College Football

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Florida Grades

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The college football season is over and Alabama has regained the throne.

For the Big Four in the State of Florida, its year-end report card time.

The biggest question when I go to grade these teams is expectations versus on field performance.

Florida State: The buzz surrounding Florida State Football has been steadily building with the arrival of Mike Norvell. The Seminoles kicked off the season against ACC rival Georgia Tech and ended with Duke.

FSU finished with three wins and six losses. The Noles had three games canceled due to COVID. The signature win was against number 5 North Carolina 31-28. Many fans were excited that the program had finally turned the corner and FSU football was back.

But a week later Louisville routed the Seminoles 48-16.

Florida State has long been considered one of the Elite programs in the country, but if last season is a gauge of the program’s direction, it is in big trouble.

Team stats: Passing 159 for 292 for 1,771 yards, ten touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Rushing 352 attempts for 1,799 yards and 19 touchdowns. Receiving 159 catches for 1,771 yards.  Defensively the Seminoles allowed 257 yards passing per game and 199 yards rushing per game.  FSU scored 232 points this season and allowed 324.

The few bright spots from this season were Jordan Travis, Lawrence Toafili, Amari Gainer and Emmett Rice.

Mike Norvell’s first season grade: F

UCF: The Knights entered 2020 with the goal of winning the AAC. That goal was not accomplished.

The Knights blew two big halftime leads to Tulsa and Memphis. That set the tone for the remainder of the season.

Central Florida finished with a 6-4 record but that did not meet the expectations of the program.

Offensively the Knights did put up record breaking numbers led by Sophomore quarterback Dillon Gabriel and wide receiver Marion Williams.

Gabriel was 248 for 413 for 3570 yards, 32 touchdowns and 4 interceptions.  Williams recorded 71 catches for 1039 yards and ten touchdowns.

UCF was very defensive in 2020. The Knights gave up 299 passing and 192 yards rushing (average per game).

In UCF’s four losses, the Knights allowed Memphis 41 first downs and over 700 yards of total offense, they also allowed Tulsa 23 first downs and over 450 yards of total offense. Cincinnati had 28 first downs and over 500 yards of total offense and BYU had 34 first downs and over 650 yards of total offense.

UCF fans have great expectations but realize that 2017 & 2018 are long in the past.

Josh Heupel’s grade: C+

Miami: The Canes finally had a standout starting quarterback in D’Eriq King and he helped bring some of the swag back to South Florida.

The Hurricanes took strides forward from Manny Diaz changing the culture in Miami.

Miami finished 2020 with eight wins and three losses.

King was a difference maker for the Canes. He was 211 of 329 for 2,686 yards passing, 23 touchdowns, only 5 interceptions, 538 yards rushing, and 4 touchdowns.

The Hurricanes struggled against top tier ACC teams with blow out losses to Clemson (42-17) and North Carolina (62-26).

In these games, Miami was plagued with errors whether it be penalties, missed assignments, drops, or lack of effort.

The offense took a step forward, but Miami’s defense looked unmotivated, porous and undisciplined.

Despite great performances against Duke and Florida State, the defense surrendered too many yards on the ground to North Carolina (554).

They also allowed Oklahoma State’s quarterback to throw for 300 plus yards and four scores.

Manny Diaz grade: B

The All-Time List

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Over the last 20 years, it has become easier to discuss the top five college football teams of the new millennia.

It’s a great time for debates. College football fans are very passionate and love to argue about their favorite teams!

I measured the teams by their on-field dominance, their overall talent level and the success on the gridiron.

Ranking these teams during the past 20 years brought back a lot of memories.

  1. University of Florida 2008:The Gators had a 13-1 record, averaged 43.6 points per game, allowed 12.9 points per game.

The Gators’ defense was led by Consensus All-Americans Brandon Spikes and Joe Haden. Carlos Dunlap and Janoris Jenkins were 1st round draft choices in the NFL.

The offense was led by 2007 Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow (2008 Maxwell Award, Manning Award and Wuerffel Trophy) and 2nd team All American Percy Harvin.

The key moment for Florida, was a one point loss to Ole Miss at home. In the post-game press conference, Tebow delivered his famous “Promise Speech”. Love him or hate him, Tebow proved to be one of the best and inspirational college football players in the last 20 years.

