As the coaching carousel has turned, FBS programs in the State of Florida have brought in some of the top names in the coaching market. With Mark Richt (Miami), Jimbo Fisher (FSU), Jim McIlwain (Florida) and Scott Frost (UCF) already on the board as in-state coaches, the additions of Charlie Strong (USF), Butch Davis (FIU), and Lane Kiffin (FAU), the group of FBS coaches in Florida are, arguably, the best in America.
ESPN had a great graphic that shows the kind of pedigree the 7 FBS coaches in Florida have:
Every current FBS head coach in the state of Florida has won a national championship as either a player, head coach or assistant. pic.twitter.com/W4ps7Y4F22— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 12, 2016
Now, as I’m sure you’ve gleaned, I’m going to talk about this from a recruiting perspective. Because, people are looking at names and missing valuable context in this situation.
Haves vs Have Nots
In my mind, there are 2 very distinct tiers of program in the State of Florida for recruiting purposes. Some would go a step further and say there are 3 tiers, but I think that’s really just strata in the Tier 2 range. This can be extended out to on-field performance as well, and you’ll see what I mean right now:
Tier 1 programs: Florida, Florida State, and Miami
Tier 2 programs: FAU, FIU, UCF, USF.
While there is a good argument that UCF and USF are a step above FAU and FIU, they are clearly below the big 3 — Florida, Florida State, and Miami. With 3 tier 1 teams, and 4 tier 2 teams, the battle lines are pretty clearly drawn.
Now, when it comes to recruiting, Miami, UF, and FSU are and will be unbothered by the hires at the Tier 2 schools. Yes, that means I’m saying Butch Davis, Charlie Strong, and Lane Kiffin won’t make a difference in how the big 3 recruit. At all. Ever.
Why? It’s simple: the Tier 1 schools recruit a different caliber of player than the Tier 2 schools. Tier 1 schools are recruiting 4-star and 5-star kids. All-Americans. Mr. Football in their State. Gatorade Players of the Year. Elite player with outstanding athletic pedigree.
Tier 2 schools are recruiting mostly 3-star kids, with a couple lower 4-stars mixed in. They’re recruiting kids with skills, but those that are maybe 2 inches to short or 30 pounds too light or who will still hit a developmental spurt in the future. Tier 2 recruits are — largely — the leftovers that Tier 1 schools don’t pursue. That’s not to say they’re “bad” players, but they’re lacking something from being a tier 1 recruit.
Think of it like this: Miami/UF/FSU shop at Whole Foods while FAU/FIU/UCF/USF shop at the Corner Sto’. You can get food at both places, but the quality between the 2 varies greatly.
I said this on Twitter yesterday, but there isn’t a single player that Miami, Florida, or Florida State wants on their team that will eschew those schools for the likes of FAU/FIU/UCF/USF. Not a single one. If any of the Big 3 make a kid a priority, the Tier 2 schools would be best served by moving on and looking at a prospect they might actually get.
Tier 1 recruits: Dalvin Cook. Ahmmon Richards. Shaq Quarterman. Antonio Callaway. Those are kids a Tier 2 school is never getting, regardless of the coach.
Tier 2 recruits: Quinton Flowers. Herb Miller (CB at FAU). Adrian Killins (RB at UCF). Each has skills, but wasn’t as complete a package (for whatever reason) as a Tier 1 school would like.
Prior to committing to Miami and flipping to Florida, 4-star RB Jordan Scarlett (Ft. Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas) was committed to FAU. Even when that happened, I — and MANY others — called that for what it was: a sham. Scarlett’s cousin (a 3-star DB) committed to FAU at the same time, and Scarlett’s former HS coach had just accepted a job as FAU’s RB coach. While it was a nice story, there was never a chance that a player of Scarlett’s caliber was going to end up at FAU. This was a dog and pony show, a spectacle to get people talking about FAU and build positive perception for the Owls.
That is the closest FAU will ever get to having a top tier recruit on their roster.
FAU/FIU/UCF/USF could possibly beat bigger schools for the bottom-of-the-class filler guys. 3 stars who the big schools recruit late to add numbers to the roster, but guys without a real chance to ever play downs at one of the bigger schools.
So, who should be worried?
While the coaching upgrades at FAU, FIU, and USF won’t affect Miami, Florida, or Florida State in recruiting, that’s not to say that they won’t have an impact in that area.
The schools that need to be concerned are the lower P5 and Mid-Major teams that augment their rosters by picking up tier 2 recruits from Florida. Teams like Arkansas. Kentucky. Purdue. Rutgers. Minnesota. Maryland. Western Kentucky. Middle Tennessee. Virginia. Iowa State. Kansas. The entire Conference USA, MAC, Sun Belt and American Athletic Conferences. Those are the teams that are now going to have a tough time finding and adding “diamonds in the rough” from Florida — particularly South Florida — now.
The new coaching hires at FAU, FIU, and UCF are great, and I think those teams will see an immediate improvement on the recruiting front and — hopefully for them — on the field of play, as well.
That improvement, however, will not affect any of the Big 3 in a tangible way. And that, for me, is the point that matters.