Florida Football

On the Mark: Widening talent gap has to be a cause for concern

November 3, 2019
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While the Florida-Georgia result wasn't official until the game clock struck double-zero at 6:56 p.m. on Saturday evening, in reality the outcome was all but decided long before kick-off.

Yes,  a number such as Georgia converting 12-of-18 third down attempts was an important indicator as to how the game would end, and unquestionably helped lead to the final score. However, the numbers that mattered most - No. 2, No. 1, No. 3, No. 6 and No. 6 – the numbers that were most responsible for the final score were decided well before the first snap of the game.

Those numbers are the rankings of the last five Georgia Bulldog recruiting classes. By comparison, in that same span Florida's top rated class was the No. 9 ranking that the Gators' achieved last year.

As will be pointed out in-detail below, the simple fact that it was only a one touchdown game speaks volumes about the coaching ability of the Florida football staff.

Unfortunately (you will see that word a lot in this article) for the Gators, it also speaks about their inability to recruit.

I am a star gazer of sorts in that I am a firm believer that recruiting rankings matter. There will absolutely be kids who over and under perform their ranking, but for the most part, by percentage, the higher rated the prospect the better chance he has of succeeding.

Here are a couple of graphics to help prove the point that the cream rises to the top:


Credit Chris Hinton CBS Sports

Credit: Geoff Ketchum

The Bleacher Report did an analysis a couple of years ago that showed that almost 85-percent of the time, the more talented team, based on recruiting rankings average, would win the game.

Of course it doesn’t always hold true that the team with the best players will always win the game.

There are times when a school has simply made a bad hire.

Take for instance Willie Targgart.

During his tenure at Florida State, the Seminoles have been more talented on paper than just about every team they have faced, and many of those games they have lost.

Talent can't overcome total dysfunction and ineptitude.

On the other hand every now and then a team will rise up and surprise. South Carolina upset Georgia last month, but the Gamecocks don’t recruit at the same level as the Dawgs and Will Muschamp certainly has never been confused with being a great head coach.

It was just their day.

It happens.

If Georgia and South Carolina played 10 more times this season, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Georgia win all 10.

This is football, things happen. That is why the game is decided on the field, rather than on paper.

So, yes coaching, scheme, momentum, development, injuries and how the prospect fits all play a part, but no matter who the head coach is, more often than not, talent prevails.

What also matters is recruiting well across the board. Sometimes a team recruiting ranking can be artificially enhanced if a staff over recruits certain positions to the detriment of other positions. It may still look good on paper, rankings wise, to sign 10 top defensive backs in a class while ignoring the offensive line, but that strategy will of course come back to bite you down the road.

Unfortunately for Florida, Georgia has recruited extremely well across the board for the past several recruiting cycles.

Do you need proof of that?

I hope you are sitting down, because the following isn’t all that pretty. 

Using the 247 Sports College Team Talent Rankings, forget which team is called the Bulldogs, Florida has been and is likely to continue being Georgia’s lapdog on the recruiting trail.

CURRENT CONSENSUS FIVE-STAR PLAYERS 2019 2020
Florida 1 1
Georgia 14 16

Florida didn’t have a consensus five-star on the field on Saturday as Brenton Cox has yet to be ruled eligible. To this point in the 2020 cycle Florida doesn’t have a five-star commit, while Georgia has two.

95.00 RATING AND ABOVE (TOP 100 TYPE PROSPECTS) 2019 2020
Florida 14 14
Georgia 28 35

To be clear, in the calculation for next year we are assuming every player other than the seniors will return, while also factoring in those prospects who are already committed to each school. For Florida that means the total takes off Tyrie Cleveland and Van Jefferson, but includes Trevon GrimesFeleipe Franks, Gervon Dexter‍ and Derek Wingo‍. 

COMBINED ROSTERS TOP 30 RATED PLAYERS BREAKDOWN 2019 2020
Florida 6 2
Georgia 24 28

If you include Cox, who was signed by UGA out of high school, but take off Demetris Robertson, who came to Georgia via transfer, for next season, as it stands today, the 23 highest rated players in the game will have been signed by the Bulldogs staff. Think about this for a second (or longer), as of today, of the top 30 rated prospects in next year’s game, the top 15 in a row and an incredible 28 overall will be on the Georgia sideline. That is an almost unfair advantage.