Tebow kept his promise! No team came closer than 10 points to the Gators the rest of the season. Florida routed No. 8 Georgia 49-10, pummeled No. 24 South Carolina 56-6 and destroyed No. 23 FSU 45-15.

The 2009 FedEx BCS National Championship Game, Florida defeated NO. 1 Oklahoma 24-14.

  1. Clemson 2016: I think the 2016 Clemson team was Dabo Swinney’s best.

The Tigers finished 14-1, the loss coming to Pitt. The Tigers were led by Deshaun Watson, one of the best college football players never to win a Heisman.

Watson torched Alabama in the postseason to the point where Nick Saban admitted they had no answer for him.

Watson shattered Clemson’s history books with 5,222 total yards from scrimmage and 50 touchdowns (41 passing and nine rushing).

In an instinct classic, Clemson and Alabama came down to the final seconds to decide the winner. Watson found Hunter Renfrow on a rub route to seal the deal and Clemson claimed their first national championship since 1981.

  1. LSU 2019: Just last year many were crowning the Tiger team the greatest of all time, after finishing the season 15-0.

What a truly impressive resume for the Tigers players: Joe Burrow (Heisman Trophy, Maxwell Award, Walter Camp Award, Sporting News Player of the Year, Davey O’Brien, Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, Manning Award, Broyles Award and SEC Offensive Player of the Year), Ja’Marr Chase (Biletnikoff Award), Grant Delpit (Jim Thorpe Award) and Derek Stingley Jr. (SEC Freshman of the Year and Sporting News Freshman of the Year). LSU had 14 players drafted and 6 undrafted free agents.

The Tigers defeated the defending national champions Clemson 42-25. LSU claimed their fourth national championship in school history, the third undefeated champion in the CFP era, and the second 15-0 season in the modern era.

After their dominant performance against a historically difficult schedule, several talking heads called them the greatest team in college football history.

  1. Alabama 2020: The honor of becoming the greatest football team in Alabama history has to put you in the top tier in my rankings.

It is not an easy statement: the undefeated 2009 team that slapped around Texas in the Rose Bowl, 1992 team that went 13-0 with maybe the most dominant defense in college football history or the 1979, 1966, 1965 or 1964 teams all had great seasons.

Unlike the teams above, the 2020 Tide team showed an offensive firepower rewriting Alabama history books.

Alabama had the best offensive line, wide receiver, running back and quarterback in college football.

After running through the 10 regular season with little to no resistance, the Tide captured the SEC Championship with a 52-46 (the closest contest of the season) over Florida.

Finishing 11-0 in SEC play, playing every game on their schedule during COVID, and the pure dominance the Tide displayed game after game has them at number two.

1.Miami Hurricanes 2001: By the numbers 12-0 record, 512 total points, 42.7 points per game, 9.8 points allowed, 32.9 points average margin of victory, 38 NFL draft picks and 17 first round picks.

The 2001 U was the most dominant all-around team in college football history with Andre Johnson, Willis McGahee, Clinton Portis, Jeremy Shockey and Ken Dorsey on offense and Sean Taylor, Jonathan Vilma, Phillip Buchanon and Ed Reed on defense (just to name a few).

Six first team Consensus All Americans in Buchanon, Joaquin Gonzalez, Bryant Mckinnie, Shockey, Reed and Todd Sievers.

The U had an absurd amount of talent and played with swagger that established themselves as the best college football team over the past 20 years.

Just outside the top five:  Florida State 2013, Clemson 2018, Ohio State 2002, Auburn 2010, Alabama 2011 and 2012, Southern California 2004 and Texas 2005.  I can make an argument that any of these teams belong in the top five.

High Tide

By: JJ Lanier

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

There have been some impressive college football dynasties over the years, but it’s hard to imagine a more successful one than the one currently taking place in Tuscaloosa.

If you take out Saban’s inaugural year in 2007 the Crimson Tide have never won fewer than 10 games in a season (they’ve won 12 or more in 10 of those 13 seasons) own 8 Division titles, 7 Conference titles, and 6 National Championship trophies.

What separates Alabama from other remarkable runs other programs have made is not only the longevity, but the circumstances surrounding it.

As frustrated as people get having to hear the argument about players and teams being from different eras, that does make a difference.

