If you’re anything like I was a few years ago, you have no idea how recruiting actually works.
I don’t mean that you don’t know it’s important (it is). I also don’t mean that you don’t know that it is based on a sales-pitch from a head coach and his staff to high school kids.
What I mean is that (if you’re like I was), you have no idea what a grayshirt is. You don’t know how many players a program can sign. You may even wonder how Alabama can have 28 commits when teams are only allowed 25 recruits a year.
All of this stuff may seem pedantic, but it turns out it is really important for a coach to know how to manage all of these little details. Screw it up and you can’t take a player you really want, or you have to convince someone to transfer in a way that starts to stretch (or completely breaks) ethical standards.
So that begs a couple of questions. First, what are the rules that every team is combating this time of year and how will that affect National Signing Day? Second, with 23 players already in the fold for the 2019 recruiting class, how does it affect Florida?
There are really two rules that are critical to the entire process.
25 players per Cycle
If you look at the 2019 recruiting rankings right now, you’d see that multiple teams have more than 25 players committed to play for them. That would seem to fly in the face of a 25 player per cycle rule.
But really what you’re seeing is an accounting nuance of when those players are counted.
You may have noticed relatively recently a focus on players who graduate high school early and enroll in college to participate in spring practice. This provides more than just the advantage of extra practice time.
Those players who enroll early this cycle can be counted against the 25-man limit either for the 2018 class or the 2019 class. This gives coaches flexibility when they are trying to manage their roster while being unsure of which players will commit until signing day.
The other alternative is to grayshirt a player. This involves the recruit enrolling in the spring semester after what would have been his freshman season. That player can then be counted either for that class or against the 25-man limit for the following cycle.
There are other rules (the SEC limits the number of letter’s of intent (LOIs) a team can sign yearly to 28), but usually the critical thing to remember is this:
Each player must be counted to a specific class (called an initial counter), and that class count must add up to 25.
85 Scholarship Rule
This rule seems counter to the previous one as well. After all, if you have 85 scholarships and sign 25 players per cycle, don’t you end up with 15 players who can’t have scholarships?
Well, the answer is no because of roster attrition that happens over a given four or five-year period. That attrition can happen for a myriad of reasons.
It could be because of health reasons, as with Florida 2018 safety commit Randy Russell or 2017 wide receiver commit James Robinson. It could be because of legal issues, as with 2018 wide receiver commit Justin Watkins. It could be because of early entry into the NFL Draft, as with 2016 commits Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, Jachai Polite and Jawaan Taylor.
Regardless of the reason, the roster has to end up at 85 scholarships come gameday.
Where does Florida stand?
The returns of Lamical Perine, Jabari Zuniga and Adam Shuler are terrific for the 2019 team. But it does put Florida into a bit of a numbers crunch.
As it stands currently, Florida has 62 players returning who were on scholarship last season. If you add the 23 commits for the 2019 class thus far, that puts the Gators at the 85 scholarship limit.
But there will likely still be more attrition. We already saw that with wide receiver DaQuon Green, who tweeted about his intent to transfer last week. Others who will see limited playing time next season – especially those who have already gotten their degrees and can play immediately – may end up looking elsewhere.
The reality is that if Mullen needs a scholarship for one of his 2019 guys, he likely will be able to free it up by helping a player brought in during the McElwain regime find a new home.
As for the 25-man limit, Florida is in pretty good shape there. That’s because by my count Florida only had 24 initial counters in 2017. That means that Mullen will be able to count one early enrollee from his 2018 class against the 2017 class.
Because Mullen only signed 20 players in the 2018 class, accepted three transfers (Shuler, Grimes and Jefferson) and can count back one early enrollee to 2017, I believe his count for 2018 at 22.
This allows him to count three early enrollees for 2019 back to 2018. That means that even though Mullen currently has 23 commits in the 2019 class, he can sign five more players if he wants to.
