College football recruiting has always been an odd subculture. From the dollar a minute 900 numbers and subscription news letters of the 1980's and mid 90's, to the explosion of online pay for access recruiting networks, die hard fans have always known that five star studs don't just show up on campus and have always been willing to open their wallet to whoever could deliver the inside scoop.
Looking at the last four South Carolina- Florida games is a case study in why recruiting well is mandatory in this conference. As Will Muschamp says "recruiting is like shaving. If you don't do it every day, you look like a bum". I guess Muschamp does not subscribe to the BGID theory on life.
2008- Florida 56 Carolina 6. This game may well to the low point of Spurrier's career at Carolina. Returning to the house he named and made famous, Spurrier opted for two long field goals just to avoid the goose egg. Looking at the rosters explains the final. For the Gators that day, 21 future NFL players were playing that day. The bulk of those players were signed by Urban Meyer in his 2006 and 2007 recruiting classes. Carolina had far fewer NFl players (Chris Culliver the only one coming to mind)
2009 Florida 24 South Carolina 14. Florida lost Percy Harvin, among others to the NFL, while South Carolina signed national recruits Stephon Gilmore and Alshon Jeffrey. Gilmore led the Gamecocks in tackles with 10 while Jeffrey hauled in 6 passes. The gap among personnel (and coaching staffs) was narrowing.
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2010 South Carolina 36 Florida 14. The Gator defense was gutted in the 2010 draft. Carlos Dunlap, Brandon Spikes, Joe Haden, Major Wright, and Jermaine Cunningham were all drafted within the first 75 picks of the draft. Steve Spurrier also managed to sign a heralded tailback from the upstate who ended up getting 40 totes in Gainesville en route to 220 yards and an SEC East title.
2011 South Carolina 17 Florida 12. The most visible recruiting miss in College football is at quarterback. Florida missed big time on John Brantley and it showed. In addition to a new sysytem, Brantley was overcoming an ankle injury and the Carolina defense (with NFL types Clowney, Ingram, Gilmore) smothered the Florida attack. Florida's young but talented defense played well, but could not over come the abysmal offense. Even without Lattimore, Carolina had a back go over 100 yards. Jefffey and Gilmore, the guys who came in and help stem the tide in '09 were drafted in the top 2 rounds. Florida had 2 total draft picks.
Certainly, there is more to winning championships than just signing the guys Rivals assign a certain star value to. Coaching, development and team chemistry all play a role. In the end, it comes down to talent. You either have it, or you don't and there is no substitute.
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Rivals Recruit Class Rankings / 5 star recruits Comparisons for these two 2012 teams.
2008 - #3/4 UF -- #22/0 USC
2009 - #11/3 UF -- #12/0 USC
2010 - #2/4 UF -- #24/1 USC
2011 - #12/0 UF -- #18/1 USC
2012 - #3/3 UF -- #19/0 USC
Get more great South Carolina sports analysis over at Leftover Hot Dog.