Start dreaming. Tis the season for lists, letters of intent and wondering if signatures scribbled in February will lead to clutching Waterford crystal come January.
In Gainesville, toes are tapping. It has been five seasons since Urban Meyers Florida Gators toasted Oklahoma at Sun Life Stadium to claim the orange and blues second national title in three years. National Signing Day is where all starry visions begin, of course, and this recruitnik holiday is much like a trip to Disney: Programs walk away from the scramble insisting that theyre the happiest place on Earth.
Which brings us to coach Will Muschamps third recruiting class. Scout.com ranks it seventh, behind Southeastern Conference mates Texas A&M (fourth) and LSU (fifth). As of Tuesday morning, less than a day before the trail ends and names trickle in, the Gators had 25 commits; the projected haul includes one five-star prospect, 14 four-star players and 10 three-star talents.
The day is about dreams, yes. But its also about fit.
Its kind of like the typical Florida class that you would expect, said Brandon Huffman, a national recruiting analyst for Scout.com. Theyve got a chance to really, really close strong. Theyve done a really good job already in state. Theyre already set with a Top 10 class. They would have to lose a lot of guys, and Nebraska (currently ranked No. 10) and some other schools would have to add a lot of guys. Theyre going to be no worse than a Top 10 class.
There are a few jewels that make it so. Among the biggest names expected to sign:
Vernon Hargreaves III, a 5-foot-11, 181-pound cornerback from Tampa, is the cream of the group. The five-star prospect earned 110 tackles, five interceptions and five forced fumbles as a senior. Scout.com ranks him as the countrys top talent at his position.
Kelvin Taylor, a 5-10, 205-pound four-star running back from Belle Glade, Fla., finished his high-school career with 12,019 yards rushing and 192 touchdowns. Scout.com ranks him as the countrys No. 8 at his position.
Ahmad Fulwood, a 6-4, 200-pound four-star receiver from Jacksonville, had 37 catches for 578 yards with 11 touchdowns last season (he had 1,143 yards receiving and 22 touchdowns in 2011). Scout.com ranks him as the countrys No. 13 at his position. Daniel McMillian, a 6-2, 220-pound four-star linebacker from Jacksonville, had five interceptions as a senior to help lead his team to a third consecutive undefeated regular season. Scout.com ranks him as the countrys No. 4 at his position.I think he does a nice job of identifying kids early, Mike Bakas, Scout.coms Florida recruiting analyst, said of Muschamp. I think they do a nice job of building relationships early in the process (Hargreaves, Taylor, Fulwood and McMillian all committed by late July).
From a philosophical standpoint, I think he understands (the value of) getting kids on board early and having those kids actively recruit for him throughout the year when they go to these camps and combines and all-star games and seven-on-seven tournaments. Florida did a really good job with that. They created an early buzz and expanded their number in terms of guys out there recruiting for them.
Like all years, though, there are some targets that remain on Muschamps wish list leading into decision day. Among the potential catches:
Jaynard Bostwick, a 6-4, 270-pound defensive tackle from Port Saint Lucie, Fla., has been scouted as a talent who can play end in a 3-4 scheme or tackle in a 4-3. The four-star prospect has received interest from Florida, Miami and Alabama. According to Bakas, he has narrowed his choice between the Gators and Hurricanes, and Id say hes favoring Florida a little bit heading into these last couple days. Scout.com ranks him as the countrys No. 17 at his position.
James Clark, a 5-11, 170-pound receiver from New Smyrna Beach, Fla., has been scouted as someone whos quick off the ball and dangerous when given space to show his elite speed. The four-star prospect has received interest from Clemson and Ohio State, among others, and could add depth to a strong group of Gators commits at his position. Scout.com ranks him as the countrys No. 30 receiver.
What theyve done a good job with this class is really spreading it out in terms of filling a bunch of needs on both sides of the ball, Huffman said. Theyve got a very good linebacking corps. Up front, theyve got a lot of depth there. Theyve got a good couple defensive tackles that arent elite talents, but those are some of their second-tier defensive tackles. Theyve got a good pass rusher in (four-star defensive end) Jordan Sherit.
Offensively, their receivers class has a couple big-time players and some good depth guys that may not be impact players right away but will be good down the line. Theyve got a Top 10 running back in as good a year for running backs as Ive ever seen.
Thats the one thing that stands out to me the most how much balance there is in this class.
Those are positive words to hear this time of year: Balance, spreading it out, filling a bunch of needs. Signing Day is like a February Christmas in the college football universe: Programs have wants, and on Wednesday, coaches will learn the value of the class they unwrap.
Tis the season for discovery. In Gainesville, they hope it leads to something big.
Notable Wednesday signing announcements
Robert Nkemdiche, 7:30 a.m.Jaynard Bostwick, 8 a.m.James Clark, 9 a.m.Quinton Powell, 12:15 p.m.
You can follow Andrew Astleford on Twitter @aastleford or email him at email@example.com.