With a windfall of talent raining down on the Florida Gators at both the Under Armour All-American Game and the Army All-American Bowl last January, it was easy to see why the Gators recruiting Class of 2010 was ranked No. 1 by all recruiting services.
Meanwhile, Florida State quietly kept up, signing a Top 10 recruiting class in Jimbo Fisher's first recruiting season as head coach.
But when the whistles started blowing in August, those things didn't matter. OK, they didn't really matter, ever, to be perfectly honest.
The true test came between the lines and it's no reach to say that Florida State's crop of true 2010 freshmen outperformed the Gators all-everything group.
One of the reasons was that several Gators did their best to not even make it on the field. Gone from the team for personal reasons were DB Jordan Haden, WR Adrian Coxson and ATH Travon Vann. Booted from the team for numerous reasons was DB Jonathan Dowling. LB Dominique Easley had some brief disciplinary issues, as well.
Also, WR Chris Dunkley will likely get a medical redshirt since he missed the entire season with a hamstring injury.
Gators RB Mack Brown is likely to redshirt and also eligible for redshirt are OT Ian Silberman, TE Mike McFarland, LB Gideon Ajagbe, TE Gerald Christian, OL Chaz Green, QB Tyler Murphy, DT Leon Orr, DB Josh Shaw, LB Michael Taylor and DE Lynden Trail.
For those who made it on the field, Trey Burton stands out as the Gators' Rookie of the Year. He had a terrific season, playing whatever position he was asked.
His six-touchdown game at Kentucky will go down in Gator laurels even if he never does anything ever again. The Venice product played tight end, H-back, quarterback, receiver and on special teams. He caught 30 passes for 188 yards and a touchdown, completed 4-of-5 passes for 83, and he rushed, oh boy did he ever rush. He was the Gators' second leading ground gainer with 347 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Defense is where most of the freshmen production came from, as is usually the case. It's somewhat hard to determine the Gators Defensive Rookie of the Year, but Sharif Floyd, Ronald Powell and Matt Elam had solid debut seasons, and Cody Riggs really came on strong.
Before the season, especially after watching him at the Army All-American Bowl, I would have put DE Ronald Powell as the hands-down favorite to win SEC Rookie of the Year, and after a slow start, he did begin to live up to his hype. Powell ended up with 24 tackles and a sack in his first year, but huge things are expected of this special player in the future.
DT Floyd gets my vote, however, as UF's top freshman. He too started out a little slow, but picked up steam and will likely anchor that defensive front for three more years. Floyd had 22 tackles and seven tackles for loss in his 12 games.
Elam, out of Palm Beach Gardens Dwyer, had 22 tackles, a sack and a fumble recovery, mostly on special teams. Backfield mate and fellow Lauderdale-area standout Riggs, of St. Thomas Aquinas, had 16 tackles and a sack and drew late praise from the coaching staff.
Offensively, Florida didn't have much freshman production. Receivers Robert Clark, of Dwyer, and Solomon Patton saw time and had 10 combined catches.
The disappointment with UF came with Powell not catching on right away and then Taylor, Green, Christian and Shaw not living up to expectations, and early enrollee Silberman failing to make a mark, as well.
FSU freshmen were asked to perform early and Seminole fans got a taste of what the future should hold. Everyone fell in love with DE Bjoern Werner, a German foreign exchange student in Connecticut-turned American college football star. Werner had 19 tackles, five tackles for loss, an assisted sack and an interception in his first year and this kid will only get better. Werner is an easy pick for FSU Rookie of the Year.
DB Lamarcus Joyner, another STA product, performed as advertised with 22 tackles and an interception, while Lake Howell's Christian Jones, along with Telvin Smith, provided key depth at linebacker, and Treasure Coast's Jeff Luc came on strong late. Jones had 16 tackles and three sacks and Smith had 15 tackles and a sack. Joyner and Jones are already stars on this defense, and the others are close.
Offensively, Dr. Phillips WR Kenny Shaw scored his first collegiate touchdown and caught three passes for 36 yards. Pahokee's Greg Dent also had a catch.
The 'Noles have several redshirt options: QB Clint Trickett, DT Darius Cummings, OL Dan Foose, DT Cameron Erving, LB Holmes Onwukaife. TE Tank Sessions, LB Nigel Terrell and TE Will Tye.
And, of course, we all know who won the annual UF-FSU rivalry game.
So Jimbo Fisher's first recruiting class as the head 'Nole gets an A -minus, and the minus is only because none of the freshmen could crack the starting lineup. But Don't worry, they will.
As for the Gators' freshmen? Urban's last recruiting class, held intact by the head Gator's reversal of his resignation last year, was great on paper. And on that same paper we'll give him a solid B. The class is a solid group, but hype proved more than reality. Look out in 2011, however, these highly touted stars are finally ready to make a difference.
The defensive oriented new guy in charge, Will Muschamp, has to be doing Gator chomps around his house as he packs up for the new venture thinking about his chance to work with studs like Floyd and Powell.
FSU has the upper hand for now, but can the 'Noles keep up the momentum? The 2011 class is ranked fourth in the country and they still have some stars out there who might be leaning toward Tallahassee.
Chris Hays is the Sentinel's recruiting coverage coordinator. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org/recruiting.