Florida’s Recruiting Woes Continue

Florida's Recruiting

The Florida Gators made headlines this week when they released 5-Star quarterback Jaden Rashada from his National Letter of Intent. Rashada signed with the Gators during December’s national signing period. Rashada never enrolled in classes at Florida and allegedly asked for his release earlier this week. It is the latest misstep in Florida’s recruiting over the last few years.

At issue was the alleged busted NIL deal between Rashada and the Gator Collective. According to their site, the Gator Collective works to structure deals to compensate the University of Florida student-athletes for use of their name, image, and likeness. They currently sponsor 150+ athletes in nine different sports according to their self-reporting.

Rashada, a California native, originally committed to Miami back on June 26th. It was alleged after his commitment, that he chose to commit to the Hurricanes for a smaller sum than what was offered by the Gators.  He then shocked the recruiting world when he flipped his commitment to the Gators in November. It is worth noting at this point, that NIL inducements to attend a specific school violate both the letter and the spirit of the minimalist NCAA rules. 

 

Rumors of a possible $13 million dollar NIL deal between Rashada and the Gator Collective circulated around Twitter and messages boards. Rashada and the Gators’ time together would be short-lived. Rashada wasn’t in the Gators’ initial 21-man signing class announcement in December. He didn’t turn in his National Letter of Intent with the rest of his class but instead turned it in later. Earlier this month, Rashada didn’t start attending classes when the Spring semester began on January 9th and asked for his release on the 11th.

Throughout the rollercoaster saga of his recruitment, the numbers just didn’t add up.

Fuzzy Math

Rashada is rated as the sixth-best quarterback in the class of 2023 according to 247 Sports. While most NIL deals have been speculative at best, there was no quarterback ranked above him with an alleged larger deal larger than his. The $13 million number wasn’t even close to the valuation placed on Rashada compared to more established quarterbacks Caleb Williams and Bryce Young by On3.

The On3 NIL database speculated that Rashada has a NIL valuation of about $450,000. That is far less than Williams ($3.2 million) and Young ($3 million). Rashada may have fallen victim to overpromises and the growing pains of college football. Florida’s 2022 quarterback, Anthony Richardson reportedly got $1 million in NIL money. And he is a veteran quarterback, compared to Rashada who has yet to take a college snap. 

The Supreme Court opened the NIL floodgates in 2021 when it ruled “NCAA was not legally allowed to limit any education-related payments to students.” Since that time, the players, coaches, administrators, media, and fans have all been trying to figure out just how much money is available.

While it may never be confirmed exactly what Rashada was offered by the Gator Collective if anything. There are stories from prep football reporters in California that the number was nothing more than the asking price from his father. The story is a cautionary tale for student-athletes and sets Florida’s recruiting even further behind.

Florida’s Recruiting Gap 

Scott Stricklin hired Billy Napier to fix Florida’s recruiting. Napier’s predecessor, Dan Mullen was 34-15 at Florida and won one SEC East title. While that may be good for many schools, it wasn’t enough for the Gators. Stricklin needed a coach who could compete with Kirby Smart on the recruiting trail and on the field. 

Georgia hired Smart in December 2016. Florida has had three coaches in that time. None of them have been able to close the recruiting or on-field gap. Here are the Team Recruiting Rankings from 247 since Georgia hired Smart.

  Georgia Recruiting Ranking Florida Recruiting Ranking 
2016 (McElwain) 

6

12

2017 (Mullen)

3

11

2018 (Mullen)

1

14

2019 (Mullen)

2

9

2020 (Mullen)

1

9

2021 (Napier)

4

12

2022 (Napier) 

3

18

Average

2.85

12.14

Since 2016, Georgia has had an average ranking of 2.85 and a tremendous amount of success on the field.

  • 5 SEC East Championships
  • 2 SEC Championships
  • 3 College Football Playoff appearances
  • 3 National Championship Game Appearances
  • 2 National Championships 

During that same stretch, Florida has won only two SEC East Championships. To make matters worse, the Gators ended 2022 with back-to-back losing seasons and a recruiting ranking gap that continues to grow.

Napier was championed as the anti-Mullen. His past work with Dabo Swinney and Nick Saban was championed. He bolstered the recruiting staff. The results on the field and in recruiting remain largely unchanged. This may only be year one, but the future doesn’t look much brighter.

Going Forward 

For the Gators, the Rashada news is crushing. NIL is here to stay. The alleged collapse of the NIL deal with the Gator Collective will negatively impact recruiting going forward. Opposing coaches will use it to negatively recruit players. Current players and future recruits may be left with questions about the amount of money, what happened to the deal, could their deal be the next to default.

Napier has to find the right ship. His recruiting class currently sits at 13 and will no doubt fall further behind Georgia after the February signing day. Richardson declared for the draft. It is probably too late to get a top quarterback now. He will no doubt be in the portal between now and this summer trying to shore up the position.

Napier famously told a reporter as head coach in Louisiana, “scared money, don’t make money.” Napier is going to have to hope that the NIL money can be shored up with the Gator Collective if he is to ever close the gap on the Georgia Bulldogs. 

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