https://www.saturdaydownsouth.com/f...low-recruiting-start-and-why-its-complicated/ Dan Mullen hasn’t even taken the podium at his first SEC Media Days as Florida’s head coach, let alone coached his first game, and already there is noise in the system in Gainesville. Fans and writers alike are on edge about Florida’s sluggish start to the 2018-2019 recruiting cycle, with many already moving past “on edge” and into full-on “panic mode.” Rival fans have taken to calling Florida “3-Star U,” with one notable podcaster comparing the notoriously poor recruiter Jim McElwain favorably to the affable, engaging Mullen. There were rumblings from as early as the spring, when Florida hosted several big names without securing commitments or future official visits. The rumblings became louder in late June, when longtime Mullen 4-star DE target Nathan Pickering opted to commit to the in-state Mississippi State Bulldogs instead of the Gators, despite a lengthy recruiting relationship with the Florida coaching staff. The rumbles turned to roars last week, when a pair of consensus 4-stars long considered Florida leans — Jahleel Billingsley (Alabama) and DB Chris Steele (USC) — committed elsewhere. The Gators also lost former 4-star WR commit John Dunmore, the Hollywood (Fla.) Chaminade product, who committed to Penn State. Another 4-star WR, Mycah Pittman, appears set to buck his mother’s wishes and pick Oregon over Florida. There’s no question that’s a tough few weeks for the Gators, who currently sit at No. 31 in the 247Sports Composite Team Rankings for 2019 (behind Duke!). But is it a cause for panic? And what exactly is behind Florida’s slow recruiting start? Fan is short for “fanatic,” and reason and facts aren’t often considered when it’s easier to just pile on the panic bandwagon and criticize the new Florida coaching staff, who are tasked with rebuilding a program that for the second time in less than a decade has a broken culture to go along with personnel issues. But even fanatics aren’t entitled to their own facts, and the facts of Florida recruiting are these. First, it isn’t all doom-and-gloom Mullen signed the best transition class in Florida history last fall, rescuing a class ranked in the 20s with a host of signing day commitments, including coveted 4-star QB Emory Jones, who chose Florida over rival Florida State, and 4-star WR Jacob Copeland, who ended years of Gator recruiting futility in Pensacola by picking Florida over Alabama. Mullen’s 2019 class, with 4 top 300 players currently committed, also rates comparably, at this point in the cycle (early July), to Gus Malzahn’s second class at Auburn (4 top 300 commits), Mark Richt’s second class at Miami (4 top 300 commits), and WiLLLLLLLie Taggart’s second class at Florida State (5 top 300 commits). It is also twice as good, as of July 11, as Jim McElwain’s second class was at this point (2 top 300 commits), which seems to suggest that at the very least, Mullen isn’t making McElwain look like “Bear Bryant on the trail.” And while Mullen’s second class certainly behind Urban Meyer’s second class at Florida as of July (10 top 300 commits), it isn’t terribly behind Kirby Smart’s pace (6 top 300 commits), although it is entirely fair to suggest that Florida needs a quality Friday Night Lights event this July to bolster the class, stem the negative flow of publicity and build momentum for the fall. Further, while the losses of players like Steele, Pittman and Dunmore seem permanent, Pickering and Billingsley are among the players who have openly indicated they’ll take recruiting visits, giving Florida at least a chance at recouping those losses. And even with Dunmore gone, there are a host of analysts projecting 4-star WR Elijah Higgins, a 6-2 221-pound NFL prototype, will commit to Florida before the end of the month. Second, Mullen is also dealing with a host of structural challenges his rivals simply don’t face. To begin with, he inherited a program that has had two 4-win seasons in four years, and hasn’t fielded an offense ranked in the top 50 nationally since most recruits were in elementary school. The Gators stitched together two 10-win seasons this decade, but did so on the shoulders of elite defenses, and even in the seasons when Will Muschamp recruited well, Florida’s classes tended to be unbalanced, with a high-number of blue chips (4- or 5-stars) on defense, not offense. Florida’s roster contains 36 blue-chip recruits, only 3 of whom were consensus 5-star players. That’s more blue-chips than at SEC East rivals South Carolina (23) and Tennessee (34), but it’s well-behind Georgia (61) and FSU (56). Much of that is due to unbalanced classes under Muschamp and the general aloofness of McElwain, who deferred much of Florida’s recruiting process to associate head coach Randy Shannon. But some of it is about success on the field too, according to one longtime SEC assistant. “Kirby inherited a 10-win roster at Georgia, and schematically, they didn’t want to reinvent much offensively, which people forget,” the SEC assistant told me. “That meant Kirby could go and target certain areas where he felt upgrades were critical, notably on the offensive line and on the defensive perimeter. But Smart also knew Richt already had a roster that was close. It’s why he waited on that job. Dan gets a 4-win culture and probably an 8-win roster. Those challenges are almost entirely different, and that’s before you discuss scheme.” Another challenge Florida faces is consistent coaching turnover, which impacts recruiting in two ways. The first is the obvious one. It’s hard to play catchup against other staffs when they’ve cultivated longstanding relationships with kids. The usual rebuttal to this is that “other staffs in transition manage to do it.” But another longtime Power 5 assistant says it’s more complicated than that.