This isn’t the Knute Rockne/Bear Bryant days where all the best players went to one or two schools, making it easier to dominate the competition.

Not only are there more options for players, but a lot of players are spurning some of the bigger programs so they (players) have a better chance of getting their name out there and building their brand.

Yet, Alabama is still able to bring in top rated classes, year after year. They’ve also achieved these feats playing in arguably the most difficult conference in the country.

Clemson, a team some people, myself included, thought could dethrone Alabama as the premier program, is a perfect example. As impressive as the Tigers have been the past 5-6 years, and as deserving as they were in their two championship runs, you knew they were going to have a shot because of the league they play in.

The Tide have been more successful, for twice as long, playing in a much more difficult conference.

One area that seems to fly a bit under the radar is the number of coordinators Saban has gone through, especially on the offensive side.

Over his 14 tenure there have been seven (about to be eight) different offensive coordinators at the helm.

We like to discuss at length the hurdles that come with player turnover due to transfers, graduating, etc., but to have that many different coordinators reigning over the side of the ball Saban is least comfortable with says a lot about his ability to bring in talent not only on the field, but on the sideline as well.

Granted, he’s been fortunate to have some talented play callers on his staff, but to give credit where it’s due, he also was willing to take chances on guys like Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian when their names weren’t exactly well received around the league.

That’s not to say Alabama and Saban are perfect or that they’ve won me over as a fan; of the three people I like associated with the state of Alabama, (Jason Isbell, Charles Barkley, and a player to be named later) none of them have anything to do with Alabama football.

It’s difficult to be objective towards Saban and the Tide- he’s not exactly the most gregarious person there is and winning as much as the program has does automatically brings detractors.

But, with Alabama winning their sixth title in 13 years, I do find myself appreciating what Saban has achieved during his time there.

The argument could be made some were just as good, but regardless of tonight’s outcome, I’d argue nobody has been better.

SEC Stock

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

2021 is upon us in the pandemic stricken football season.

My annual SEC Football stock report is upon us again.

 

Stock Keys:

Buy

Sell

Hold

 

Alabama: The best football stock around with the master CEO Saban running things. Championship stock that will make you tons of money. The long-term future of this blue blood stock is through the roof. Advice: Buy it all.

Texas A&M: This stock has risen in 2020. It has made investors plenty of money in 2020. The long-term future of this stock is up in the air. Advice: Right now, hold what you have at this moment and watch closely.

Florida: This stock is somewhat of an unknown at the moment. It has been a short-term snack in 2020, but with a takeover attempt by the NFL to rob Florida of valuable assets this stock may decline in the short term and rebound down the road. Advice: Hold for now and take short term losses in 2021 and buy in 2022 and beyond.

Georgia: Kirby Smart has been a great trader on Wall Street for about five years now. This stock has steadily made investors rich, and this stock could reach its highest value since 1980. Advice: Buy it in boatloads.

Auburn: Once a blue blood stock that has tumbled over the past decade. It bottomed out in 2020, and Auburn fired its CEO and sent him out with a $21 million dollar severance package. This stock is underperforming at this moment in time. Advice: Sell it all and invest in higher producing stock like Alabama, UGA and a rising Arkansas.

Arkansas: Arkansas is the best new stock of 2021. Future is bright under new leadership. Advice: Buy as much as you can.

Ole Miss: New aggressive CEO who is not afraid to invest in new technology. This stock will peak by 2023 so might as well get on board now. Advice: Buy all you can and hold on to it.

LSU: Traditional producing blue blood stock that has struggled in 2020, but will bounce back in 2021. Advice: Hold on to what you have and be ready to buy quickly in the fall.

Tennessee: Blue Horseshoe hates Tennessee football. Advice: Sell/dump this crap quickly before Tennessee gets busted for insider trading.

Missouri: Future looks bright for this stock. Advice: Hold for now but consolidate resources for quick purchases in 2022 and beyond.

South Carolina: Dump it quickly and I mean quickly before you go bankrupt.

Kentucky: Kentucky basketball stock is even on the decline currently. Sell off the football stock as quickly as you can.

Mississippi State: The Air Raid stock is not valuable any longer. Once a slight producer that has seen its better days. Sell it off.