Obviously though, that comes with two caveats. First, signing five more players would give Mullen zero flexibility next season if he wanted to take more than 25 commits. He would want to make sure that the players that he signs (or accepts as transfers) are worth limiting his flexibility.
Second, he doesn’t have the scholarships available currently to sign those players. He would need to open up room to do so and whether there are five more players who are leaving is only something those players and Mullen currently know.
This weekend, Bellflower, CA defensive back Chris Steele announced his commitment to Florida. Steele is currently rated 40th nationally and is by-far Florida’s highest-rated recruit.
I have been critical of Mullen’s focus on recruiting California, mainly because of the opportunity cost associated with allocating resources out west. But Steele is a big get for Mullen and certainly any time you can get a player of his caliber, the resources likely were worth it.
It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who read my predictions throughout the year that I might end up wrong.
Steele looks like he’s going to be a heck of a player. Any Gator fan who watched him in the Army All-American Bowl has to be pretty excited. Combine that with the lack of top-100 talent I pointed out after early signing day and Steele’s commitment looks even bigger.
Steele’s commitment also pushes the Gators score in the 247Sports Composite to 260.15 and 11th nationally (5th in the SEC). That would have been good for 14th last season. But Florida likely isn’t done yet.
As mentioned, Mullen still has slots to fill. If he does so with defensive back Kaiir Elam, that would bring Florida’s score up to 267.26, which would have been 11th last season. One more top-250 player in addition to Elam likely puts the Gators in the top-10.
That’s how important Steele’s commitment was. Had the Gators added Elam but not Steele, the Gators ranking would have been 259.01. That would have left almost zero path to a top-10 class without a huge flip on signing day.
I don’t advise getting all worked up over one commit but rather taking a class as a whole. And I also don’t think that getting into the top-10 is necessarily the metric that Gators fans should be pinning their hopes on.
But in this case Steele is a high-level talent and likely future NFL Draft pick. You can’t have enough of those.
I Need Your Help
I spend a lot of time – some would argue an unhealthy amount – looking at film for flaws in the abilities of Florida’s players and the opposition. Those players on both sides put themselves out there on display every weekend for us to criticize and I respect them for it immensely, regardless of how well they play.
What I haven’t done very well lately is look at my own flaws.
After the holidays, I got on the scale and it read 295 pounds. There are a bunch of reasons for that. Suffice it to say that I enjoy food, loathe running, have three small kids and a job that takes a lot of time and energy. But those are all just excuses.
When you’re overweight and gaining, you know it’s not healthy. You feel shame as your clothes and airplane seatbelts get tighter. You also feel like there’s always time to make a change….tomorrow.
Well, two days before Christmas, someone close to me who was younger than I am died. I’m still processing what happened, and it sucks that it takes something like that to drive the point home that tomorrow isn’t guaranteed, but that’s where I find myself. I can’t change what happened to him, but I can change my own trajectory.
To that end, I’ve enrolled in a program called HealthyWage.
The concept is that you bet a monthly amount that you can reach a weight-loss goal. If you do, you win the bet and make money. If you don’t, you forfeit the amount you’ve betted. I’ve bet that I can lose 30 pounds in the next six months.
I have no idea whether it will work. I do know that I am really competitive. I also know that going through a challenge like this in a community is much more effective than going it alone, which is where you come in.
My audience has been incredibly encouraging as I’ve launched and built this site. I can only hope that you’ll exhibit the same spirit as I go on this journey. I’m giving you permission to speak into my life in a way that’s really uncomfortable for me in hopes that it will encourage someone else as well.
If you struggle with your weight and would like to give it a try, you can do so by following this link and get $40 for signing up before January 9. In the interest of full disclosure, I do get a referral fee if you sign up using that link.
But if that turns you off, then just go to www.healthywage.com and sign up. I’m not doing this for the referral fee.
I’m doing it because I need to look more like a linebacker and less like a left tackle. I hope if you’re in the same boat that you’ll join me.