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Florida closes strong for early signing period
This was not an ideal year for the early signing period to make its debut.
More than 10 Power 5 programs went through coaching changes over the last month, which complicated the recruiting process for both prospects and coaches.
Fortunately for Florida, Dan Mullen found a way to navigate through new territory in college football recruiting and had a strong finish despite being behind the eight ball.
Oregon’s Mario Cristobal is the only new coach aside from Mullen who signed a top-15 class Wednesday. Jimbo Fisher (Texas A&M), Chip Kelly (UCLA) and Willie Taggart (Florida State) all finished outside the top 25, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings.
“Obviously we were put in a tough situation this year, but I do like having the opportunity to have an early signing period,” Mullen said. “These are guys that knew they wanted to be Gators, and so why extend it out for another six weeks? Why all these visits and the craziness in their life?
“I wouldn’t have minded another week or two maybe of work with the time frame that I had to work with, but I think moving forward into the future, there’s some benefits to having the early signing day. I think you’ll see this year is a test.”
Mullen passed that test Wednesday, signing 13 of Florida’s 15 commits and flipping 4-star quarterback Emory Jones from Ohio State. The Gators had several de-commitments this month, but that comes with the territory when you have a coaching change.
Once Mullen sorted out his recruiting board and identified his top targets, he and his staff put the full-court press on those players and the end result was five commitments in four days to close out the early signing period.
“Obviously, it was crunch time,” Mullen said. “We hit the ground running as hard as we could. There were guys that were committed here. We kept several of them. We didn’t keep some of them. Maybe they changed their minds with the staff or maybe they didn’t fit really what we were doing or didn’t fit what our program was going to stand and represent, what it was going to represent in the future.
“What we’re doing is finding guys that we think fit our program, both with their character, their work ethic and their talent. So if you check those boxes and we have the position need, we’re not going to hold back. But we’re not going to fill spots just to fill a spot. … We’re going to go find guys that we feel are going to help us take the program to the championship level.”
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