When it comes to college football recruiting, the biggest prize is the state of Florida. Fully 20 percent of the ESPN 300 recruits in this year’s class hail from the Sunshine State, which boasts 19 more than any other state. Before this recruiting cycle, the most ESPN 300 recruits from a single state was 55 from Florida in 2014.
And it isn’t just the in-state schools and Southern conferences that are converging on the state. The Big Ten has landed eight ESPN 300 players from Florida already this year, the conference’s most from any state. Four of those players -- including three of the top 100 recruits in the country -- are heading to Ohio State.
That continues a trend from last year of more top Florida recruits heading outside the regional footprint. From 2014 to '16, 88 percent of Florida recruits who were in the top 100 overall committed to schools in either the ACC or SEC.
Last year, five of the 20 top-100 recruits from the state went to either the Big Ten or Notre Dame, with three of those becoming Buckeyes.
So far this year, seven of the 19 top-100 players from Florida have committed to the Big Ten (three), Big 12 (two) or Notre Dame (two). That matches the total for the SEC and exceeds the five ACC commitments.
And there’s been a big change in fortunes among the three Power 5 schools in the state.
Florida’s class never ranked outside the top five of the class rankings during Urban Meyer’s final five seasons in Gainesville, and he landed the top overall class in 2006 and 2010. The quality dropped slightly under Will Muschamp, who averaged the sixth-rated class. Then the Gators failed to crack the top 10 in three seasons under Jim McElwain, and Dan Mullen’s first class currently ranks 18th.
That drop-off led to Florida State taking over the state under Jimbo Fisher. The Seminoles had the top overall class in 2011 and 2016, and ranked among the top 10 classes in each of his eight seasons in Tallahassee. But with Fisher off to Texas A&M, Willie Taggart is playing catch-up and Florida State’s class currently ranks 30th.
That opens the door for Miami, which currently has the No. 7 class in the country. That would be tied for the Hurricanes' second-highest ranking in 13 years of ESPN Recruiting, trailing only their 2008 class, which was tops in the country.
The Hurricanes have been dominating the state, gaining commitments from 10 of the 60 ESPN 300 players from Florida. Miami is in line to land the most ESPN 300 recruits from Florida for the second time in three seasons under Mark Richt.
In fact, the Hurricanes have twice as many ESPN 300 commitments from Florida as the Gators and Seminoles combined. Florida State currently has only two such commitments; eight schools, including six from out of state, have more than that.