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The Sunshine State Scorecard: Hurricanes surging over Gators

July 27 update: There has been significant movement among the elite recruits in the state of Florida over the last month.

To start, James Williams, the No. 1 player in Florida and No. 1 rated athlete in the nation committed to the Miami Hurricanes. This was obviously a major win for Miami and six weeks ago would have been seen as a huge upset, as he was expected by most to sign with Georgia. However, as 247Sports’ Gabe Brooks profiled, Miami is one of the teams not seeing a negative impact in recruiting from the pandemic. With so much talent close to home, and unable to travel out-of-state to see other schools, the Hurricanes are in position to clean up. That’s not to downplay the excellent job of relationship building done by Miami’s staff during this unique time.

Miami also landed a commitment from four-star defensive end Jabari Ishmael, of Miami Columbus High. And the Hurricanes also scored a commitment from four-star safety Kamren Kinchens, of Miami Northwestern.

Florida State did not land any four- or five-star prospects from Florida over the last month.

The Gators landed one of the state’s best in four-star receiver Marcus Burke, of Jacksonville Trinity Christian.

But the out-of-state trend continued as well.

Alabama beat out Georgia for four-star pass rusher Dallas Turner, of powerhouse Ft. Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas. Turner is the No. 43 prospect nationally. And LSU was the winner for Vero Beach four-tar defensive end Keanu Koht. Arizona State, meanwhile, got a commitment from four-star athlete Tommi Hill of Orlando Edgewater. Hill is a player that 247Sports is much higher on than the rest of the recruiting industry.

There were no decommitments from four- or five-star players from Florida in the last month.

33 of the state’s 46 four- and five-star recruits from Florida (not OoS transfers to IMG) are committed. Just 16 of the 33 are committed to in-state schools, meaning that so far the in-state schools are keeping the elite players in-state less than half the time. And the recruiting picture is becoming a bit clearer with recruits naming top schools.

Miami might be the in-state champ, but out-of-state schools continue to thrive in Florida

So far, Miami has nine commitments from four- and five-stars in the state of Florida in athlete James Williams, receivers Romello Brinson and Jacolby George, running back Thad Franklin, guard Laurence Seymore, defensive end Jabari Ishmael, defensive tackle Savion Collins, and offensive tackle Michael McLaughlin, and safety Kamren Kinchens. Miami could also land five-star defensive tackle Leonard Taylor and four-star athlete Chase Smith. How well Miami looks on the field in prior years has had an impact on its ability to hold on to commitments from talented local prospects, but it appears that the Hurricanes could enter the season, assuming one is played in the fall, with a sizable lead on the Gators and Seminoles. 

Even with the obvious benefit of the pandemic keeping players home, Miami beating out Florida to this point is surprising. The Hurricanes have more four- and five-stars from Florida committed than UF and FSU combined.

The Florida Gators have had consecutive double-digit win seasons under Dan Mullen. With recent failures by Florida State and extended on-field struggles by Miami, plus Florida winning, the Gators should be able to take advantage. The last two times two programs struggled mightily for a prolonged period, the third program in the state pounced (Jimbo Fisher beating up on Will Muschamp and Randy Shannon, and previously, Urban Meyer taking advantage of Bobby Bowden and Larry Coker). Could Dan Mullen and the Gators be in line to do the same? It’s possible.

The Gators have five in-state four-stars in defensive lineman Tyreak Sapp, receivers Trevonte Rucker and Marcus Burke, athlete Charles Montgomery, and tight end Gage Wilcox. But the Gators do have a chance to retake the lead, with potential commitments from the likes of Leonard Taylor, Bryce Langston, and defensive back Jason Marshall. Florida is also a possibility to flip Miami DT commit Savion Collins. And the Gators are also in good position for a few more if they decide that those recruits are “takes” to be in the class.

Florida State has just two in linebacker Branden Jennings and cornerback Omarion Cooper. It is in on a few more, like safeties Ahmari Harvey and Terrion Arnold. But it’s clear the Seminoles have little traction with the best Florida prospects this cycle after hiring a new staff which has been unable to get out and meet prospects during the virus shutdown.

But the real battle for the Hurricanes (or maybe Gators) is with teams from out-of-state.

Only two of the top 10 prospects from Florida are committed to an in-state school. Five are committed to programs outside the state.

Alabama has four commitments from four-and five-stars. All four are in the top 15 in the state (excluding IMG prospects from out-of-state, of course). That is more than Miami, Florida, and Florida State combined.

Clemson has three commitments from four-star recruits, all among the top 20. That is tied with Miami and more than Florida or Florida State.

With the help of the 247Sports Crystal Ball and local intel, we can attempt to read some tea leaves. Currently, Miami Palmetto five-star teammates in DT Leonard Taylor and CB Jason Marshall are expected to stay in-state (though Marshall is far from a lock to do so). And linebacker Xavian Sorey is projected as 100% to Alabama on the Crystal Ball. If those predictions hold, and the rankings do not change, that would give out-of-state teams six of the top ten players in Florida.

The problem might not be getting worse, but it is clear the in-state schools are not yet reversing the trend of recent years.

Read on for the historical picture in the state of Florida and to see how these trends compare.

The Sunshine State Scorecard

Florida is routinely one of the most talented recruiting states in the nation. College football programs from near and far come to the Sunshine State to evaluate and sign prospects.

Eleven of the last 37 national titles have been won by teams from Florida. Eight more titles have come from the two states bordering it. And many more of football’s best teams in that span have featured numerous starters from Florida.

The competition in Florida is fierce. The weather is great year-round, so players never have to stop training.

It’s worth paying attention to who recruits the state the best. So I do so on an annual basis in my Sunshine State Scorecard. And I update it throughout the year.

METHODOLOGY

But I only focus on the best players who multiple top schools want, meaning the Scorecard is limited to just four- and five-star players in the 247Sports Composite.

To make sure I am evaluating who is recruiting Florida prospects the best, I exclude players from IMG Academy (an elite football boarding school) who are not from the state. There is little tying those players to the state and my research shows they are likely to return to their home region to play their college football.

For the class of 2021, the IMG Academy players excluded from the analysis are (along with their home state): J.J. McCarthy (Illinois), Kamar Wilcoxson (Georgia), Greg Crippen (Massachusetts), Lovasea Carroll (Georgia), Tunmise Adeleye (Texas), and JC Latham (Wisconsin).

RECENT TRENDS

In recent years the trends for the state of Florida have not been encouraging for the in-state schools. For three consecutive classes more than half of the state’s four- and five-stars have left for out-of-state schools.

A rolling four-year average also provides an interesting look.

2005-08: 60% of Florida blue-chips stayed in-state.
2009-12: 52%
2013-16: 47%
2017-20: 47%

It has been even more drastic for top-100 players leaving the state. For four classes running, top-100 players from Florida have left the state more often than they have stayed home.

Again, a rolling four-year average also provides an interesting look.

2005-08: 66% of Florida top-100 recruits stayed in-state.
2009-12: 58%
2013-16: 56%
2017-20: 44%

There is some reason to believe that this is related to all three schools making coaching changes in that span, while out-of-state schools have been more stable. While Florida has had two excellent years so far under Dan Mullen, the program was largely irrelevant since current recruits reached middle school. Florida State has been on a steady decline since winning the national championship in 2013. And Miami joined the ACC in 2004 and has not sniffed a conference crown in the 16 seasons since.

The trend exists for a reason. Out-of-state programs like Alabama, Georgia, LSU, and Clemson have been better than the Florida schools over the last half-decade to a decade.

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