The Florida Gators are celebrating another top-10 national recruiting class, which proves the strength of the brand on the heels of a shockingly sour 4-8 season.
What it doesn't prove is the ability of coach Will Muschamp and his staff to get the most out of his talent.
Sure, there are injuries and other unknowables in the way of every program's potential, and Florida suffered the worst of all that in 2013. Here, though, is one of the major reasons I growled so much about the need for the Gators to make a coaching change following that November loss to Georgia Southern.
According to Rivals.com, which is one of the better ranking services for national recruiting, Muschamp signed the No. 12 class in his first season as Florida coach (2011), followed by the No. 3 and the No. 4 classes the next two years. To take all of that potential and wind up with the program's worst season in 34 years ought to be impossible, even if we're talking about fielding second- and third-teamers only.
Contrast that with Central Florida, which wrapped up its 2013 season with a Fiesta Bowl win over Baylor. The four recruiting classes that combined to build that 12-1 Knights team were ranked 56th, 39th, 91st and tied for 74th nationally. Quarterback Blake Bortles, for that matter, was rated only a three-star signee in 2010, and now there's talk that he might go ahead of Johnny Manziel in the NFL draft.
Add it all up and UCF's George O'Leary comes off as a major overachiever. Muschamp, judging by what the experts think of his talent pool, comes off more and more like a dud.
Now, maybe the Gators will turn it all around in 2014. Maybe Jeremy Foley's confidence in his coach will be rewarded.
USC, however, fired Lane Kiffin after he went on a 4-7 skid spanning the end of 2012 and the start of 2013. Makes sense for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is the judgment by Rivals that the Trojans had the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation in 2010, followed by two more in the top eight.
That's some major underachievement, too.
Jimbo Fisher is a different story. In his four years at FSU, the Seminoles have raked in a top-10 class every time. The result? A fresh BCS championship with an undefeated team and a Heisman Trophy winner at quarterback. Jameis Winston, by the way, was part of the 2012 recruiting class, ranked No. 6 by Rivals.
Miami's Al Golden, hampered by NCAA troubles, had just one top-10 Rivals recruiting class in his first three seasons and the result, a 36-9 loss to Louisville in the Russell Athletic Bowl, is about what you would expect from that.
Make of Wednesday's rankings whatever you want. The correlation between initial talent evaluation and eventual production can be off by a mile at times.
If a coach is tagged as a recruiter alone, however, he won't last.
And if he can't tune up the top talent he gets, he shouldn't.
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