to fill his slots, but he will give a little if it means getting a better player at another position as long as he hasn’t hit rock bottom and isn’t going to have to run a bare-bones operation at his position. He understands that the team winning is a win for him. Now with recruiting staff, they understand their main value is who they can bring to the table and if you don’t have strong leadership and a sound organization you’ll have them put what’s best for them over everything else. Because, how are they judged? They are judged by getting their recruits on campus so they can parade them around and say ‘look who I brought in’ and most of them will do or say whatever they have to to get them on campus. Pump them up and let them believe they are higher on the board than they are, or give them offers they aren’t authorized to give. Anything it takes.” – Former recruiting support staff member|
COMMUNICATION WAS NEVER KEY & RECRUITING SUFFERED
Again, there are multiple examples of a lack of communication among staff members and the staff with prospects. This past summer I was messaging back-and-forth with a top target who was visiting with a teammate. They were coming in, while other visitors were leaving. They had arrived at the Hilton, while I was stationed out at the airport to interview departing visitors. A recruiting staff member pulls up in one of the big SUVs Florida rents for visit weekends. I walked up and asked him who he was picking up, when he told me, I had a quizzical look on my face. I told the staffer that the visitor drove in and told me they were over at the hotel waiting for a ride. The staffer gets on his phone and then speeds off – to go to the Hilton to get the visitor. He was given the wrong location to pick him up. Two cycles ago, a prospect who was five-star at that time, but then later dropped to four-star status, was visiting for a game. What happens is leading up to the visit, the prospect, his parents or a coach is text a link to a page explaining the game-day set-up. Where to park, where to check-in, etc… This prospect drove to town and was stuck in a Walmart parking lot not knowing what to do. He messaged me asking about the procedure because he said he couldn’t reach anyone on staff and he had been sitting there as it got closer to kick-off. Apparently, after checking his own phone, and asking his coaches and parents, he never received the link. Yes, he made it to campus, but that was a needless roadblock that helped to diminish a visit, which should serve as a showcase of the school, not cause a visitor undue stress. Inside the Gators has already posted a conversation with eventual signee Trevor Etienne from back in the summer when he was having difficulty reaching a staff member. That is just one of many instances where prospects have had trouble reaching staff members or were highly rated and left wondering why Florida never got in contact with them. This is a back-and-forth between myself and 2023 four-star offensive lineman Roderick Kearney. I was in attendance last April when he was named the Offensive Line Co-MVP at the UC Report Combine in Orlando. The young man made it clear that he grew up a Florida fan, and started blowing up after the camp and started receiving offers from the likes of Florida State, Oregon, and others. Now, keep in mind Florida subscribes to the UC Report Scouting Service (they make it clear at the camp every Power 5 program other than Iowa does), so they knew about Kearney, and this isn’t saying they should have offered, but it was months that he was left wondering why they weren’t even in contact with him.
Look at the dates as I checked in with him monthly after the UC Camp Report Combine.
The very next day Florida finally offered, but it was Kearney who initiated the contact.
