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August 12, 2011
The rivalry has dipped on the national scale with Florida State falling out of the upper crust and Florida suffering a few mediocre years sprinkled in with national titles during the past decade. But, at least over the next five years, it might become stronger than ever.
The legends are gone and in their places are Jimbo Fisher, entering his second season as FSU's head coach, and Will Muschamp, a longtime assistant getting his first shot at being the boss with the Gators.
And much like the men they succeeded, these guys can recruit.
Florida State is ranked No. 2 behind only Texas in the current Rivals.com team recruiting rankings. Florida trails the Seminoles by a slim margin, nipping at its rivals' heels. With both still in the hunt for several big-name prospects, it appears each has a realistic chance at finishing with the top overall class. And a 1-2 finish for FSU and UF, in either order, is very possible.
Case for the Seminoles
Florida State has done an outstanding job of amassing some great talent in the 2012 class. The class includes a number of prospects considered among the top players at their position, such as the nation's top dual-threat quarterback in Hueytown (Ala.) four-star signal-caller Jameis Winston and the nation's top defensive end, five-star Mario Edwards from Denton (Texas) Ryan. Both are game-changers on their respective sides of the ball.
What sets Florida State apart from most classes is that they have done an outstanding job of landing top-tier prospects across the board. Out of the 16 commitments bound for Tallahassee, 14 of those prospects are considered among the top 16 players at their respective position. That is an unparalleled success rate of landing top talent at multiple positions.
Nowhere is that success more evident than when it comes to the defensive front seven. That group is led by Edwards, St. Petersburg (Fla.) Lakewood five-star defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. and four-star linebacker Ukeme Eligwe - all considered among the top three players at their respective positions.
In addition, that trio is joined by Mobile (Ala.) Davidson four-star defensive end Chris Casher, Defuniak Springs (Fla.) Walton four-star defensive tackle Dalvon Stuckey and Prattville (Ala.) four-star defensive tackle Justin Shanks. Tough to argue the strength of that haul.
Just to note, the two commitments outside the top 16 spots at their respective positions are Orlando (Fla.) Boone wide receiver Marvin Bracy, who is an elite speedster, and punter Cason Beatty from Charlotte (N.C.) Olympic.
FLORIDA STATE BREAKDOWN
Star breakdown: 5-stars (2); 4-stars (9); 3-stars (4); 2-stars (1)
Big Fish: Florida State went into the Lone Star State and nabbed Denton (Texas) Ryan five-star defensive end Mario Edwards. Edwards, who is the son of former Seminoles defensive back Mario Edwards, is a dominant defensive lineman with great athleticism.
Underrated: Winston. It is tough to call any prospect rated No. 52 in the nation underrated, but after an incredible Elite 11 performance, Winston is likely going to see his ranking increase. He has legitimately made it an argument with regards to whether or not he is the top overall quarterback in the nation for 2011.
Top recruiter: Quarterbacks coach and recruiting coordinator Dameyune Craig has done an outstanding job. Craig has been key in helping the Seminoles land four of the top 13 prospects in Alabama, including the state's top player in Winston. He was also key in luring Ukeme Eligwe to Florida State out of Georgia.
Case for the Gators
With its 17 commitments, the Gators not only have secured verbal commitments from several high-quality players, they've hit home runs in most of their biggest areas of need.
Let's start with the offensive line. Up front, all Florida has done is land touted offensive linemen D.J. Humphries and Jessamen Dunker, both of whom are Rivals100 prospects and elite bookends. The five-star Humphries is the country's No. 1 offensive tackle while Dunker checks in at No. 11. Given Florida's lack of depth at tackle, Humphries figures to make a push to play early in 2012.
Linebacker was another spot where the Gators needed to score big, and they have. They've received commitments from three four-star players and they might not be done (hint, hint). The biggest names here are Rivals250 prospect Lorenzo Phillips, an outside backer, and inside backer Antonio Morrison, a player Florida had at the top of its board at his position. Phillips, by the way, was pulled from Louisiana, which is no small feat given LSU's tremendous history with in-state kids.
With the Gators set to lose two key running backs (Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey) following the 2011 season, they've picked up two talented prospects with distinctive styles in Mike Davis and Matt Jones, both members of the Rivals250. Davis is the big-play guy. Jones, at 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds, is the power back.
All told, the Gators have 11 four-star prospects on board. Only Texas, with 12, has more. Delving deeper, we find that 14 Florida commits rank among the top 25 players nationally at their position and seven are in the top 10. The lowest-ranked commit, cornerback Willie Bailey, is still the 81st-ranked prospect in the Sunshine State. Here's another interesting stat: Florida has grabbed commits from six different states.
Star breakdown: 5-stars (1); 4-stars (11); 3-stars (4); 2-stars (1)
Big Fish: The Gators, as they have done quite a bit in recent years, went into North Carolina for a good one. This time, it was Charlotte Mallard Creek offensive tackle D.J. Humphries, the country's No. 3 overall prospect. Humphries, who unlike many linemen his age has no body fat to shed, is a U.S. Army All-American.
Underrated: LB Jeremi Powell, Pinellas Park (Fla.) - Although he's a four-star prospect, Powell is among the least discussed Florida commits. But he probably shouldn't be. Powell is a sensational athlete who covers a ton of ground. He's so versatile, he probably could play receiver in college.
Top recruiter: Linebacker Coach/ Special Teams Coordinator D.J. Durkin has played a major role in Florida landing several big recruits, most notably Humphries, Powell and four-star defensive tackle Dante Phillips. He also has the Gators in the hunt for Bullard, a five-star prospect, and Rivals100 defensive tackle Carlos Watkins.