Meyer's speech on the tour of Gator Gatherings always begins with the same question that he's asked at every stop: are you surprised? Meyer's answer is no, this is what he expects. He expected the Gators to turn out in force for the spring game. He expected the Gators to turn out in force at the Gator Gatherings.
Believe me, he EXPECTS big time recruits to turn out in force with yes answers to offers of a scholarship to the University of Florida.
Urban Meyer is setting the bar high, going after the best players in the country and you should not be surprised if and when the Gators land a class that is as good as it's going to get this year. You should also not be surprised in the least when this becomes habitual.
For the School Out West and the School Down South, not to mention the other corporate raiders who annually trek to Florida to gloss up their recruiting classes with the fastest and most talented players in the nation, this is not good news. And, the news isn't going to get any better for any school not named the University of Florida. Get used to the fact that Florida is going to muscle its way to the top of the recruiting ladder with a sales pitch that is squeaky clean, vibrant and exciting. Get used to the fact the Gators are going to be one of the two or three most appealing programs in the country.
Also, get used to the fact that there are certain kids who no matter how hard the Gators recruit them are going to find their way to the Harvard of the Panhandle or the University of New Jersey at Coral Gables. That's a reality that Meyer and his staff are prepared to live with. Let's face it, some kids are going to feel more comfortable in Tallahassee where Florida A&M is next door and some kids are going to see South Beach just a few minutes drive from the campus in Coral Gables as a lure too big to pass up. There are kids who will find those social settings far more to their liking than Gainesville.
Then there is the matter of Florida's academics to consider. This is NOT the School Out West where you prepare for life as a circus clown and it is notches above the education you can get in Coral Gables. There are kids who are going to be scared away by the academic demands at Florida where they are actually required to go to class.
But let's face it: the kids who place social settings and easier academics over the University of Florida are not the kids that Urban Meyer wants in his program. He wants the kids who are challenged by the academics. Of the three commits for the Class of 2006, Jevan Snead and Carl Johnson will both be enrolling in January. They've already tested out and they're light years ahead of the rest of their high school classmates so early admission is on their radar. Jevan Snead and Carl Johnson are the poster kids for the recruits Meyer expects to lure to Florida. They are the best on the athletic fields and they are tops in their classrooms.
Meyer is selling kids on the chance to come to Florida where they can be the one percent of one percent. He's selling kids on the chance to be part of a university where the academics and athletics are constantly achieving at the highest levels.
He's also selling kids on coming to a program where you are expected to live your life right off the field. With all the problems that we have seen in Dollywood, Columbia and Athens, just to name a few of the recent hot spots for off the field trouble for college football players, Meyer has to be a light at the end of a very dark tunnel for parents who are second guessing certain coaches and their ideas of discipline. With NFL teams stepping up their investigation of players for character issues, Florida's demands that kids keep their noses clean is going to be another selling point. And lest we forget, on signing day of 2005, the mothers of Antone Smith, Matt Hardrick and Fred Rouse were in a panic that their sons were going to sign with the School Out West, which has in its legacy Peter Warrick and Julian Pittman among others. Of course, the character issue is one of the reasons Millicent Demps made sure that her son Jon signed with the Gators. No doubt she remembers Bobby Bowden talking about how he was "praying for a misdemeanor" for Warrick because there were "millions of dollars at stake."
Is the sales job working? Jamie Newberg, who is arguably the top recruiting analyst in the nation says, "Covering the country, from coast to coast, more kids than ever are mentioning UF in their top 5-7 and that is a great sign and somewhat new."
The top kids in the country all have Florida on their radar and as Newberg says, "UF is in for a huge year off the field and it begs the question what if they win big this season?"
What if the Gators win big? What if the Gators go 10-1 or better? If you think that 10-1 is out of the question, then you obviously have had your head buried in the sand the past few months. The talent is there, particularly on the offensive side of the ball. Because the offense is so good, the defense may have the luxury of playing with a large early lead. Defenses tend to be much better when the offense spots them a couple or three touchdowns. If you don't believe that, then take a look at what happened in 2001 when the Gators were constantly ahead two or three touchdowns by the end of the first quarter.
If the Gators are in the hunt for the SEC championship, the magnetism of this program is going to increase ten-fold. The Swamp is a zoo even when the Gators are just a notch above average, but if the Gators return to their high scoring swagger of the 90s this fall, the place is going to be maniacal. You think it was loud in 2003 when the Almost Competitive Conference zebras stole one for the School Out West? Wait until Thanksgiving weekend this year if the Gators come into the game as the high scoring confident team that all signs are pointing to in June. The Swamp will be an asylum.
Do you think there is a possibility that some of the nation's top recruits will find that atmosphere appealing? How many requests for seats on the recruiting benches do you think the football administration will have to process for the games with the fine folks from Dollywood and the Harvard of the Panhandle?
And consider this: use your Photo Shop and line up pictures of Urban Meyer, Bobby Bowden and Larry Coker. Now, of the three, which one doesn't look like he served with Teddy Roosevelt when the Rough Riders stormed up San Juan Hill?
If you don't think that is a recruiting advantage, then you are sadly mistaken. You can also bet the ranch that recruits are taking into consideration that the offense at the School Out West has nosedived the last four years because the old guy who is the coach can't bring himself to fire his incompetent son. You can also bet that recruits are wondering if Larry Coker can do it with his own people? He has shown that he can win with Butch Davis's recruits. Can he do it with his own?
Then you have Urban Meyer. He's young. He's energetic. He's passionate about the University of Florida and building championship teams. He's selling a beautiful campus that has vastly superior academic and athletic facilities. His program is backed by the kind of money the School Out West and UNJ-Coral Gables can only dream about. He's got the most exciting offense in the country and he's planning to be at Florida a long, long time.
Now, imagine you are a recruit. You've got Bobby Bowden who was on a first name basis with General Grant trying to remember your name while at the same time trying to explain Jeffy. You've got Larry Coker trying to sell the ugliest campus this side of Mongolia and a stadium in a part of town where fans are urged to wear body armor.
Then you have Urban Meyer. He's selling the University of Florida which attracts more National Merit Scholars than any school other than the real Harvard. He's selling a gorgeous campus that has one of the most famous (and rowdy) stadiums in the nation. He's selling the opportunity for a chance to play for championships while getting a degree from a university that ranks among the best of the best.
Did you feel the earth move?