Vanderbilt: Kicking game gimmicks have not been able to save this proud stock. CEO has been fired and the future looks very bleak. Sell what you have and invest that money in Arkansas and Ole Miss Stock because it is cheaper and will pay better than average dividends.

2021 Cocktail Party

By: Buck Blanz

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Heading into the 2020 college football season the Georgia Bulldogs looked to be a force to be reckoned with in the SEC east.

That came crumbling down relatively quickly for the Bulldogs.

A two-loss season would normally not be worrisome for Georgia fans but when you are limited to ten games and they’re all conference games, it makes it a little more difficult.

Georgia fans always expect to be in Championship contention and with the news of quarterback JT Daniels returning to Athens next season, that puts the Bulldogs back in the conversation for next year.

After just four games of action this past season Daniels accounted for 1,231 yards, 10 touchdowns, and only 2 interceptions, which gave the Bulldogs a much-needed passing presence on offense.

Daniels is fortunate enough to have a good group of wideouts to throw to, including Kearis Jackson, Jermaine Burton, and George Pickens; allowing Bulldogs fans to enjoy some home run pass plays for the first time in a while.

Complementing the passing game next season will be, once again, very reliable running backs that get the final push when it matters. Along with an experienced offensive line the Georgia Bulldogs look to be a championship contender once again in the 2021 season.

However, down in Gainesville things will look a little different next year for the Florida Gators.

After winning the SEC east and coming up short in the SEC championship game against top-ranked Alabama, the Gators got manhandled against the Oklahoma Sooners 20-55 in the Cotton Bowl.

However, Dan Mullen led the fans to believe that there were more players out than there were ‘I thought our scout team guys played well’.

Either way, it didn’t put a good end towards what seemed to be a step in the right direction for the Gator program.

Florida was able to put an end to Georgia’s three-year SEC East title streak in Jacksonville this season, one of the first items on each Gator fan’s annual checklist.

Along with the win in Jacksonville, the Gators put up historic numbers, while being led by Heisman candidate Kyle Trask alongside Kadarius Toney and Kyle Pitts, both of whom proved to be matchup problems all season long.

It was only Todd Grantham’s defense that seemed to be the weak link throughout Florida’s season falling from seventh in efficiency a season ago to out of the top 30 this year.

As for next season, the Gators have some searching to do, as they lose all three of Kyle Trask, Kyle Pitts, Kadarius Toney to the NFL Draft.

With Dan Mullen as head coach Florida will most likely come back with another stout offense looking to get the ball into the endzone often.

Striking The Pose

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

It’s been 19 years since wide receiver Desmond Howard won the Heisman Trophy, but on Tuesday night DeVonta Smith ended the drought by earning the 2020 Heisman.

Smith joins running back Mark Ingram (2009) and Derrick Henry (2015).

Smith received the trophy after 12 games of SEC-only play and rewrote the Alabama and SEC record books. The Amite, LA native caught 105 passes for 1,641 yards and 20 touchdowns (all three led the nation).

Think about what it takes for a receiver to be recognized as the best player in the game. That player must dominate and make it known immediately and obvious that he’s more responsible for his team’s success than his quarterback.

Smith passed the test. He is the best offensive player on a team loaded with NFL talent at every position.

You could argue that Jones is the guy throwing the ball to Smith and deserves the credit, but Smith gets open play after play, no matter the coverages or routes.

Smith received 447 first place votes and 1,856 total points. Clemson and future Jacksonville quarterback Trevor Lawrence was second with 222 first place votes and 1,187 total.

Smith’s teammates Mac Jones and Najee Harris, finished third and fifth and Florida’s Kyle Trask finished fourth.

Smith already had an all-time highlight when, as a freshman, he ran by a Georgia defensive back to catch a Tua Tagovailoa’s 41-yard touchdown pass to win the College Football Playoff Championship.

He will have a chance to score another title Monday when Alabama faces Ohio State for the College Football Playoff Championship in Miami.

Former Heisman winner Steve Spurrier had these thought on DeVonta, “DeVonta, gosh I still remember when he was a true freshman when he caught the touchdown to beat Georgia for the national championship. Nobody knew who he was, he just flew down the sideline and obviously Georgia was in a bad coverage. Some kind of the Cover 2 on that side, which doesn’t make sense but that’s what they were doing.”

