Muschamp Invades Miami
by Craig Stephens
Apr 19, 2013 3:45 PM EDT
You may not have noticed, but last week, Will Muschamp made the biggest acquisition of his University of Florida tenure. On April 6, after a mundane Orange and Blue game, running back Dalvin Cook flipped his commitment from Clemson to Florida.
Cook is a bonafide five-star running back with quickness and 80-yard touchdown speed. At 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds, he projects to be a speedy every down back at the college level. He is the No. 4 running back of the 2014 class according to Rivals.com and No. 2 in the state according to 247sports.com.
That’s not why he’s special. Florida has had a lot of five-star recruits come through the program. Some shined and some fizzled. This isn’t only about Cook’s talent, it’s about where Cook resides. Cook finished off last season by leading Miami Central High School to a blowout victory in the 6A state championship game. It was Central’s second state championship in three years.
Muschamp just broke into the Miami recruiting well in a big, big way. From what has been a sterling recruiting record during the last few seasons, the glaring hole has been Muschamp’s inability to recruit from prominent inner-city Miami high schools. Florida has been able to grab some talent from Ft. Lauderdale powerhouse St. Thomas Aquinas, but has built a championship program on the backs of Central and Northern Florida athletes. These athletes are still some of the best in the country, but there is a reason that Broward and especially Miami-Dade County schools keep winning state titles: they have the most talent.
Miami has always been a hotbed of college football talent. Look at the Miami Hurricanes of the '80s and '90s for proof. Then-coach Howard Schnellenberger built the program by creating the “State of Miami” and fencing off all the talent in South Florida while funneling them into one school. That netted UM five championships in 20 years.
The Hurricanes’ microwave dynasty alerted the college football world to the unique speed and athleticism that Miami high schools had to offer. The talent has been piecemealed out across the country ever since. Florida and Florida State started battling Miami for recruits. Recently, West Virginia and Rutgers rode Miami athletes to football relevance.
Miami Central is a big-time Miami program and these Miami kids know Dalvin Cook from watching him burst into the end zone against them. The ramifications of this move could be huge for Florida. If Muschamp is able to parlay this recruit into a Miami pipeline, Florida may have a chance to corner the market on South Florida football talent, if only for a season or two. With NCAA sanctions looming over Miami, and FSU trailing Florida in the state recruiting battle, Florida has a window to dominate Miami area recruiting. Anyone who follows college football recruiting knows if one team can own a hotbed of talent for even two to three years, it can mean championships. That’s what happened when the University of Miami convinced a whole city to go to the same school; the same thing happened when the University of Southern California got all of Los Angeles to come to Pasadena.
Cook’s signing with Florida has planted a Gators flag in the heart of Dade County. It is a big win for Muschamp, who had been unable to land any significant talent from his own state’s most talented area. If the coach and his staff are able to turn this commitment into inroads into Miami’s perennial high school powers, it could result in BCS championships for the Florida Gators.