Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Colleges

Early signing period a new wrinkle for Florida’s coaching search

GAINESVILLE — Sunday’s split between the Gators and coach Jim McElwain served another purpose beyond ending a relationship that was fractured beyond repair.

It gave Florida a head start and two potential advantages in what could be a chaotic coaching carousel.

The first benefit is obvious: The Gators have a month to vet potential candidates before the market begins to heat up.

Athletic director Scott Stricklin said he won’t contact coaches until after the final game of their regular season (or conference title game). That explains the string of routine denials from USF’s Charlie Strong, UCF’s Scott Frost, Oregon’s Willie Taggart and Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen during their news conferences this week.

But Stricklin can talk to unemployed candidates (like former Oregon coach Chip Kelly) while other schools are still weighing their coaches’ futures.

He can also do background work on active coaches. He can chat with their agents. He can put out back-channel feelers. He can call friends in the business to see if potential candidates might fit UF better than McElwain did.

All of that is beneficial legwork in a competitive market that already includes Ole Miss and Oregon State, with Tennessee, Texas A&M and Nebraska expected to come open, too.

"We can do our homework. We can do a lot of research," Stricklin said. "So from that standpoint, it’s helpful."

The bigger help will come on the recruiting trail as programs scramble to be ready when the early signing period begins Dec.?20. Because the early window is new to football, it’s hard to predict how many recruits will want to sign then instead of waiting until February.

"I’ve been asked that a lot," Rivals national recruiting director Mike Farrell said, "and the honest answer is, we have no idea what’s going to happen."

But we do have a pretty good idea of what will happen if the Gators fail to hire a new coach by mid-December: It’ll be a lot harder for them to start finalizing a top-10 recruiting class.

Phone calls from interim coach Randy Shannon probably won’t be enough to convince commits to join a program without a head coach, and that leaves them open to offers from rival schools.

"Any chance you have of getting a kid to sign early is gone if you don’t get a coach in place," Farrell said.

Stricklin knows that. He doesn’t want to put a timetable on his decision because making the right long-term hire is bigger than any recruiting class. But he also said that he’d ideally have a new coach in place with enough time "to positively affect the ability to sign players for the early signing period."

Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher expects other administrators to have the same idea.

"You may see teams push that up more and make their changes as soon as the year is over instead of waiting. …" Fisher said. "You’ll probably know who those coaches at those places are going to be a lot quicker, too, because of the early signing period."

The Gators have already expedited the first part. Don’t be surprised if they speed up the second part, too.

Contact Matt Baker at [email protected] Follow @MBakerTBTimes.



Class action

The Gators currently have a projected 2018 recruiting class of seventh nationally, according to 247Sports’ composite rankings. A closer look:

17 Hard commits

0 5-star recruits

10 4-star recruits

7 3-star recruits

1 Quarterback commit (California’s Matt Corral, a pro-style QB ranked third in the nation at his position)

2 Class rank in the SEC for UF, behind East rival Georgia

3 Tampa Bay commits (Cambridge Christian OT Richard Gouraige, Calvary Christian S/WR Amari Burney, St. Petersburg ATH Jalynn Williams)

Comments
Did ex-girlfriend’s Facebook post leak suspension of FSU starter Josh Ball?

Did ex-girlfriend’s Facebook post leak suspension of FSU starter Josh Ball?

A Florida State student from Lithia wrote a Facebook post Monday afternoon alleging the suspension of Seminoles starting offensive tackle Josh Ball.Little else was known a day later, but the details in the since-deleted post are consistent ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Willie Taggart will take more fourth-down chances than Jimbo Fisher. But how many more?

Willie Taggart will take more fourth-down chances than Jimbo Fisher. But how many more?

TAMPA — Florida State coach Willie Taggart fielded an interesting question near the end of his Q&A with fans during Sunday's booster stop at Armature Works.Are the Seminoles going to be going for it more on fourth down?"We will be goin...
Published: 05/21/18
Athlon: Florida Gators, FSU and Miami will all finish in top 20

Athlon: Florida Gators, FSU and Miami will all finish in top 20

One of the first big nuggets from preseason college football magazines is out: Athlon's top 25.The site considers its rankings a prediction of where teams will be at the end of the year, not the beginning.Alabama and Clemson are 1-2 (no shock). Miami...
Published: 05/21/18
Taggart delivers a bolt to area

Taggart delivers a bolt to area

TAMPA — After spending four years as USF’s football coach, Willie Taggart knows what to expect this time of year in the area, so it’s no surprise how he began a chat with reporters Sunday before a booster stop at Armature Works."Go Lightning," he sai...
Published: 05/20/18
Willie Taggart: ‘Pretty cool’ to be back in Tampa as FSU coach

Willie Taggart: ‘Pretty cool’ to be back in Tampa as FSU coach

TAMPA – After spending four years as USF's football coach, Willie Taggart knows what to expect this time of year in the area, so it's no surprise how he began a chat with reporters Sunday before a booster stop at Armature Works."Go Lightning," ...
Published: 05/20/18
ACC football announces early kickoff times, TV info for FSU, Miami games

ACC football announces early kickoff times, TV info for FSU, Miami games

The ACC has released some kickoff and TV information for the first three weeks of the season:Week 1 (previously announced)Miami vs. LSU (in Arlington, Texas): Sunday, Sept. 2, 7:30 p.m., ABCVirginia Tech at Florida State: Monday, Sept. 3, 8 p.m., ESP...
Published: 05/18/18
Why FSU playing Boise State in Jacksonville is a smart risk

Why FSU playing Boise State in Jacksonville is a smart risk

Old, unofficial news is expected to become old, official news today with a formal announcement that Florida State and Boise State are kicking off the 2019 season in Jacksonville.  A lot has changed since the schools announced the series (FSU pla...
Published: 05/16/18
FSU-Boise State to open 2019 season in Jacksonville

FSU-Boise State to open 2019 season in Jacksonville

What had been an open secret for months is now open and shut: Group of Five power Boise State will face FSU at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville in the teams' 2019 opener.A formal announcement is expected Wednesday, but the '19 schedule on Boise's offi...
Published: 05/15/18
RHP Mark Moclair’s versatility proves valuable to University of Tampa

RHP Mark Moclair’s versatility proves valuable to University of Tampa

TAMPA — He’s the accidental pitcher who can’t be pigeonholed into a defined role. He’s a well-spoken economics major who morphs into fire-breathing intensity on the mound. And he’s one of the biggest reasons why the University of Tampa Spartans are p...
Published: 05/15/18
Police: Florida Gators recruit Justin Watkins kicked female’s car, broke her phone

Police: Florida Gators recruit Justin Watkins kicked female’s car, broke her phone

One of the Florida Gators' top incoming recruits was released from jail early Wednesday after police allege he kicked a female's car and broke her phone after an argument.Justin Watkins — a four-star athlete from Clermont — and ...
Published: 05/10/18