Nicknamed the “Slim Reaper,” Smith has already collected plenty of awards for his 2020 efforts, ranging from consensus All American to the Biletnikoff Award to AP College Football Player of the Year (first ever receiver to win), but the Heisman is a completely different class of Hardware.

Smith delivered an inspiring and heartfelt acceptance speech after winning, “To all the young kids out there that’s not the biggest, not the strongest: just keep pushing. I’m not the biggest. I’ve been doubted a lot because of my size and really, it just comes down to if you put your mind to it, you can do it. No job’s too big.”

The experts at SportLine.com have revealed the 2021 Heisman odds: Spencer Rattler QB, Oklahoma is the favorite followed by three ACC quarterbacks D. J. Uiagalelei, Clemson; Sam Howell, North Carolina and D’Eriq King, Miami.

Malevolent Mullen

By: JJ Lanier

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

“My team is on the floor.”

In a movie full of memorable quotes and scenes (Hoosiers) that line may encapsulate the integrity of Norman Dale (Gene Hackman) more than any other.

In six words he not only holds the one available substitute on his bench accountable for not following his rules, but he shows tremendous support for the four players that did.

Regardless of wins and losses the character does exactly what you want a coach to do, set a good example for the players around him.

If Hoosiers was to be remade into a football movie starring Dan Mullen the line may sound like this- “My team is on the field…except it’s not this year’s team, it’s next years…and you know I could just take them all off the field and not play, right…and by the way, what’s with the lack of a crowd, it’s interfering with my current, but yet not current players…hey, how do you like my Halloween costume?”

If adversity is supposed to expose a person’s true character this past season has shown Mullen to be a narcissistic, excuse-riddled coach, whose post game comments are more of a fit for fan base discussion boards as opposed to press conferences. (Seriously, all those jokes about the SEC only losing bowl games they’re not interested in playing, originally directed at delusional fans, can now add Mullen to their intended list of targets.)

For most of the season it seemed like the best way to handle his rants was the same way you would handle a toddler throwing a fit in the toy aisle at a Target; just let him have his moment and move on.

Of course, as any parent will attest, if you don’t stop the fits early enough, they’ll grow into a full blown tantrum, which is basically what Mullen’s post Cotton Bowl press conference amounted to.

There really isn’t any way an objective person could watch that video and justify what he said as anything other than adult tantrum.

Despite all the ridiculous and frankly disrespectful comments he made his lack of integrity was what really pushed the whole thing over the edge.

As I mentioned above, the one thing we hope a coach will do at a minimum is set a good example for their players, right? I mean, I feel like I’ve heard “shaping boys into men” a few times over my 40 years on this earth.

How did Mullen shape his players this year? I assume they learned if things get tough just throw a bunch of excuses and blame towards others and then make sure they know just how lucky they were that you at least showed up?

Coming into this season I didn’t really have strong feelings towards Mullen, one way or the other. I thought he was a good coach who up to that point seemed like a decent guy.

Obviously, my feelings are a little more pronounced than they were a few months ago.

Look, Mullen may be taking the Dabo Swinney approach by doubling down on his comments because he doesn’t care what people outside of his program’s fan base thinks of him.

However, if he does care about his reputation, and since he’s already admitted he’s moved on to the 2021 season, I know just the perfect movie he can watch to help him on his way.

Are You In Or Out?

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

You want to know what the trendiest trend is today in college football?

It’s called opting out. You can’t blame it on Covid-19 because this negative trend started a couple of years ago and it is getting out of control.

For example, The University of Georgia could be minus 8-9 starters in this week’s Peach Bowl due to opting out.

SEC East Champ Florida looked like a Gator team we had never ever seen in the Cotton Bowl against Oklahoma due to opting out. All of Florida’s playmakers like Kyle Pitts and company were not in Dallas.

In my opinion the only way to cure the opting out issue is to expand the College Football Playoff to 32 teams in 4 brackets.

You could have a version of March Madness where you could have a committee deciding who gets in and who is left out.

A greatly expanded playoff eliminates opt outs because you could have a five-game post season that would crown a true champion and create the incentive to participate.

It could be accomplished by doing the following:

Notre Dame joins the ACC full time in football. Is there a more self-centered football program in the country than ND?

The arrogance about being a football independent has long run its course, and the powers that be in college football need to break it down for the Irish and say join a conference or get left out. This is not the 1940’s anymore. All independents join a conference.

