Ghosts of Recruiting Past: Former Masters Miami and Florida State
In this episode, we look at two of the dominant brands of college football in the last 30 years -- Miami and Florida State. Please don't accuse us of saying these monsters are untalented, but there's been a drop for both. Steady and quiet at first, but more severe of late. These are two programs fans love to hate but I call this a touch depressing. Let's shake this all out after the jump.
Of the two, Florida State's been slumping on the field longer, and more painfully. Its team is no longer within any distance of the top four poll finishes that defined the Seminoles for well over a decade. Boosters staged a mutiny several years ago, offing legendary coach Bobby Bowden's son as Exhibit A in bad nepotistic hires, offensive coordinator Jeff Bowden. Papa Bowden is now relegated to figurehead status, having named a successor and a legally binding avenue of departure, likely with him falling behind Joe Paterno in the all-time wins race. Insult, meet injury.
Things were going great until about 1999. At that point, capable assistants Chuck Amato and Mark Richt headed off to direct North Carolina State and Georgia, respectively. Quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Chris Weinke -- faster to bald than his elderly coach -- begat an ugly cocktail of quarterback disasters from Chris Rix to Adrian McPherson, lyme disease-stricken Wyatt Sexton to distant relative of William Wallace, Drew Weatherford. They've all flopped. Oh, to have another Thad Busby around, oddly.
In the Phil Steele consensus recruiting rankings of top 25 recruiting classes, Florida State does the following:
It finishes 16th in 1999, then third, first and first the next three years. And then its back to 19th, then eighth, third, ninth and then 25th last year. Care to ride that roller-coaster? Given Florida State's prestige and the relatively solid talent available to them, 25th is not a good place to be.
The Seminoles were able to maintain excellent recruiting for many years past their prime, but the quarterback misses, the change from a once-innovative offense, all the drama around Bobby Bowden, all have taken the Seminoles down a few notches. It doesn't help that among the three major Florida programs, their recruiting base -- the panhandle -- just isn't quite up to par with what you can find down in Miami and the state's swampy south, or in central to northern Florida where the national champion Florida Gators do much of their business.
Florida State's national appeal allows the program to continue to pluck guys from Texas, California, Tennessee, Georgia and so on, but there's a definite Florida-first vibe to the program and the core of players in it and when the team isn't winning like it used to, I can see there being a certain tension there.
The star of this year's recruiting class is Greenville Florida native Jacobbi McDaniel, a swift and agile defensive tackle with a Rivals.com five-star rating. They'll need a few more guys like that for a few more years to get things going again. The problem is, when Bowden goes, capable and legendary defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews who is also getting up there in years, won't be far behind. A new era for Florida State football is not far on the horizon.
Much farther to the south, the [it's great, to be, a] Miami Hurricanes are dealing with their own demons. Like Florida State, Florida, USC and Texas a recruiting dropoff here will always be a relative thing when these schools can do nothing in recruiting and still end up with a handful of future NFL players.
Miami's recruiting pace has held up nicely until the last two years. Here's how it went down in the Phil Steele consensus:
1999-2006: Ninth, ninth, sixth, sixth, sixth, third, eighth
2007-2008: 15th, 16th
Its Randy Shannon's world, and Miami fans are living in it. Shannon proved to be a great defensive coordinator, but I have doubts about him as a head coach. He's committed to a rigid pro-style offense, which basically forced the departure -- kicking and screaming -- of more open-minded offensive coordinator Patrick Nix.
Shannon has done a noble thing in demanding accountability and that there be decent individuals on his team. Let's be real here though, for various reasons from the inevitable coddling to hard-to-suppress growing ego and sense of self, great players in any sport are rarely angels and aren't necessarily looking to go places that demand they be.
Miami's missing out. Shannon's stand is noble, but perhaps a better balance can be struck between the camo-wearing devil-may-do Miami teams of years past and the Sunday school group Shannon covets.
Bringing in seemingly the entire Miami Northwestern High School team -- national champs! -- last year was a good start, but Miami can't sleep on that. The program continues to produce a ton of defensive players, but just three offensive linemen have been taken in the NFL draft since 2005. Graig Cooper and Javarris James are solid backs, but they're no Edgerrin James or Willis McGahee or Clinton Portis.
Enter Kansas tailback Bryce Brown, Rivals.com's No. 1 recruit this year. His commitment is slightly in doubt at the moment, but look for Miami to hang on. But will he be enough? We'll see. Where former coach Larry Coker seemed to get away from sealing down south Florida in recruiting and invested resources pecking away in places like Canada and Texas, Shannon does seem to have returned to focusing on Miami's traditional recruiting base. The problem is that they left an opening and other teams exploited it the last couple years. That can't be reversed overnight.
Be sure to check out the entire Ghosts of Recruiting series leading up to college football's national letter of intent day
Previously in Ghosts of Recruiting
Ghosts of Recruiting Past: Pac-10 Also-Rans Washington and UCLA
Ghosts of Recruiting Past: Big 12 Slumpers Colorado and Texas A&M