FSU, Florida fans need to believe in new coaches

by Gary Shelton on February 8, 2018 · 2 comments

in College football, general

Thursday, 3 a.m.

Their names do not matter. Not yet, anyway. Most of the fan bases have never heard of them.

Their times don't matter. Their awards don't matter. Nor their height or their weight or their stats. To be blunt, not even the stars by their names matter.

What matters, in college recruiting, is the symbolism of their signatures.

Think of them all as tiny victories, as a gifted high school athlete picking the school you would have picked and not that rival of yours.

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Think of it as validation for the colors you wear. Think of it as a Lotto ticket that, someday, perhaps a catch will be able to cash in.

That's the illusion of recruiting, of course. It's a series of mini-dreams that may or may not come true. It's beauty in the eye of the beholder ... even though the fans haven't beheld.

I don't have to tell you. A great many players who signed scholarships on Wednesday (and in the early signing period in December) won't work out. Some will bust. Many will transfer. Some will be derailed by injury. Some will lose sight of the goal and be lost along the way. You could rip two dozen names from the phone book who mean as much.

But for a brief period of time, they matter. Because they're a reason you can feel better than the guy who roots for the other team. Really, that's about it.

This year, above all years, it seems, recruiting was a big deal in the state of Florida. Yes, signings are largely symbolic; but never has either Florida or FSU needed this kind of symbolism. Both schools are starting over with new coaches. And both fan bases are hungry to pronounce that they hired the right guy.

Look, you could make up a name, and suggest that he had picked one school over another, and fans would think he's the best thing since microwave popcorn. Quarterbacks haven't thrown an interception yet. Running backs haven't fumbled. As of now, the recruiting classes are unbroken promises. And aren't those the best kind?

Take FSU, which the web site 247sports.com says finished 11th in the nation in recruiting. That's not bad when you consider that the Seminoles were 64th in the same poll on Dec. 20. FSU finished with seven signings, including five wide receivers, to give Seminoles' fans a bit of hope. FSU was 3.44 points out of the top 10.

In Gainesville, Dan Mullen went a long way toward saving his team's class, too. Did you hear about receiver Jacob Copeland? His mother wore an Alabama sweatshirt and a Tennessee hat to his signing. When he signed with the Gators, she stormed out. Think they're going to love that story in Gainesville? Think they like the one where quarterback Emory Jones picked the Gators over FSU? Florida finished 14th in recruiting.

Of course, it wasn't just about first-year coaches. Mark Richt went a long way toward being success when he broght home the eighth-best recruiting class. Look for the Hurricanes to be deeper, and meaner, than a year ago.

At USF, which added two defensive lineman to a 24-player class from the early signings, fans are looking for more reassurances from coach Charlie Strong. The Bulls lost most of their skill position players, so instant help is needed. USF signed two dual-threat quarterbacks; let's hope one of them can be a fraction of the force that Quinton Flowers was. USF's class was ranked 62nd overall, but second in the AAC.

At a time like this, of course, fans get pumped up by what they have read or seen on You-Tube. They may look at each other nod knowingly and say "That Octavius Battle...he can play." But none of us know. There was a time that Marquis Smith was going to be all that and a side of fries at FSU.

The thing is, it's not enough that schools have signed these guys.They have to guide them, mentor them, coach them.They have to make them special without becoming spoiled. They have to keep them on campus.

As always, the job really begins after the scholarship is signed.

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