Eliminate all conference championship games. Yes, I know it’s a cash cow, but a 32-team playoff is the ultimate cash cow.

Have all teams play a 10-game regular season that consists of 9 conference games and one out of conference game.

Set up rotating schedules and have tie breaking formulas in effect to determine a conference champion without a championship game. Alabama would have been SEC Champ in 2020 by virtue of being the only undefeated team in conference play.

Time to evolve thinking around traditional rivalry games. You may not get a UGA/Auburn or Alabama/Tennessee game every fall. Get over it we are trying to cure the opt outs here.

All current Power Five and Group of Five conference champions get an automatic playoff bid.

After that you fill out the rest of the playoff field with At-Large teams.

Football Playoff Committee selects 4-number one seeds to sit atop 4 brackets. You could name each bracket after four influential figures in the history of college football.

Each of the four brackets consists of 8 teams. The higher seeded team would host first round and second round games to get down to the final 8 teams.

Then you use traditional bowl games (Fiesta, Cotton, Citrus, and Peach) to determine bracket champions and narrow the field down to a final four

Use the Orange and Sugar Bowls as national semifinal games annually to determine the final two teams.

The National Championship Game will be played every New Year’s Day in the Granddaddy of them all The Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.

The Championship Playoff Committee could meet the week before Thanksgiving to set the field of 32.

Playoff would begin the Saturday after Thanksgiving with the National Championship game being played on January 1st.

Want to end the plague of opting out? I just laid out a plan on how to accomplish it.

If we had this playoff format in place today, I guarantee you Notre Dame would be the first number one seed to be eliminated.

Have a blessed 2021 everyone. I have opted out of 2020.

Border Recruiting Wars

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The one thing that Kirby Smart and his staff at the University of Georgia can do is recruit.

The Bulldogs have been recruiting at a very high level since Kirby arrived in Athens. So, at the Early Signing Period conclusion, Georgia added 20 commitments.

This could be the fifth straight year that the Dawgs land a top three class.

The Bulldogs signed 11 players from Georgia, two players from Alabama and two from Florida.

Kirby landed four five-star players during the early period: Amarius Mims (7th rank player in the nation), Brock Vandagriff (14th rank player in the nation), Xavian Sorey (20th rank player in the nation) and Smael Mondon (29th rank player in the nation).

The Bulldogs remained strong in the trenches on offense with Amarius Mims, Micah Morris, Dylan Fairchild and Jared Wilson.

Georgia went out of state to sign three wide receivers in Adonai Mitchell (Tennessee), Jackson Meeks (Alabama) and Brock Bowers (California).

The prize recruit on offense is Brock Vandagriff. Vandagriff is a five-star quarterback from Christian School in Bogart, GA. He is the second ranked quarterback in the 2021 class and should compete for playing time as soon as he steps foot on campus.

The Dawgs hit a home run after home run on the defensive side of the ball. Linebackers Xavian Sorey and Smael Mondon led the class, but players like defensive back Nyland Green, defensive end Jonathan Jefferson, defensive tackle Tyrion Ingram Dawkins and defensive back Kamari Lassiter are just a few of the players that round out an outstanding defensive class.

Fans, want to know why the Dawgs are consistently ranked in the Top 10? Recruiting!  Kirby is one of the top 3 recruiters in the country. I will give the Bulldogs an A+, because they added playmakers on defense, two of the top offensive tackles and one of the most anticipated college quarterbacks in today’s NCAA.

Speaking of, the NCAA issued a statement that the University of Florida football program was found violating recruiting rules.

The Gators were fined $5000, issued a seven day recruiting ban in the Spring of 2021, and were given a three day recruiting ban in January 2021.

How will it affect recruiting in 2021? It won’t.

The Gators landed 25 commitments for the 2021 class during the Early Signing Period.

This will be Dan Mullen’s second top 10 class. Florida signed two quarterbacks, six receivers, five offensive linemen, five defensive linemen, two linebackers and five defensive backs.

After going eight years without a five-star player, Mullen landed his second in as many years. Jason Marshall, the number two ranked cornerback in the country signed with the Gators. Marshall will compete for playing time next season barring injury.

