All-Decade: Five programs set to emerge as recruiting powers
There are already recruiting giants in the world of college football like Alabama, Georgia and Clemson. This story looks at five programs who could emerge as elite recruiting powers in the coming decade, not ones that have already reached that peak. Here’s a look.
There is a lot to like about the Gators over the next decade, although there are significant challenges as well. Dan Mullen is just getting started at Florida and let’s not forget he was a fantastic coach during his time at Mississippi State, even taking the Bulldogs to No. 1 in the country. If Florida can win at that clip then recruiting should pick up dramatically and it’s already going pretty well. The Gators have the No. 10 class in the recruiting rankings at this point (higher than Miami and Florida State) but there are some things to watch.
Georgia is still the class of the SEC East and the Bulldogs, Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and others are raiding the state of Florida for elite talent. If Mullen can win some important recruiting battles and if he has all his pieces in place, though, Florida could get back to the College Football Playoff hunt because he’s that good of a coach.
Not everything has gone right at Michigan since Jim Harbaugh has taken over, but he still has three 10-win seasons already and looks headed for a fourth.
An important piece to dominating recruiting over the next decade is how the Wolverines’ offense now looks to prospects watching in person or on television. There are flashes of fun and excitement passing the ball down the field and that’s going to intrigue elite skill players.
Harbaugh is an excellent coach and top prospects are very much interested in playing for him. The Wolverines do have to do much better winning big games - especially beating Ohio State - but things are trending in the right direction and there’s a reason rumors are floating all the time about Harbaugh returning to the NFL: Opponents want him gone because he could be building something big in Ann Arbor.
Remember, this is about teams that have the potential to become recruiting juggernauts over the next 10 years and the Golden Gophers are trending that way. There is one caveat though. For this to happen, P.J. Fleck has to stay with the program because he has the potential to build something big there.
There are numerous trends that lead us to believe Minnesota could be building the next Wisconsin, or at least using that framework in recruiting, where the Gophers are getting massive offensive linemen coupled with talented running backs and a stout defense. What’s more, Minnesota has found a quarterback and it’s developing elite receivers, some of the best in the Big Ten. This isn’t just a stodgy, plain running attack.
Fleck has Minnesota rolling, he’s a charismatic and energetic guy players will want to play for and he’s a proven winner and two difficult places. If he stays, watch out for Minnesota.
The Ducks really made a statement in the 2019 recruiting class by coming into Southern California and landing five-star Kayvon Thibodeaux, four-star Mase Funa and many others out from under USC, UCLA and other national programs who recruit the area. Look all across the Oregon starters on both sides of the ball and elite California prospects are at many positions.
Mario Cristobal and his staff have established themselves as a huge threat on the recruiting trail and it’s paying off on the field as the Ducks are in the conference championship and College Football Playoff hunt. That’s not a coincidence and it probably won’t stop anytime soon.
If USC hires Urban Meyer (some call that a pipe dream) then he should lock up Los Angeles talent for the Trojans again, but Oregon has a well-established footprint in the region and could be a major national player for many years.
This is what Jimbo Fisher does: He recruits really well, he develops players and then he makes teams national contenders. That’s what he did at Florida State and that’s what he might be able to do at Texas A&M, although the path to elite status is much harder in the SEC West with Alabama, LSU and others not giving up an inch.
Still, Fisher has a proven track record of doing this and he’s recruiting well already with the fifth-best class in the recruiting rankings and the possibility of signing the top-three players from the state of Texas if five-star running back Zachary Evans picks the Aggies. His 16-7 record isn't outstanding for Fisher yet, but he’s building something in College Station - maybe the sleeping giant we’ve heard of Texas A&M for the last many years.