Florida football coach Dan Mullen captured the hearts of Gators fans everywhere with his latest recruiting class.
He was winning battles on the recruitment trail. He reestablished a relationship with Lakeland High School, where UF legends like Ahmad Black, the Pouncey twins and Chris Rainey came from.
He even flipped cornerback Kaiir Elam from Georgia, cornerback Chris Steele from USC and weak-side defensive end Khris Bogle from Alabama.
It was a satisfying recruiting class for the Gators. But where does it stack up against other recruiting classes since Urban Meyer’s first year as head coach in 2005?
In our second edition of alligatorSports’ “By The Numbers,” we look into just how well Florida did in the 2019 class, and how that compares to its last three coaches.
Question: How does Mullen’s latest recruiting class stack up since Meyer’s first year?
It seems like it did well on paper. The Gators signed 17 four-stars, the most since 2010, Meyer’s last season at UF.
They won some key battles as well. Mullen landed the Lakeland trio of outside linebacker Mohamoud Diabate, tight end Keon Zipperer and weak-side defensive end Lloyd Summerall. He flipped receiver Arjei Henderson from Florida State. He even took some offensive linemen from Miami in Michael Tarquin and Kingsley Eguakun.
He reloaded on positions — like offensive linemen, linebacker and defensive end — that are depleted due to graduation or declaring for the NFL Draft.
It was a good enough class to place UF at No. 9 in the nation and No. 5 in the SEC. Mullen seems pleased, and the fans do as well.
Answer: It was the best class Florida has seen since 2013. But it’s still not where it needs to be.
The Gators tend to follow a similar pattern most schools go through: recruiting classes are not as good in years where there is a coaching change.
Meyer’s first class in 2005 had no five-stars and seven four-stars. It was the No. 12 class in the NCAA. Muschamp’s was No. 11 in 2011 and featured one five-star and 10 four-stars. McElwain’s was ranked No. 21 in 2015, a class that featured two five stars and two four stars.
Mullen fell victim to this trap. He pieced together a class on short notice, and signed 13 four-stars, the most since 2013.
We’ll exclude McElwain from the rest of this section. His classes got better every season after his first but not by much. The only big difference was he added more four-star talent while keeping the number of three-stars consistent.
Meyer and Muschamp responded to average first years with top-three recruiting classes the next.
Meyer had the No. 2 class in 2006, then the No. 1 class in 2007. This was during the height of Florida’s national championship reign. He brought in nine five-star recruits during that span.
Muschamp was almost the same. His second and third seasons saw UF with back-to-back No. 3 classes, but with only five five-star talents.
Mullen’s 2019 class was good. One of the best in a long time for Florida. But it still isn’t near the level of Meyer and Muschamp’s classes.
Conclusion: Florida’s recruiting classes won’t be up-to-par until it starts getting some five-stars.
The Gators haven’t had a five-star talent in one of its recruiting classes since 2015. They were former offensive lineman Martez Ivey and former defensive end CeCe Jefferson, and that was under McElwain in his first season as coach.
Another trend to pay attention to is that under McElwain, the number of three-stars in the class increased to new highs. In his first two classes, McElwain brought on 16 each.
Since Mullen took over, that number has gone down. He hasn’t even recruited 16 total in his two seasons so far.
Stars don’t mean much sometimes. Defensive lineman Jachai Polite and offensive lineman Jaawan Taylor were three-stars when they were recruited, and now they are projected first-rounders in the 2019 NFL Draft.
But getting more five-stars can only help. Just ask Alabama, Clemson or Georgia.
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Follow Jake Dreilinger on Twitter @DreilingerJake and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Florida coach Dan Mullen signed 17 four-star recruits in his 2019 recruiting class. It was the Gators’ best class since 2013.