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Tuesday, March 5, 2013
Gators gain edge by offering early

By Derek Tyson

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The Florida Gators could potentially sign fewer than 20 players in their 2014 class, yet the Florida coaching staff has offered scholarships to more than 100 prospects.

Big-time programs in Florida such as Florida, Florida State and Miami all try and get an early edge in the recruiting process. One way of doing that is to be one of the first schools to offer a scholarship.

The general rule of thumb for most college football programs is for every four to five prospects you offer, you hope to get one player to sign. That's not always the case, but it is a general guideline that a lot of colleges go by. Coaches understand they're only going to get a fraction of the players they offer.

Offering a prospect early in the process can have a lasting impact. That's why many colleges try to get in on the top players early in the process and figure out if they even have a chance at landing the targeted prospect. Florida was the first school to offer defensive back Duke Dawson (Cross City, Fla./Dixie County), who is now committed to the Gators.

Dawson, who grew up rooting for the Florida State Seminoles, said the Florida offer changed his opinion.

"I had always dreamed of playing for Florida State," Dawson said. "But when I camped at Florida and they offered me first, it got me thinking. I built a relationship with the Florida coaches from Day 1 and it's gotten stronger ever since."

Dawson said he is always excited about new offers, but says the first offer leaves a lasting impression.

"I mean, other schools offer, but you always remember when the first big schools come in and offer you," Dawson said. "The Florida offer meant a lot and it made a difference when it came time to make my decision. I knew I wanted to go there."

Sophomore athlete George Campbell (Tarpon Springs, Fla./East Lake) has more than 15 scholarship offers already and he said the first offers he received were important to him.

"UCF and USF were the first schools to offer me," Campbell said. "I was happy and it showed that my hard work was paying off. It was shocking how fast all the offers started coming in once I got the first few offers."

Even though Campbell picked up early offers from USF and UCF, he said it's not always about the school that offers first.

"Actually for me, it wouldn't matter if a school came in late," Campbell said. "Even if a school offers me late, if it's the right fit for me, then that's where you have to go. I think it helps because they were the schools that were looking at me first and they already know what I can do. But at the same time, if a school comes in late and it's what's best for me and my future, then that's what you have to go with."

Not every offer is a committable offer. A coach from a school, usually an assistant coach, will tell a prospect they like the prospect on film and want him to be a part of their program, but that they would like to see him in game action or in their camp before allowing him to commit to their school.

Though frowned upon by some, this is a common practice among many programs. Schools want to make sure their investment in a student-athlete is worth the risk. Coaches want to see firsthand if the player they are targeting is the same in person as he appears to be on film.

Recruiting is not an exact science and it's difficult to tell just how much an early offer really does affect a recruit, but overall it's pretty clear to see that from the player's perspective, it can't hurt.