Where Does Florida's Recruiting Class Rank Among the All-Time Greatest?

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Where Does Florida's Recruiting Class Rank Among the All-Time Greatest?
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About a week ago, CNNSI ran a feature on the 15 best recruiting classes of all time (shame on me for getting scooped).

On it were some of the most successful athletes in college football history (SI writer Andy Staples wisely decided to favor college success over the NFL, though many of the athletes did go on to become successful pros).

Notable on that list was the balance achieved by the majority of the signees.

Miami's 1984 class, which lost to Penn State for the 1987 national title and won it the next year, boasted Michael Irvin on offense, but also landed defensive stalwarts Bubba McDowell and Benny Blades.

 

The 2002 Longhorns grabbed Vince Young but also gained LB Aaron Harris and defensive end Brian Robison.

The Gators' '06 class landed Tim Tebow, but Dustin Doe and Brandon Spikes were as crucial to the 2008 national championship.

With that in mind, should we also assess the current Gators class with an eye for balance? Will parity be a good prognosticator for how Florida's 2010 haul will rank among the greatest of all time?

Balance is indeed a fine buzzword, but who's to say you can't win a national championship with a great defensive line?

Because first and foremost, that's exactly what Florida will be fronting for the next three years. Sharrif Floyd, Dominique Easley, and Ronald Powell, in tandem, have to be one of the most dreadful fronts to envision for any offensive coordinator.

Get a year in a college conditioning program under their belts, and there will be no way to block these three five-star talents at one time. Teams will have to resort to max protection, and then you're running three and four routes against the host of athletic linebackers and great defensive backs the Gators have also inked.

I shouldn't risk implying that this class isn't balanced. But it's safe to say that on offense, the Gators' 2010 class lacks a focal point. Tim Tebow was the king of the 2006 class, surrounded by princes Percy Harvin and Brandon James. But there are no kingly Tebow's here.

RB Mack Brown struggled with injuries his senior season and saw his stock decline among the nation's RBs. WR Chris Dunkley makes for a perplexing projection: He has great speed but only minimal size and could end up in the Percy position.

Without proven success at the quarterback position, nothing certain can be said about how much success a receiver like Quinton Dunbar or an athletic TE Gerald Christian will have over the top.

Between Ian Silberman and Chaz Green, one of these monster tackles will be a top-five pick in the 2013 NFL draft. But they could easily reach that position on innate talent and intangibles alone.

Still, the question remains: Do we even need to worry about the Gators on offense? Do we even need a focal point? 

Alabama just won the national championship with Greg McElroy at quarterback, and I mean that in the most incredulous possible way.

Defense still wins championships, year after year. And when it's all said and done, this is still the strongest, deepest, fastest and most athletic defensive class in the country.

Per Staples' sound criteria, the measure of success down the road will be whether these kids win a national championship. With the number currently at zero, there's no sense crowning them anything but the most touted squad in the country. Yet.

At the same time, the amount of effort that went into the building of this class deserves something more than a patient stare.

Consider the breaks stacked against Urban Meyer to close the season:

Two of his top recruiters, Charlie Strong and Billy Gonzales, leave the program for two equally attractive schools, one as a head coach at an eminent school in need of rebuilding, the other to an in-conference rival that's been no slouch at accruing talent.

His team falls in the conference championship to a perceived up-and-comer, a historically dominant school with rich tradition, against whom he consistently battles for many of the region's top recruits.

Before his high-profile bowl game, he retires from the program, citing health concerns, then is rehired by his athletic director under the murkiest of circumstances. His retirement turns into a leave of absence, which becomes nothing more than a long weekend.

Rumors fly that his return is as a figurehead, that he's only there to keep the Gators' class intact, and that he will disappear once pen hits paper in February. Desperate promises are made against the ticking clock.

And in spite of all that, he still lands 27 commitments, including four from almost every recruitnik's top 10, many of which happened after the retirement fiasco?

That's nothing short of incredible. Championships or no championships, Meyer's efforts resulted in one of the greatest recruiting coups in the history of the sport. 

 

Because without trying to sound shortsighted, the game on the field is growing more difficult as the athletes improve. It should follow that the game off the field is moving in the same direction, as the lesser recruiters die off and the strong survive.

This is almost certainly the greatest class in the history of recruiting; time will tell if its the one of the most successful in the history of the sport.

Hell, if these players put in half the work that their coach did in bringing them to Gainesville, they could punt on first down and have most of their games won by halftime.

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