As you have already read by now, USC's prized, consensus 4 star LB recruit Matt Rolin, of Ashburn, Virginia, has de-commtted from USC in order to play for the Florida Gators. Like Gamecock Man said, there's no doubt that "this one hurts."
True, the Gators have world-class facilities and a tradition of excellence (largely due to the foundation Steve Spurrier built in the 1990s), but UF is not so far ahead of us that a recruit like Rolin - a USC legacy who was so gung-ho on Carolina that he used "USC_09" for his Twitter account and was actively courting other players to come to Columbia at the various summer camps and recruit showcases - should have been wowed that easily on his first trip to Gainesville. This is a guy we should have held onto. Someone we needed to hold onto.
So is there a deeper concern? Despite finishing the regular season with a 10-2 record and another double-digit win over Clemson, there's no doubting that things have been shakier on the recruiting front than most of us would have liked.
First was the defection of Brendan Langley to Georgia. Maybe Brendan wanted to be a Bulldog all along and UGA didn't pay much attention until after he committed to us; then again, maybe he was impressed by how easily Mark Richt got Mark Fox to practically guarantee p.t. for the Georgia basketball team (which I think is exploitative, but that's how it's done folks). I know defensive backs are prima donnas (you'd be worried if they weren't!), but this was a big loss. The Georgia "D" is going to be decimated next year by graduations/NFL departures. You'd think we could have gotten through to Brendan the difference between playing behind a solid front seven and a group of newbies will turn out. Obviously, we didn't make the sale. Too bad.
Next was the whirlwind recruiting-romance with Georgia 4 star WR JaQuay Williams who de-committed from Auburn on November 25 and called us up for a visit. Unfortunately, he had visited Texas A&M the day before. He wasn't home from Columbia several hours before he decided to play for Johnny Football. Maybe he thinks he is going to be the next Ryan Swope (and he just might be). On the other hand, maybe we didn't explain well enough what's likely to happen when Kevin Sumlin's veteran OL graduates - or when Johnny Football has his inevitable sophomore slump. Likely we didn't have a chance with Williams - Connor Shaw (whether it was injuries or not) never could consistently air out the ball like Manziel can - but we could have used a big 6'4" wide out and it was another big "no sale."
Notwithstanding's Rolin's volte-face, we've not been able to seal the deal - publicly at least - with some other "big" 4 star recruits on our board - OL Na'ty Rodgers (uncommited), DL
Larenz Greg KeithBryant (Miami commit but wavering)*, and also RB David Williams (uncommitted). We might ultimately land Rodgers and Williams, but Bryant appears to be favoring FSU. Worse, even though we've thrashed Tiger High for four years running (and have to be favored to do it again in 2013), Clemson - despite the defection of Robert Nkemdiche - seems to have had the upper hand on some in-state battles that you would think would have gone our way.
Now don't get me wrong. It's not chicken-little time. We recruit for our needs and our system - everyone does - so comparing our class to Clemson's is sometimes apples to oranges. There are natural highs and lows to the recruiting season just like a regular football season. But I think most of us felt that with results on the field, recruiting would be easier. So are we doing something wrong?
It's too early to say for certain. We may be pleased as punch on NSD.
But is Steve Spurrier involved enough with hands-on recruiting? Is Steve Spurrier, Jr. cutting the mustard as the recruiting coordinator? Are some of our new staff members (Grady Brown, Everette Sands, Kirk Botkin) getting it done - or do they need more time to build relationships with coaches and players? Is it just bad luck?
All of these are open questions that need to be addressed.
One thought, however, gives me hope. We've not seen a lot of "recruit swiping" because - let's face it - we're not used to being in the upper echelon. We're fighting with the traditional "big boy" programs, and all of them have had key recruits swiped by rivals in the past. It's just comes with the territory when you're dealing with 18 year old kids - not even fully grown men - who can be swayed by a pretty girl, or a charismatic coach.
And if we weren't going after good players, then the Dawgs and Gators wouldn't try to poach 'em. That's cold comfort, though. And cold comfort doesn't win championships.
*full on brain cramp. Mea culpa.