Where I grew up, the incoming Florida quarterback was always going to be the next Crown Prince. It’s been that way all the way back to the dark ages of Gator football, when I first heard the names Angus Williams and Haywood Sullivan.
There’s always been an implied birthright – right through the Tim Tebow Era — until the nine-year drought, after which the deities have been reduced to three statues.
Where have the quarterbacks all gone, Haywood? Boy, do they ever need one in Gainesville.
There may never have been a more critical choice for a Florida coach than Dan Mullen, who is chasing after the betrothed of other schools to pick off previously committed quarterbacks and jumpstart an anemic offense, hopefully filling out his signee list.
Welcome to the Netherworld of Early Signing, where there is more flipping than you will find at a gymnastics meet.
The bad news is that enormous pressures are being put on a faulty system which, at best, was already disingenuous, suspect and a bit on the shady side. And all the wrong messages are being sent about loyalty, integrity and trust.
In my lifetime, I’ve never seen such pressure brought upon 17- and 18-year-old young men who are being asked to change their minds, and in some cases, go against their promise for the betterment of all.
And how do we in the media even write about it, broadcast it or report it in good conscience? Sources cannot be trusted. Fans are maniacal. Coaches aren’t talking. And things are changing by the hour.
For three weeks I tried to keep up. I talked to fans and parents and other media members on talk shows, attempting to fill a bottomless pit. Any kid who committed was a future bonafide star. Any kid who de-committed from their school was a scumbag.
Finally, I had to stop and draw a breath before my head spun off. I just put my computer away and dispelled the notion of trying to report on deadline or write anything with clarity. It would have easier to catch smoke in my hands.
Everything was moving too fast – faster than real time. More like warp speed.
A friend called Monday to talk about the news of No. 1 quarterback prospect Matt Corral de-committing from Florida to play for OIe Miss, which he said he read over the weekend in his newspaper.
I had to tell him how behind he was in the news. “That’s last Friday’s story,” I told him. “Florida has already moved on to two other guys, trying to flip Justin Fields and Emory Jones.”
By dinnertime word spread that Jones had touched down for his visit to Gainesville. But was he even there? Others confirmed that he was, but would probably skip out on a planned trip later that night to FSU. Yet, by 10:30 p.m. Jones was on his way to Tallahassee.
Today’s report suggests Jones will commit Wednesday to Florida. But can I even say that without any source or substantive evidence?
No I cannot. So count me out of the recruiting game. All I will do is pass along whatever intel I have from a few trusted sources, who are admitting that they don’t know, either, but got it from their “reliable” sources.
This is the recruiting chaos that hath been wrought upon college football by the NCAA. And it doesn’t seem to be a very healthy solution to what college administrators thought was a problem with a later signing date.
First the mad rush to find new coaches because at today’s prices the presidents and ADs are ready and willing to trade in their old models when the new car smell has gone from locker room.
So let’s just play them as they lie: Recruiting is nothing more than a spectator sport. A game of checkers or chess. So play along at home.
At the end of the day Wednesday, Dan Mullen will step to the microphone and do what every other coach in America will do: Tell them they have brought in the very best group of student-athletes possible on such a limited notice and everybody should rest assured that the future is very bright at Florida.
Now Mullen and his staff get to “Coach ‘Em Up” and earn those big salaries that they’re getting paid to do just that. And we’re about to find out just how good of a coaching hire Dan Mullen is going to be.