GAINESVILLE -- Most high school recruits can’t pass up the chance to be in the spotlight, to sit in front of classmates and the nation and choose a hat signifying where they will spend their college years. Quite simply, that’s what National Signing Day is all about.
But for those athletes choosing to attend Florida under coach Will Muschamp, Wednesday is just another day. No overblown ceremony in front of packed high school gyms. No TV cameras. No spotlight.
That’s exactly what Muschamp desires, and that’s what he got in the 2013 class.
“A lot of these guys were guys that have been committed to us a long time and never took other visits,” he said. “There wasn’t a lot of flash in their recruiting process, and that’s the kind of guys you want.”
That doesn’t mean signing day is an emotionless affair. In most instances, countless staff members put years of work into landing just one recruit, and the anticipation of an incoming fax can take a toll.
“You come down to signing day and you sit at that fax machine until that thing comes through. You hope it’s signed right, it’s dated and all that kind of stuff,” Muschamp said. “It’s pretty nerve-wracking. … People don’t realize how much time and effort you put into all this. You’re talking about unofficial visits, phone calls, spending more time with someone else’s family other than your own in a lot of situations.”
But for Muschamp, Wednesday was mostly a breeze.
Early and often
The Gators signed 28 players in the nation’s second-ranked 2013 class, according to ESPN, with 26 of those recruits orally committed before signing day and eight enrolled since early January.
In that group of 28, UF signed 22 players with ratings of four stars or better by ESPN and 14 players ranked in the top 16 nationally at their respective positions, including the No. 1 overall cornerback in Vernon Hargreaves III (Tampa Wharton) and the No. 1 running back in Kelvin Taylor (Belle Glade Glades Day), according to ESPN.
Unlike some teams that had to watch committed athletes go elsewhere, the Gators signed all of their oral commits and then added two more Wednesday in four-star defensive tackle Jay-nard Bostwick from Port St. Lucie West Centennial and three-star junior college defensive tackle Jarran Reed from East Mississippi Community College.
“They’ll get every opportunity, probably more than they want based on how they like to eat,” Muschamp said of the incoming defensive linemen.
Long thought to be staying closer to home to play at Miami, the Bostwick signing provided some excitement to an otherwise drama-free recruiting cycle for Florida.
With this class, Muschamp and his staff filled needs at nearly every position while also acquiring some of the nation’s best talent. Heading into signing day with the nation’s No. 1 haul according to ESPN, the Gators got their players early and held on to them.
That was the story of signing day for Florida, and it was best exemplified by Hargreaves and Taylor.
The coveted corner
One of the most coveted cornerbacks in the class, Hargreaves committed to Florida in July. His father coached linebackers at Miami from 1998 to 2005, and Gators defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson raved about the incoming freshman’s skills, potential and maturity.
“The guy has been around ball his whole life,” Robinson said in a school release. “He knew this was something that he wanted to do for a long time.”
Taylor has been on board with Florida for nearly a year. The son of former Florida and Jacksonville Jaguars star running back Fred Taylor, Taylor enrolled at Florida last month and is already practicing with the team. With 1,000-yard back Mike Gillislee graduating, Muschamp has said Taylor has a chance to start as a freshman.
“Kelvin’s a guy that’s mature. A lot of playing as a freshman, and I’ve said it before, is maturity,” Muschamp said.
“Kelvin never brought up star ratings or how many offers he had. … None of that stuff really impressed Kelvin very much.”