COMBINED TOP 10 COMMITS IN THIS CYCLE 2020
Florida 2
Georgia 8

When you combine the two classes for this cycle, eight of the top 10 are Georgia commits. Now, there’s still prospects to be added on both sides and current evaluations/rankings can change, but to this point has been more of the same - Georgia cleaning Florida’s clock on the recruiting trial.

If there is a dim ray of light it is that Florida is off to a better start than Georgia for the 2021 cycle, but the two only have a combined eight commits at this time.

There are those will point to Florida’s only losing by seven points and point to that as proof of better days ahead, but there is no way you can look at the above tables and believe that the Gators are closing the talent gap on the Bulldogs.

Think about this, the most highly rated prospect on Florida’s roster next year is a player who left Athens for Gainesville after falling down the depth chart. The Gators best prospect will be someone who transferred after he was beaten out for a position on the Bulldogs.

Now, maybe Todd Grantham and Company can bring it out of him better than the UGA staff, but damn that is a troublesome look at where the two rosters stand.

We point out and somewhat celebrate the fact that on Friday Florida moved from No. 14 to No. 10 in the 247 Composite Team Recruiting Rankings as though it is a major accomplishment that really matters, when in fact it doesn't.

The Gators leapfrogging the likes of Penn State and Oklahoma has little to no bearing on what is going to happen on the field in the next four years.

Where Florida stands in recruiting team rankings in relation to the likes of Clemson, Ohio State, Texas and Notre Dame really doesn't matter until the Gators meet them in the post season. Until then, it just boils down to having bragging rights.

When you are really looking at what matters in recruiting rankings, it isn't how UF compares against other teams across the country, most of which the Gators will never face on the field, but how they stack-up against those teams they face year in and year out.

For Florida that would be the six teams in the SEC East, Florida State and LSU first and foremost and then the secondary group consists of the top programs in the SEC West (Alabama, Auburn and Texas A&M) who have the greatest chance of playing in the SEC Championship.

Unfortunately for Florida, they are and have been getting lapped by Georgia and LSU, while FSU has gotten the better of them more often than not.

Those are three teams they face annually. 

Of the four teams I still wholeheartedly believe that in Dan Mullen, Florida has the best game day, Xs & Os, head coach.

While he was taking heat from media and fans for attempting a pass on fourth and one on the Gators opening drive - I felt like he likely felt like he was playing the percentages. That he had a much better chance of completing a pass in that situation than relying on his offensive line to get any push against a talent laden Georgia defensive line.

When you break down the prospect rankings of the offensive and defensive lines of the two squads, it doesn’t paint a pretty picture.

Seven of Georgia’s nine starting linemen were rated as four or five star prospects out of high school. Only one of Florida’s nine enjoyed the same lofty rankings.

Yes, Jonathan Greenard and Jabari Zuniga have outperformed their ranking, but Georgia simply has more outright talent along their lines.

Period.

Unfortunately (I am using that word too many times in this article) for Florida, that’s hardly the only area where the Bulldogs hold the (expanding) talent advantage.

So if there is any hope for Florida it will have to be in actual coaching ability.

I am a true-believer in Mullen. I reiterated that point in an On The Mark column the day he was hired. 

The only real issue I saw with Mullen then is still an issue today.

Since the days he was Florida’s offensive coordinator under Urban Meyer, through his stint as the head coach at Mississippi State, the knock on Mullen is that he is at best an average recruiter.

You’ll have diehards who say that’s okay, who he gets is who he wants and he will develop them enough to lead the Gators to the promised land.

My response would be to show me evidence of that.

Mullen had MSU playing well above their norm while he was the head coach in Starkville, but he still lost to teams who stockpiled more talent than his MSU squad.

As I wrote in another On the Mark, I was willing to credit him for being better than I anticipated after Florida closed strong last year to finish with a top 10 class. 

However, in the light of day, after six of the four-star signees in that class never made it to the first fall practice, it’s safe to say that the staff elevated that classes standing by taking a few kids who were borderline off-the-field and academically.

So, now the question then becomes what can be done about it?

For starters Mullen is who he is. 

He can’t significantly change his approach or personality. That would come off as looking fake.

That then leaves personnel and/or approach changes.

At LSU Ed Orgeron is the opposite of Mullen. He has never been known as a strong game day coach, he was always seen as a recruiter first and foremost. What he has done though is continued to be a strong recruiter while surrounding himself with some of the best on-the-field coaches in the conference in Joe Brady, Cam CameronDave Aranda and Corey Raymond

Does Mullen need to follow that path? Does he need to leave his comfort zone and make some changes on his coaching staff and/or on the recruiting staff?

