NOTE: This is the story I filed for print. It includes some quotes from previous blog. . . .
“Florida is Florida. Florida will always be Florida.”
Those were the words of outgoing Florida Gators coach Urban Meyer in regard to the effect his resignation would have on recruiting. Meyer, 46, stepped down Wednesday after leading the Gators to two national championships and a pair of SEC title in six seasons.
“I talked to a handful of [recruits] already and I’ll talk to a bunch of them tonight and tomorrow,” he told reporters attending his press conference Wednesday evening. “. . . Even last year with the other issue we put together a great class. There are great coaches here and I’m sure the new coaching staff will be fantastic. We’ve just got to get moving. Timing’s of the essence.”
Meyer abruptly resigned for one day following the SEC Championship Game last December. The Gators went on to ink a 2010 recruiting class that was ranked No. 1 in the nation by Scout.com and ESPN.com.
Florida’s current recruiting class gets a consensus Top 10 ranking from ESPN (4), Scout (8) and Rivals.com (9). But Meyer’s resignation adversely affected the Gators with at least a couple of major prospects from Georgia.
AJC Super 11 defensive end Ray Drew of Thomas County Central said he was “shocked” and “disappointed” by Wednesday’s developments. Drew had the Gators among his final six, which includes Georgia, Auburn, Clemson, LSU and Tennessee.
“I don’t know what to think or what to do,” said Drew, a 6-foot-5, 250-pound high school All-American who has fielded as many as 50 scholarship offers. “I’m somewhat disappointed that it happened this late in the process. I’m not going to say it X’s them out but that’s a problem. That’s a big problem.”
Fellow AJC Super 11 players Damian Swann (CB, Grady) and Jay Rome (TE, Valdosta) were also considering the Gators.
“I had kind of dropped them from my top schools anyway, so it really doesn’t affect me,” said Rome, who is also making an official visit to Georgia this weekend. “I wasn’t planning on taking an official there or anything. But I was surprised to hear about it.”
Valdosta athlete Malcolm Mitchell told Scout the Gators were high on his list before the Meyers news “came out of nowhere.”
As for the Gators’ 17 commitments for the 2011 class, for the first time in a while none came from the state of Georgia. However, a few of Florida’s pledges at one time were considering local teams. Linebacker Clay Burton of Venice, Fla., was seriously considering Georgia Tech. Defensive back Nick Waisome (Groveland, Fla.), WR JaJuan Story (Brooksville, Fla.) and RB Mike Blakely (Bradenton, Fla.) all were heavily recruited by Georgia and considering the Bulldogs. According to a report by 247Sports.com, UGA coaches were in to see Story on Wednesday morning.
Meanwhile, the Gators, always a major player on the national recruiting scene, were actively recruiting several of the best prospects in the country. In addition to Drew, other five-star rated recruits on Florida’s radar include LB Stephone Anthony, QB Teddy Bridgewater, TE Nick O’Leary and LB Tony Steward.
College Recruiting By Chip Towers