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The Prospector: It's not all gloom and doom with Florida Gators

As we hear the cries and wipe the tears of UF fans everywhere, let’s not get too carried away with this whole “Woe is Gators” theme.

It dawned on me the other day when I saw some Gators magnetic helmet decals on the clearance aisle at a local Wal-Mart. Let’s not start the fire sale just yet. We’re talking about Florida Gators football. The end is not near.

High school football prospects certainly do not seem to think so. Ryan Sousa proved that Monday.

The 6-foot-1, 180-pound Orlando Lake Nona wide receiver, who was committed to Florida State, flipped to the Gators two days after watching the Seminoles pummel the Gators at The Swamp.

Sousa, who has always been a Florida fan and was hoping for a Gators scholarship offer after participating in a UF camp this past June, finally got that elusive offer earlier last month.

He struggled with the decision a bit, but after an official recruiting visit to Gainesville this past weekend, UF sealed the deal. The Gators might have been 4-8 this year, but many college football prospects simply do not care.

In fact, most of them see opportunity at Florida.

Word has it that Jacksonville Providence offensive tackle David Sharpe (6-9, 290) will be a Gator come Thursday, and juco receiver Eric Lauderdale (6-2, 190), a former Tennessee commit  who is from Fayetteville, Ga., and is now at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, Calif., is also leaning toward becoming a Gator. 

It’s like 2014 UF commit Travaris Dorsey of Jacksonville Raines said last week: “Everybody is going to have their ups and downs. You’re going to have your bad years sometimes. You can’t just look at that.”

The 6-foot-2, 315-pound offensive guard, one of 16 commitments to UF’s 2014 recruiting class, was recruited to UF by offensive line coach Tim Davis, who was fired Sunday, along with offensive coordinator Brent Pease.

Sure, high-profile Florida commits such as RB Dalvin Cook of Miami Central, WR Ermon Lane of Homestead or ATH Chris Lammons of Plantation are rumored to be wavering on their pledges, but there are detractors in every class.

The list of jumpers in the UF class, however, is expected to be limited. The Gators would love to have these guys stick, but there are plenty of other prospects out there.

ESPN’s SEC recruiting reporter Derek Tyson has a great deal of experience monitoring Florida recruiting. He, too, is of the opinion that this recruiting class is not going to feel a detrimental fallout from the embarrassment of the 2013 season.

In fact, UF could be more attractive right now. The recruiting pitch will be simple and persuasive. Come to UF, and you can be the answer to our problems.

Even the firing of Pease and Davis is not likely to have much impact on the current group of prospects.

“Sure, to an extent it will, because they’ve built relationships with the coaches … especially the offensive recruits,” Tyson said. “But at the same time, when you are not producing on the field and you don’t have any kind of explosive offense, that also affects you in a negative way. So if Florida is able to hire somebody who runs an up-tempo offense or more of a pass-heavy offense, I think that can have a positive influence on some of these recruits.”

Pease and Davis weren’t necessarily guys who beat the recruiting path, either. Sure, they’ve brought in some players, and Pease is credited, along with head coach Will Muschamp, with luring North Carolina QB Will Grier to UF. But in total, the impact of those two coaches on recruiting has been minimal.

Grier, by the way, is another player who has said he’s still solid with Florida.

In letting Davis go, UF might even gain some traction in the area of recruiting offensive linemen.

UF has lost out to some big-time prospects in the recent past, most notably Laremy Tunsil, a somewhat local kid from Lake City Columbia, who many people thought was a Gators’ lock early in the process. Tunsil ended up at Ole Miss, and as much as people want to cry foul play whenever the subject of Rebel’ recruiting comes up, the bottom line is that UF has not been able to seal the deal on some big-time O-line talent recently.

Others have landed at FSU (Bobby Hart, Ira Denson) or Miami (Erick Flowers, Danny Isidora), and many like Tunsil have crossed state borders, like Jacksonville Bolles’ John Theus (Georgia), Avery Young of Palm Beach Gardens (Auburn), Ty Darlington of Apopka (Oklahoma) and Denver Kirkland of Miami Booker T. Washington (Arkansas).

I also haven’t seen anyone coming right out and saying, “Florida is horrible, no way I’m going there.”

Tyson agrees.

“Just look at the history of the program. When Florida is down, it’s not for long,” Tyson said. “I think recruits are smart enough to figure out that Florida is not going to be 4-8 every year. The only way is up.”

And if anyone needs an example of rags to riches in the Sunshine State, we don’t have to go too far back. In 2009, FSU went through its third 7-6 season in four years.

Look where FSU is sitting now.

It comes around and goes around. It’s cyclical and the Gators just happen to be in the rinse cycle.

 

Chris Hays is the Sentinel's recruiting coverage coordinator and can be reached at chays@tribune.com. Follow us on Twitter at @Os_Recruiting and Facebook at Orlando Sentinel Recruiting, Instagram at os_recruiting and on Pinterest at Orlando Recruiting.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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