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Florida Gators have best class if they hold on to all their recruits

GAINESVILLE — On the eve of national signing day, Florida remains poised to finish with the nation's No. 1 recruiting class, but Texas is in contention to take over the top spot if Florida falters down the stretch.

So far there are no signs that any of the Gators' oral commitments are backing away from a class that includes the nation's No. 1 player, DE Ronald Powell. But if one or two players have a change of heart before signing on the dotted line Wednesday, things could change.

"I think what it's going to come down to is how many of the guys in Florida's class right now can they hold on to," said Tom Luginbill, national recruiting director for ESPN. "Are there going to be some guys who really sit back and look and say, 'You know what, I may be better off (somewhere else)'? If that happens with multiple guys, that's how Texas can overtake them.

"We've dissected the two teams' two-deep rosters from everything to filling needs, upgrading talent, finding holes in their roster where they've really done a nice job of complementing it with a commitment in this class, and we still give a slight edge to Florida," Luginbill said. "But that doesn't mean it couldn't slip with a couple of guys walking away."

Last week, several analysts credited coach Urban Meyer for saving the Gators' recruiting class after his abrupt resignation, then indefinite leave of absence, which at the time appeared to leave the program in disarray. But other analysts say Florida is its own selling point.

"Let's face it, for the better part of 20 years, Florida has been the marquee team in college football's marquee conference, in the nation's most talent-rich state," Scott Kennedy of Scout.com said. "Florida is bigger than even Urban Meyer and Tim Tebow, and the Gators were recruiting top-ranked classes before them and will recruit top-ranked classes one day after them."

Said Luginbill: "Ultimately I think what has transpired with the University of Florida is that the program has become bigger than one individual, and I don't mean that as a negative in regards to Urban Meyer and his staff. … What I mean by it is that the prospects were savvy enough to take a step back, take a bit of a wait-and-see approach and realized that there was a lot that Florida has to offer, more than just one individual."

Homecourt: After playing five of its first eight league games on the road, the women's basketball team (12-9, 5-3 SEC) returns this week to begin a three-game homestand. The Gators host No. 24 Vanderbilt on Thursday night. Of Florida's five league wins, four have been by three points, including Sunday's 67-64 win at Ole Miss.

With one game on the schedule last week, Florida went back to fundamentals. "We play on Thursdays and Sundays, so we have two days exactly to prepare for two opponents," assistant coach Susie Gardner said. "And in those two days, unfortunately what we do is prepare for the opponent and we don't take as much time working on individual skill development. Last week, we really worked on skill development, and I think it showed in that game. That was not only for Ole Miss but in preparation for the rest of the SEC season."

Leading by example: Former Freedom High standout Calvin Smith earned an NCAA provisional qualifying time in his first 400-meter race of the season, finishing second in 46.48. It was the best 400-meter opener of his collegiate career, bettering his 47.04 from the 2009 Kentucky Invitational. "For him to open up that fast, it shows that the training we're doing is working, and it shows that he believes in what we're doing," coach Mike Holloway said. "And it also shows the younger guys that, 'Hey, this guy's doing everything coach asks him to do and he's improving that much,' then it helps people buy into what we're doing that much more."

Antonya English can be reached at english@sptimes.com.

Florida Gators have best class if they hold on to all their recruits 02/01/10 [Last modified: Monday, February 1, 2010 7:15pm]
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