With National Signing Day coming up on Wednesday, Florida finally added its first four-star recruit to the Class of 2015 Monday evening. Fort Lauderdale (FL) St. Thomas Aquinas running back Jordan Scarlett gave Florida head coach Jim McElwain a nice recruiting victory over in-state rivals Florida State and Miami.
Florida State is already well ahead of the Gators so there is no sleep lost by Jimbo Fisher in Tallahassee over missing on one more four-star player when 13 are already lined up. Being a year removed from a national championship and coming off another ACC title and berth in the first College Football Playoff helps, and Florida’s downward trend under Will Muschamp made for a rough situation McElwain walked into when named the new head coach in Gainesville. It is for this reason McElwain gets a pass on whatever happens with Florida’s Class of 2015 when the faxes start coming in on Wednesday morning.
McElwain took over a sinking ship at Florida, and with only a short period of time to work with it is very difficult to turn things around enough to make up for the damage that has been done. Coaches need a full recruiting cycle to really do what they can on the recruiting trail. By the time McElwain took over at Florida, SEC rivals and ACC recruiting pitches have been spoon-fed to recruits more than enough times to make anything McElwain could have possibly done to have any real lasting impact.
Recruiting in Florida is extremely competitive, and McElwain stepped to the plate with a whiffle bat in the bottom of the ninth inning and two outs in Game Seven of the World Series.
Florida will finish near the bottom of the SEC when the final recruiting rankings are assembled, but the real work for McElwain will be done in the Class of 2016, with a full recruiting calendar at his disposal.
McElwain’s situation is not a unique one. This happens every season around college football when the coaching carousel spins. If any coach can get the same kind of free pass in 2015, it is new Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh. Harbaugh’s hiring was received favorably by just about everybody around college football, but it is far from a quick fix some might have had you thinking it was in the heat of the moment.
Like McElwain at Florida, Harbaugh inherited a rough situation in Ann Arbor. Michigan’s recruiting success had been trending downward in the final years under Brady Hoke and the Wolverines were likely expected to bring in a relatively smaller class in 2015 regardless of the coaching situation. Most of this is beyond Harbaugh’s control, and it will take a plan to restructure the recruiting plans for Michigan moving forward.
Michigan is also lagging in the Big Ten recruiting rankings, and they may not move up much in the coming days. But this should not be a sign that Michigan is done as a football program. Both Michigan and Florida should have big bounceback recruiting seasons in 2016, and this will be when we can see just what kind of impact coaches like Harbaugh and McElwain can have on their respective programs. So cut them some slack when you look at the rankings for the Class of 2015.