The race between Florida and Florida State for the better 2014 recruiting class will be one of the more intriguing talking points of this recruiting cycle.
Both programs have elite aspirations, and both feature excellent recruiters in Will Muschamp and Jimbo Fisher, respectively.
Florida State, in particular, can also rely on former Alabama defensive backs coach and current Seminoles defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt, who is thought of as one of the best recruiting assistants in the country. Last cycle, Pruitt won the recruiter of the year award, according to the 247Sports recruiter rankings.
He's directly responsible for flipping 5-star cornerback Jalen Ramsey from USC and 4-star strong-side defensive end DeMarcus Walker from Alabama. Prutt was also the primary recruiter for 5-star outside linebacker Matthew Thomas, who choose FSU.
Make no mistake about it, Pruitt will be a major factor for Florida State on the recruiting trail this cycle.
Both programs should finish with good-to-great classes and both have an elite draw and bright futures, but which school will finish with the stronger class?
As it stands, Florida currently has the No. 3 ranked class, while Florida State is ranked No. 6 nationally, both according to the 247Sports Composite team rankings.
Muschamp has already landed nine recruits, and that includes five 4-stars and 5-star running back Dalvin Cook. Fisher and Florida State are just one recruit behind at eight total commitments so far, and the Seminoles boast four 4-stars, plus 5-star inside linebacker Kain Daub.
In recruiting, we never really do know how things will shake up, but we can make a good prediction on which program will finish with the stronger class by looking at what elite recruits each school has a chance to land.
Florida could make the biggest splash by recruiting 5-star defensive end Da'Shawn Hand, who is the No. 2 player in the 2014 class according to the 247Sports Composite. Florida is in the bottom three of Hand's top five (247Sports), and 90 percent of the experts who predicted where Hand will end up on the 247Sports Crystal Ball feel that he will commit to Virginia Tech. Still, it's not over until it's over, so keep an eye out for Hand if you're a Florida fan.
5-star wide receiver Ermon Lane has Florida in his top three according to 247Sports, and he's the No. 1 ranked wideout in the 2014 class (247Sports Composite). Florida will have to out-recruit Alabama and Miami, but the Gators are at least in the running.
Two other big-time recruits who Florida has a chance with are 5-star defensive end Gerald Willis (top three) and 5-star offensive tackle David Sharpe (top two with Florida State), both according to their respective 247Sports interest lists.
If Florida can land even just one or two of these recruits, especially Sharpe in favor of FSU, the Gators would be looking at a very strong class.
Florida State can also make a few big splashes, but the big races the Seminoles are in seem to be rather one-sided. The Seminoles are "warm" on 5-star defensive end Lorenzo Carter's interest list, but Alabama is listed as the top team. The same can be said for 5-star cornerback Marlon Humphrey, who is an Alabama lean but has an interest in FSU.
According to Prince's 247Sports Crystal Ball, both JC Shurburtt and Keith Niebuhr predict him to commit to Florida State, so that's good news for the Seminoles. Tabor's prediction is a bit more interesting with three out of five experts picking Florida and the other choosing Florida State.
The stronger class won't necessarily be determined by 5-stars, mind you, but it's a good place for us to start when it comes to predictions, especially so early during the recruiting cycle.
This will really start to take form once the season rolls around, and Florida and Florida State's play on the field will impact their respective recruiting classes as well.
Personally, I have a strong feeling that Florida will boast a dominant defense in 2013, and the Gators will be amongst the best programs in college football. I also think that Florida State is about a year away from that mark.
With that in mind, I see more big-time recruits being swayed Florida's way, and in the end, the Gators will come away with the stronger class between the two programs.
That said, I don't expect it to be stronger by much, so as noted earlier, this will be one of the more intriguing school vs. school races to watch in the 2014 cycle.
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