|“When there aren’t strong lines of communication and expectations for how things are supposed to be run, specifically with on-campus events (officials, unofficials, and camps) mass confusion can happen. It’s just a matter of if the individual on staff can deal with the confusion with a level of calmness, or if they freak out, and in that case, the kids see the level of disorganization seep into the public eye. I can tell you some stories that would get some people fired if they still had a job. From parents overhearing insulting comments to finding out about outright lies, they were told. – Former recruiting support staff member|
|“There are other schools with much more to sell on the facility side of things, but, the Florida staff made do with what they had and it felt natural. The media and nutrition departments needed to step up their game a bit and leadership could’ve driven that better. There were a couple of coaches I wanted to personally confront per their lackluster antics and poor communication with recruits, but that’s neither here nor there anymore. “Nutrition: I based that off player feedback. More choices, better training tables, and better pre-post-game nutrition seemed to be the common consensus. There are schools like Alabama, Clemson, Texas A&M, and Oklahoma with executive chefs operating the prep and production. That adds a very nice layer to the registered dietitians’ expertise because you’re managing multiple palates and a lot of the same thing makes compliance difficult with anyone. “Media: I feel they could’ve done more to help motivate the fan base during downtimes. I liked some of their drip campaigns before the season started like the Nick Savage videos. But, they lost steam during the season. Understandably, they couldn’t do a video with the recruits before December but they could always produce more. Things such as cereal boxes with their image on them. More creativity was needed.” – Parent of a former Florida target|
|“The coaches would do what they wanted. An on-the-record example, the most public one was Todd Grantham leaving his prospects during a June official visit when we were at Dan’s house. I’m a little unclear on whether he left Dan’s house or never showed up after the dinner at Spurrier’s Grille. All I know is he wasn’t at Dan’s and I’m not sure why. I understand calls were made, but I’m not 100% sure if he joined the festivities later on because I wasn’t looking either. All I remember hearing were some of the recruit’s parents’ commentary about his disengagement. There was very little interaction and engagement from him that weekend so other coaches were working overtime to overshadow Grantham’s shortcomings that night. – Parent of a former Florida target “John Hevesy was out of touch and a horrible recruiter. He doesn’t know how to deal with people. One offensive line recruit he was targeting made up a white lie about why he couldn’t visit Florida. He loved the Gators, but he didn’t want to have to deal with Hevesy face-to-face that day, so he made up an excuse why he couldn’t come in. He said that he talks to you in everyday conversation like he is always coaching you. He talks at you instead of talking to you.” – Parent of a former Florida target|
|“Everyone is after [Top 100 ranked prospect] so my phone stays blowing up. Any little thing to get me on the line to find out what’s going on or how he’s leaning, recruiters, assistants, head coaches, reporters, my voice mail and message box are full. When Coach Charleton [Warren] left Coach Kirby [Smart] called me right off the bat to let me know there was a change and he didn’t know what direction he was going in, but I had his cell number to say that he was going to be the point man and if I had any questions to contact him day or night. When Coach [Torrian] Gray left [Florida], I didn’t hear from anyone about it or who the new coach was. I didn’t know who was hired until you asked. That’s how they’ve been treating us.” – High school coach in the state of Florida|
|“It was a traditional recruiting office set-up. Each staff member was assigned a position and a coach and they assisted with the identification and recruitment of that position. Some things overlapped, especially those on staff who were more of recruiters than others and they would help with specific recruits depending on the area the recruit was from. When we held recruiting meetings, at least once a week, sometimes more depending on the time of the year, the coaches in the middle at the table, the support staff was around the sides. The problem was, that was the extent of them being normal. Mullen thought that was all he had to do, was chair those meetings. As soon as we left them, offers were random. Literally, there was no process at all. Staff, coaches, and Mullen would throw out offers if they felt like it without anyone knowing or any follow-up. I can’t tell you how many times we found out about offers from seeing them online. It happened all the time. A prospect would tweet out an offer and we were left scrambling to find out if it was real. One of the problems there was it didn’t mesh with what we told some other prospects that we liked but wanted to hold off on, that they had to come to campus to get an offer from Mullen.” – Former recruiting support staff member|
|“This has been the worst staff I’ve dealt with as far as trying to get in touch with them to ask them anything or try to steer them toward looking at any of the players around here. You have to wait until they contact you because you’ll be beating your head against the wall trying to be the one to initiate the contact.” – High school coach in the state of Florida|
|“I had the No. 3 ranked receiver at the time, Shazz Preston training with me. He asked me why UF hasn’t offered him or got him on campus, so I reached out to see about it they said he’s low on the board, 15th or 20th. This is after I called up there last year and told them about the tight end Mike Trigg. He is a huge Gator fan. He loved them. They said he wasn’t twitchy enough.” – Former Florida player who works as a coach/mentor|