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Coaching Uncertainties Create Instability in the Normally Calm Sunshine State

Posted: Jan 25, 2010

With National Signing Day approaching quickly, tons of attention will be on the state of Florida with so many top players being courted by schools all over the nation. However, the real race to most Floridians happens between the home state programs.

The Florida Gators have been the best recruiting team in the Sunshine State over the past 4-5 years, with both Miami and Florida State being dominant in stretches before then.  It seems that whichever program wins the recruiting battle usually ended up as the state's top team come New Year's Day.

This season's recruiting period has been particularly interesting.  Along with recruiting frenzy until February 3rd, the other prevalent in-state story is the coaching uncertainty.

We’ll start in Gainesville, where the Urban Meyer drama seems to have become a whole bunch of nothing. He never stopped recruiting (and UF might pull in the top class in the country) and now plans to coach spring practice. There has been some significant change in Meyer’s staff, with defensive coordinator Charlie Strong (and other assistants) going to different programs. It may become a small story later in the year, but the Meyer “leave of absence” seems like a non-issue at the moment.

Regardless of the leave of (non)absence, Meyer's 2010 Gators will still face a season filled with question marks.  The biggest question to answer in Gainesville is whether Meyer is rebuilding or reloading.  Gator Nation hopes it will be the latter.

The biggest change for 2010 will happen in Tallahassee where Florida State will start this season without Bobby Bowden on the sideline for the first time since 1975. However, the transition should be smoother with the fact that new coach Jimbo Fisher has been on board in Tallahassee since 2007. Additionally, the Seminoles staff has been red hot in recruiting since their Gator Bowl victory. Fisher wants to get the FSU talent base back to the level it was in the 80s and 90s which should send the ‘Noles back to the top of the ACC.

2009 was a difficult year for the Seminoles and their fans as an obviously reluctant Bobby Bowden was forced to retire.  Jimbo Fisher needs a strong 2010 campaign to allow the bitterness to fade.

Randy Shannon gained the confidence of Miami fans last season when the ‘Canes started 3-1 with a brutal September schedule against four Top 25 opponents. However, some of that was lost when the "U" dropped conference games to Clemson and North Carolina and ended with an uninspiring Champs Sports Bowl loss to Wisconsin . Shannon will now try to engineer a strong finish in recruiting, where the Canes have some work to do to catch up to FSU and Florida . Miami currently ranks fourth in the ACC behind Florida State, Virginia Tech, and Clemson, and they must change that in order to improve their standing in the conference.

Shannon's 2009 campaign was at times brilliant.  Although his team faded down the stretch, that fade might have everything to do with having a very young team.  Still, the expectations in Miami are that of titles.  Since Howard Schnellenberger first stood on the Miami sidelines, every head coach has won a national championship except Butch Davis who left for the NFL allowing Larry Coker to win it the next year with his recruits. Standards are high at the "U" and Shannon needs 2010 to be another step forward towards that standard if he wants to return in 2011.

Along with the Big 3, South Florida looks to build as a player on the recruiting scene as well. New coach Skip Holtz will try to bring consistency to the Bulls that they never seem to have under the fiery (and perhaps too fiery considering his exit) Jim Leavitt.  This must start by finally winning the relatively easy Big East.  If they can, USF under Holtz actually has a chance to do what the great Miami teams of the past did - launch the program into the national picture.  

In addition to playing the Hurricanes for each of the next four years, USF plays Florida, Notre Dame, and FSU as well in successive years.  Those games, along with their Big East slate, could give the polls enough reason to push USF into the a BCS title game if the Bulls can run the regular season table sometime over the next three years.

With USF's potential emergence, the Sunshine State will be as competitive as ever. After an exciting Signing Day, we will continue to follow some very interesting storylines with the always-developing coaching situations in the state of Florida. 



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