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February 2, 2011With all 10 of its expected Letters of Intent safely faxed to the school and one surprise LOI in hand on National Signing Day, Florida moved up to No. 14 on Rivals 2011 team recruiting rankings.
Four-star defensive back Marcus Roberson, who committed and de-committed to both Auburn and Texas Tech in the last two weeks, gave Will Muschamp's first class at UF -- small as it may be -- an unexpected boost.
Including the early enrollees, 18 players signed with the Gators this year, and Muschamp didn't rule out adding one or two more recruits in the next few days.
Only 11 players are set to graduate as seniors after next season, and Muschamp decided to keep extra scholarships available for next year's recruiting cycle rather than settle for players in order to fill out this year's class.
"I was more interested in the quality of player and the character of the player that we're going to sign at Florida as opposed to going out and signing a class of 25 and regretting three or four or five of those guys," Muschamp said. "That's not what we were going to do. We weren't just going to sign guys to sign guys."
Muschamp was able to retain most of Urban Meyer's primary targets including the class' No. 1 quarterback Jeff Driskel, No. 6 running back Mike Blakely and No. 5 tight end A.C. Leonard, all of whom were early enrollees.
He also held on to four-star wide receiver prospect Ja'Juan Story, who signed at 9 a.m. Wednesday, despite the negative effects Meyer's resignation had on the Nature Coast Brooksville product.
"I was telling myself I didn't want to go there no more," Story said. "Not even just Urban Meyer left. [Zach] Azzanni left, coach [Dan] McCarney left, so I felt like I didn't know nobody at the time, so I'd just go somewhere else."
But Muschamp, new offensive coordinator Charlie Weis, and new wide receiver coach and recruiting coordinator Aubrey Hill did enough to keep Story from jumping for Ohio State.
Florida did lose out on a few potential targets including four-star defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan, four-star linebacker Curt Maggitt and No. 2 overall prospect Curtis Grant, a linebacker from Richmond, Va. who chose Ohio State.
While Meyer proudly pointed to his class' No. 1 overall ranking a year ago, Muschamp downplayed the value of rankings and the ability to project how good a class will be.
"We'll know about this entire class in two or three years," Muschamp said. "I'm going to say the same thing next year -- in two or three years we'll know what kind of class this was, not today."
Considering the uphill battle of re-recruiting all of Meyer's targets with a staff that barely had any time to gel, most analysts are counting Muschamp's first haul as a win for the first-year head coach.
Other coaches had a year or more to sell these recruits on their programs, while Muschamp had just one visit in some instances.
"That's tough in one night to be able to recruit and sell what we're trying to do," Muschamp said.
Harder still was balancing being out on the road closing in January with getting to know the seven players who were already on campus after enrolling early.
Muschamp got to spend little time with his recruits that started class this semester because of the time required finishing out a class after taking over with only a month and half remaining before Signing Day.
He joked that he has barely got the chance to see Driskel, the quarterback of the future, do much of anything so far.
"I've really just seen him walking up and down the halls," Muschamp said. "He walks good."
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