College Football, Florida Gators, Recruiting

Recruiting: The rules for signing recruits and what that means for Florida’s 2019 class

Used via a Creative Commons license via Photo-Gator (links below).

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?

The Rules

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.

Steele Commitment

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 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.

Featured image used under Creative Commons license via Photo-Gator


  1. CGator

    Will, good luck with the weight loss. It is important. It sounds as if you might have a program to follow, which is good. If not, I recommend a book, “The New Atkins for a New You.” I lost 30 pounds (from a start at 200) and have kept it off for 5 years and counting. You lose weight fast, and importantly, you will not be hungry; “will power” (not a pun on your name!) is not required. Better, you eat very well, with a focus on fresh, whole food. If you do get the book, READ IT. Some folks read a couple of chapters and think they get it. It is well written and clear, but a comprehensive understanding of the diet is important. It is the low-carb Atkins diet updated by some very smart scientists and doctors who have been at the leading edge of research on diet and nutrition for a number of years. Good luck!

  2. Eric

    I am just finishing a 5-day fast, but one that allows you to have some calories everyday. Although you are getting the calories, your body thinks you are fasting, which means your body is turning fat into energy.
    Also, your body’s stem cell produce new cells throughout your body. Although Day 2 was a challenge (a lot of brain fog and low energy), it has been much easier than I thought. I can’t believe how much energy I have, it seems counter-intuitive. It not’s cheap, but it was designed by USC’s longevity institute. It’s called Prolon, and it might be an option for you. I absolutely love the work you do. If your website was able to accept one-time payments instead of recurring payment only, then I would chip in for your work (I just don’t like set-and-forget recurring payments). You are my favorite analyst to read. I love how you breakdown the games, and how much insight you provide. Plus your love of the Gators equals mine! Keep up the great work, what you do is different, and special.

  3. Gatormiami

    So the Gators are stuck at status quo unless there is attrition from the current 85? Evidently DM is planning on changes that would allow additional recruits to join the class. Thanks for clearing up the recruiting situation.
    Good luck with the weight loss effort. I was at around 235 not long ago, but am down to under 220 at last weighing. Some of the change I attribute to a health club membership, although my workouts haven’t been all that serious. I really need to reach 200 & stay there or even continue the weight loss.

    I’m sure there are many of your readers are appreciative of you sharing your tribulations and possible cure. I’m going to look into joining you. Thanks.

    And while I’m not always on board with your Gator analyses, I appreciate an honest effort. (Glad to see you have retracted some of the negativity toward Dan’s Cali strategy. I’ve yet to see that from other “couch tweeting” critics.)

  4. Eric Bell

    I lost 25 pounds in 5 months without changing very much.

    My simple advise is this, in the end, it is all about calories (#1) and healthy (#2). I still go to Chic Fil A all the time (not grilled not fried, and yogart not fries) and I still allow myself to eat what I enjoy (but smaller portions).

    Here is the realization that you have to get your mind to accept….if you are not hungry…you do not need to eat. If you are hungry, you do not need to eat that much. Eat half..wait 30 minutes and if you are still hungry, then eat half of the remaining half….

    After a month or so, you will learn that the #1 way to lose weight, it to just eat less and to do that, you have to learn that you don’t need to actually eat that much!

    Best of luck and Go Gators (nice article too by the way)

  5. Justin witt

    I lost 85 pounds at one point in my life going from 250 to 165. Easiest way I found and most immediate is eat tuna for lunch along with a light breakfast normal dinner. Tuna has 32 g of protein per can and about 1/2 g of fat ( daily fat intake for adult male is 65 grams ). That gives u an idea of the flexibility it gives u if u do it at least once daily. Imagine 2 times which I used to.

  6. Brad

    Check out the Fast Metabolism diet by Halie Pomroy. I lost 17 lb in 28 days. Read the book, get the app and lose weight. I was never hungry. Had cravings, but never hungry. You can eat a ton of food.

  7. Ken Clarke

    Good luck, Will, with becoming a big loser!

  8. Luke

    Best of luck to you , Will. And I am sorry for the loss of one of your close friends. I lost a friend when he was only 28. He weighed 400 lbs.

    Here’s to a successful year for you in every facet of life.

  9. Ian MacLaren

    If we assume, as is fair at this point, that CDM knew what he was doing in recruiting a few high level recruits from CA, did he know that he was likely to struggle with top recruits in the state of Florida? What does the data show in top Florida prospects signing out of state. I feel like top recruits are more mobile, like top AAU basketball prospects, but idk if that perception is accurate.

  10. Nate W

    Some great detailed info here Will! Was just wondering exactly how many we could take… Hopefully we fill all of the 5 remaining spots. Never know how many will be leaving next year but it could be a lotttt… Considering we had over 30 juniors on the team this year…. Next year will be attrition (most of play makers at that).

  11. Sean A Nicholson

    Thanks on the recruiting slot breakdown. Mullen really continues to beat the odds even in recruiting now.

    Best of luck with becoming more healthy. Make sure you focus on being healthier, and not just the weight loss. Being healthier for your family is what really matters, the weight loss will eventually come when you stay in a healthy mindset over just a weight loss mindset.

  12. AB

    Good luck Will. I hope you can lose the weight.

  13. Kristopher

    Thanks for explaining all that. I’m new to the recruiting world and have asked all of those questions recently.

    Good luck on the weight loss. Lots of people will offer advise and opinions like I’m about to. However you decide to go about it, don’t cut corners and surround yourself with supportive people to help you reach your goals!

    That and of course a lot of prayer!

  14. Brent Pope

    I see you’re getting lots of weight loss advice. I’ll throw in my $.02.

    The key to weight loss is ingesting fewer calories than you burn. Duh. But doing so can be difficult. My weight has yoyo-ed in the past because I’ve punished myself to lose the weight, only to reward myself by eating all I want once I reached my goal.

    In September, I began using a keto approach to eating. Carbs limited to 25 net carbs per day (total carbs minus dietary fiber). I lost about a pound every other day. That’s a lot. Of course, it wasn’t sustainable because I was overly restrictive. I also added running a couple of miles three days a week. The main takeaway is that I didn’t really suffer. Eating fat and protein fills you up and doesn’t trigger cravings mid-morning, mid-afternoon, and late-evening. If I feel hunger, I eat some dried sausage, macadamia nuts, or pork skins.

    It’s not for everyone, but good health is. I encourage you to give it a try. (And check out The Magic Pill on Netflix after those three kiddos turn in one night.)


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