Does Florida need to replace a couple of current assistant coaches in order to bring in a couple of ace recruiters on the coaching staff?

Or perhaps making a run at a recruiting support staff member who better fits the mold of a Mark Pantoni or Bob Lacivita would get the Gators over the hump?

I don’t know the answer, but I do know that if Mullen doesn't make some changes somewhere, somehow, and soon, the Gator Nation is looking at more of the same when matched up against LSU and UGA for the foreseeable future.

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On the Mark: Widening talent gap has to be a cause for concern

4,977 Views | 25 Replies | Last: 1 mo ago by Bill Sikes
SFFLORIDAFAN
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We should have kept Seider instead of letting him get away to PSU.

Who can we steal from FSU to get us over the hump?
upstateg8tor
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Seider screwed it up himself. No thanks
EricN
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What do you mean Up??
My only complaint with CDM is pushing out Seider for Knox.
I am really concerned about our RBs and recruiting for the position - we just can't land a big name - Sanders/Bowman, we won't get EJ Smith, etc.
upstateg8tor
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Not going to get into it. I'll just say there are some things with Mullen that is fair criticism. This isn't one of them. Seider was never going to work out here.
1bigg8rindade
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What can Mullen do different? Nothing.

I don't think we can get in the same level as them when it comes to talent. We just going to have to outcoached them.

Bill Sikes
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EricN said:

What do you mean Up??
My only complaint with CDM is pushing out Seider for Knox.
I am really concerned about our RBs and recruiting for the position - we just can't land a big name - Sanders/Bowman, we won't get EJ Smith, etc.
I mean there was the great California delusion of 2019 and the initial support staff that completely imploded too. Mullen hasn't been good in what HE can control about recruiting at the start of his UF tenure. Of course... you've probably heard that before, because I've been telling everybody this was coming for a long time now.
I'm just a rando fan...
upstateg8tor
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Of course you have, Bill. Mullen's recruiting is an embarrassment and your pie charts and decades of research is the only true secret sauce. Thanks for reminding us.
Ethan Hughes
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Staff
Part of the issue in the trenches is that they're highest ranked recruits (Jean Delance, Tedarrell Slaton and Elijah Conliffe in particular) have been busts. Blame the lack of highly ranked recruits all you want, but it's not like the few they've gotten have panned out, either.
Go Gators TJ
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upstateg8tor said:

Not going to get into it. I'll just say there are some things with Mullen that is fair criticism. This isn't one of them. Seider was never going to work out here.
What is there to get into? Mullen moved him to TE coach and he wanted to be a RB coach so he left us.
upstateg8tor
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If you think that was it - you are wrong.
Graylon
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The problem I have is the recruit that leave Florida in our back yard that go to our rivals... it makes no sense Georgia getting Josh Braun... he is at a position of need on your team and he can get early playing time and you cant reel him in. Bowman is another one...

I love Dan Mullen there are so many things that he does that are so confusing...
Kkilburns
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So smart's first recruiting class was a six. Mullen's first recruiting class was a nine. The best out of the last 5 years. He'll likely get a top 10 class again this year, his second. Smart's second year was a six. I get The Gators are behind but smart has a four year head start. Certainly requires work going forward. But I wouldn't throw in the towel. I do think Mullen does have to make some changes. Starting with getting some top notch recruiters. better recruiters better talent and his coaching ability the future looks brighter.
GatorDMD
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Kkilburns said:

So smart's first recruiting class was a six. Mullen's first recruiting class was a nine. The best out of the last 5 years. He'll likely get a top 10 class again this year, his second. Smart's second year was a six. I get The Gators are behind but smart has a four year head start. Certainly requires work going forward. But I wouldn't throw in the towel. I do think Mullen does have to make some changes. Starting with getting some top notch recruiters. better recruiters better talent and his coaching ability the future looks brighter.

You think our class was a 9 without Steele, Black, Jones and Henderson? I think they said it would be reranked something like 17 after all the recruits we lost.
Titletown
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I feel better that we only lost by 7 considering how much more talent that they have. If Mullen could recruit like Smart we would be playing for championships.
peanut46
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Years of incompetent coaching under Muschamp and Mac ended last year. This is year TWO of the Mullen era. Not buying in to the whining yet. Dan will get us to championship caliber soon. Patience.
Mark Wheeler
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Staff
peanut46 said:

Years of incompetent coaching under Muschamp and Mac ended last year. This is year TWO of the Mullen era. Not buying in to the whining yet. Dan will get us to championship caliber soon. Patience.
It is hard to place blame on the previous two coaches when the talent gap is widening. This year Georgia had 24 of the top 30 rated prospects in the game. Next year they will have 28 of the top 30. That is on Mullen and this staff.