Marshall leads a defensive back class that is one of the best in the nation. Marshall, Cory Collier, Dovovan McMillon, Jordan Young and Dakota Mitchell add some much needed athleticism to the Gators Secondary.

Mullen signed multiple quarterbacks this cycle with four-star Carlos Del Rio-Wilson out of Cartersville, GA and three-star Jalen Kitna the (son of NFL’s John Kitna). Adding these two players the quarterback room in Gainesville is shaping up nicely.

The Gators put an emphasis on the defensive line and signed five defensive linemen: two defensive tackles Desmond Watson and Christopher Thomas, two strongside ends Tyreak Sapp and Justus Boone, and one weak side end Jeremiah (Scooby) Williams.

Florida signed three offensive linemen Yousef Mugharbill, Jake Slaughter and Austin Barbar. Look for the Gators to add a couple in February or through the transfer portal.

Overall, the Gators had a solid class, I would give them a B- but with the transfer of five-star 2020 running back Demarkcus Bowman that bumps the grade to a B+.

Recruiting is why Georgia should be the favorite to win the SEC East in 2021 and the Cocktail Party.

Georgia will have either first or second most talented team in the county entering 2021.

To quote the Head Ball Coach “Why is it that during recruiting season (the Georgia Bulldogs) sign all the great players, but when it comes time to play the game, we have all the great players? I don’t understand that. What happens to them?”

Recruiting Wars

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

I am handing out grades to the following teams’ recruiting classes following the early Signing Period for the class of 2021.

Considering the challenges all coaches have to deal with while recruiting during the pandemic, there is plenty of praise and blame to go around for Miami, UCF and Florida State.

Recruiting has three periods: Early Signing, National Signing Day, and Transfer Portal. I’ll be looking at the Early Signing Period and Transfer Portal.

Grading any recruiting class is a subjective venture. I determine grades based on the balance of talent level that is brought in, alongside with how the class addresses needs on the roster.

Miami: The Hurricanes earned the signatures of 21 players during the first day of the Early Signing Period. When the dust settled, the Hurricanes had the 11th class in the nation and 2nd class in the ACC.

Miami put a big emphasis on locking down the best players from South Florida (15 of the 21 signees are from Miami-Dade and Broward County).

The keystones of this Hurricane class are five-star defensive tackle Leonard Taylor and safety James Williams.

Miami also flipped four-star quarterback Jake Garcia from USC. The Hurricanes still need to add a couple more offensive linemen and cornerbacks. I’m giving Miami an A-.

UCF: The Knights had 19 players sign and one transfer. The Knights rank 61st Nationally and 4th in the AAC.

UCF focused on the defensive side of the ball with 11 defensive players signing.

Anthony Hundley signed with the Knights after decommitting from LSU.  The Miami native had offers from Florida State, Michigan and Ole’ Miss.

Mikey Keene became the third quarterback to sign with the Knights since Josh Heupel took over. The Arizona native passed for 5,089 yards and 47 touchdowns during his time at Chandler High School.

Former Virginia quarterback RJ Harvey transferred to the Knights; however, he will play at running back.

UCF is a program unlike the others in this article, their recruiting budget is 1/10th that of the other schools. The Knights will add a few more pieces in February and use the Transfer Portal to fill out their class, but the grade for the Knights is C+.

Florida State: The Seminole fans hoping that the football program was going to take a dramatic, positive turn in the first year under new head coach Mike Norvell were in for a rude reality check.

The prized newcomer for the Seminoles won’t be a freshman, but rather, former UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton. If Milton is healthy, this is a talented game changer for Florida State.

This is the first class in modern day FSU history that has not included a five-star player.

In addition, the Seminoles only have one player ranked inside the top 250.

Norvell is very clearly trying to revamp the FSU defense with 10 of their 16 commits on that side of the ball.

Hunter Washington is the Seminole’s highest ranked recruit, and he is a bit undersized at 5 foot 11 and 175 pounds. Hunter Washington, Malik McClain, Shambre Jackson, Omarion Cooper, Rod Orr and Patrick Payton anchor Novell’s second class.

Florida State ranks 22nd Nationally and 4th in the ACC.

The Seminoles have a lot of work ahead of them to raise the talent level of their roster. Norvell must utilize the Transfer Portal. My grade for Florida State would be a D- but the arrival of McKenzie Milton alone raises it to a B-.

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