Coming off a 10 win season, while in the middle of a season where they are ranked in the top 10, it took a commit from Marc Britt on Friday for Florida to finally move ahead of an imploding FSU squad in the team rankings.

A decent recruiting team would have already been running laps around the Seminoles.
gatorbreath
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IMO the problem with all this gloom and doom info is that it's based on the past ( Miss. St. ) and two years of recruiting players that grew up with FLA. as dumpster fire ground central. Showing recruits pictures of future facilites simply doesn't compare to walking them through them. I agree that our recruiting has to improve .We play the programs that sign the best players in the country every year, but expecting Mullen and his staff to recruit at their level right away is not realistic. Give coach Mullen a chance before you start wallowing in negativity.
Mark Wheeler
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Staff
gatorbreath said:

IMO the problem with all this gloom and doom info is that it's based on the past ( Miss. St. ) and two years of recruiting players that grew up with FLA. as dumpster fire ground central. Showing recruits pictures of future facilites simply doesn't compare to walking them through them. I agree that our recruiting has to improve .We play the programs that sign the best players in the country every year, but expecting Mullen and his staff to recruit at their level right away is not realistic. Give coach Mullen a chance before you start wallowing in negativity.
I don't know if it is possible to read that and come to the conclusion that I'm not high on Mullen as a coach. The recruiting aspect on the other hand has got to show improvement if Florida is to become a CFP contender.

Otherwise you will go into the LSU and UGA games each year at such a huge disadvantage.
Graylon
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My opinion is based on now. I look at 3 top recruits that Mullen went after and whiffed on Joshua Braun, a position of need desperately. Demarkcus Bowman an actual Gator fan, and Carson Beck. All of these guys were in your backyard and two of them go to your rival and the other to Clemson. Those guys should be layups. Both of these teams are the ones we are going to have to get through for a national championship. So you are starting out behind right now.

The last class you sign your 6 top recruits never make it to the start of the season. A majority of them were academic reasons and the other a Visa. That is unheard of. This is a replication of the disorganization that we see on the field sometimes. It starts with the coaches. That's what is scary even though Kirby Smart make some blunders in-game decisions I haven't seen anyting this disorganized with him at Georgia.

Another thing that is disturbing I have read article and article on this very site and other sites about top recruits never even hearing from Florida staff. That is confusing..
gator rising
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The 15 highest rated players in next year's game are Bulldogs? Is that what that means? That's like playing varsity against junior varsity.

I want to give Dan some time to get his players in here but he has to make some changes on his staff to do that.

He should see if Pantoni wants to come back from OSU since Meyer isn't there. Give him as much money as it takes and move the woman that's there now to some other role.
Bill Sikes
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Ethan Hughes said:

Part of the issue in the trenches is that they're highest ranked recruits (Jean Delance, Tedarrell Slaton and Elijah Conliffe in particular) have been busts. Blame the lack of highly ranked recruits all you want, but it's not like the few they've gotten have panned out, either.
Jean Delance was a 4-star who first washed out at another school.

TJ Slaton was the highest-rated 4-star in the 2017 class... as an OL, not DT, where he plays at UF. Kentucky was the primary competition for his services.

Elijah Conliffe was a 4-star plan B after UF's previous DT commits flipped.

The problem is that even when UF has had 4-stars, very few of them were of the sort who could've committed to elite recruiting programs (Bama, UGA, LSU, etc).
I'm just a rando fan...
Bill Sikes
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upstateg8tor said:

Of course you have, Bill. Mullen's recruiting is an embarrassment and your pie charts and decades of research is the only true secret sauce. Thanks for reminding us.
This is what happens when you get triggered by facts.
I'm just a rando fan...
Bill Sikes
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Mark Wheeler said:

peanut46 said:

Years of incompetent coaching under Muschamp and Mac ended last year. This is year TWO of the Mullen era. Not buying in to the whining yet. Dan will get us to championship caliber soon. Patience.
It is hard to place blame on the previous two coaches when the talent gap is widening. This year Georgia had 24 of the top 30 rated prospects in the game. Next year they will have 28 of the top 30. That is on Mullen and this staff.

Coming off a 10 win season, while in the middle of a season where they are ranked in the top 10, it took a commit from Marc Britt on Friday for Florida to finally move ahead of an imploding FSU squad in the team rankings.

A decent recruiting team would have already been running laps around the Seminoles.
Hey Mark,

The current class does have potential to show real progress on the recruiting trail as measured by:


Composite 5-stars - Wingo and/or Dexter could earn a 5th star and there's always the potential for a Bowman surprise. 1 would be a great ice-breaker, 2 or more would be tremendous progress.

National Ranking - 6th is a possibility, but it will take a landslide finish. 7-9 would only represent progress over last year's sham 9th ranking, which was built on takes Mullen knew weren't making it in, for appearances sake.

Top-100s - UF hasn't had more than 4 composite top-100s since 2013 (when they had 6), but they've landed 4 four times since. Dexter, Wingo, Henderson, Dumervil, and Williams would give them 5, but that haul is far from certain. Any more would require a surprise, or for somebody else to move up in the rankings.



Again, the 2020 class has good potential, and it's always possible that the flood gates open late with big-time surprises. But even a 6th place finish is likely to be significantly behind the lead group, as Bama, UGA, OSU, LSU, and Clemson are all loading up or primed to load up on 5-stars.

If Mullen does close well in 2020, the debate will (at least it should, if not for mass denial) shift to 2 primary questions:

1) Can Mullen continue to close the gap in 2021 and beyond? As promising as 2020 looks, it still looks like Mullen is assembling a knife collection for a gun-fight. The bluechip levels as expressed in 4-stars have continually improved, but the number of 5-stars, top-50s, and top-100s are only improving relative to McElwain. People are declaring victory over this, but Mac isn't the standard.

2) IF things continue to improve, can Mullen hang on long enough to survive his own bad recruiting? And let's toss out the stars debate for this one. After 2 full roster-building cycles and heavy attrition since, Mullen has only added a net of 38 players to the UF roster. Those include 14 remaining class of 2018 signees, 19 remaining class of 2019 signees, and 5 transfers. Since more can naturally be expected in this early juncture and since the transfers are already on the brink of exhausting their eligibility, this is a big problem. In fact, this is what people often refer to with the term "self-imposed probation". Simply put, UF not only has a talent problem, they have a numbers problem. And no matter how people want to spin this, it falls on Dan Mullen.

While the general implications of this are self-evident, the issues become more dire when looking at a few specific positions. On DL for example, UF loses Adam Shuler, Luke Ancrum, Jabari Zuniga, and Jon Greenard after this season... even if there is no more attrition. Next season, their minimum losses include Marlon Dunlap, Elijah Conliffe, TJ Slaton, and Kyree Campbell. To replace them, Mullen has assembled several promising players for the buck position.... but what about Nose, DT, and strong side DE? For those 3 positions, he has brought in only 1 player who remains on the roster. That is Jaelin Humphries, who hasn't contributed due to injury.

The safety position is in similar shape. Amari Burney is more of a LB. Trey Dean has struggled at nickel, but is apparently resistant to a move to safety. Russell and Huggins are gone. That leaves the possibility of a current freshman DB sliding inside, but Elam, Hill, and Kimbrough may all have to start at other positions next season. Jeawon Taylor graduates, which will leave nothing but seniors Stiner, Lenton, & Davis (assuming no attrition).

Practically speaking, this hampers the effort to provide needed talent upgrades at both positions for 2020 and could force extremely young players to do the heavy lifting in 2021. So, can Mullen win the SEC with no improvement at either position next season (along with major personnel losses elsewhere)? Can he overcome youth and possible depth issues there in 2021? As I implied in question 2, his tenure may depend on hanging on long enough to erase these issues with continued, better recruiting.



Edit: I should've further explained above, but Mullen Portal acquisitions Greenard, Jefferson, and Shuler are each departing this year, meaning Mullen has only 35 of his own players scheduled to return for 2020. At the half-way point of his initial 4-cycle roster build, that's a really low number. If the team experiences any further attrition from these ranks, it could become a crisis... and let's be honest, something weird always happens to a player or 2 each offseason. This is a major issue that nobody is talking about... yet.
I'm just a rando fan...
upstateg8tor
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Thanks again Bill. Can you please put together some pie charts, graphs & algorithm's to prove your position.
Bill Sikes
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upstateg8tor said:

Thanks again Bill. Can you please put together some pie charts, graphs & algorithm's to prove your position.
Maybe one day you'll come up with something else. I'm cheering for you. You can do it!
I'm just a rando fan...
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