The state of Florida appears to have a coaching storm brewing within its borders.
A maelstrom of hellacious proportions powered by elite coaching pedigrees, outstanding recruiting chops and dome-sized egos is upon us with the additions of Butch Davis, Charlie Strong and Lane Kiffin to the state's coaching hodgepodge that already included Jimbo Fisher, Mark Richt and Jim McElwain.
I mean, who's ready for this? We know Lane Kiffin is.
Our new coach needs a hype man pic.twitter.com/82cBML1NFa
— Rev. Eric Dunn (@ericvdunn) January 30, 2017
(It should be noted that FAU's official Twitter account tweeted that and later deleted it.)
Look, the addition of Kiffin at FAU, Strong at USF and Davis at FIU brings three more big coaching names to one of college football's premier states. The fertile recruiting ground in every nook and cranny of Florida is some of the best the United States has to offer college football coaches, and these three guys have the ability to comb all corners with the best of them.
But how much real recruiting damage can they can they inflict on the Big Three -- Florida, Florida State and Miami?
"They're gonna swing the bat at some of those guys, and try to make a dent, but at the end of the day they'll end up fighting over the next tier of guys," an SEC coordinator told ESPN.
Right now, we don't really know. Sure, you'll probably find a sunglasses-wearing, slick-talking Kiffin parking next to McElwain at IMG Academy in Bradenton. I'm sure Strong will literally sprint pass Fisher to greet Saint Thomas Aquinas' best player. And Davis can rub elbows with everyone down in talent-rich south Florida.
"If there's someone who knows gas-tank recruiting, meaning you drive two hours in any direction from where FIU is, he can do a great job," one SEC coordinator said.
But so far, well, they were kinda meh after Month 1.
Once national signing day came and went, only USF signed an ESPN four-star prospect -- No. 69 WR Kevaughn Dingle. FAU's class has been touted as its best ever, but six players had a triple-digit ranking next to their names and another nine were unranked. Eleven FIU signees either ranked in the hundreds or were unranked.
Granted, these were all transition classes, but in the grand scheme of things, these programs won't unseat any of the bigger schools in the recruiting market. They'll make some noise, but we're talking a boom box, not a Kendrick Lamar concert.
"The cool thing about [the state of the Florida] is there are enough players to go around and everybody's going to get their fair share of people," another SEC coordinator said.
The biggest problem is that names can only go so far, one SEC coordinator said. Prospects are well-aware of what all three of these new coaches have done in the past. They know that all three can be elite recruiters and will take everything they learned from major Power 5 schools to make these smaller Florida schools flashier and more exciting.
That's great, but they're still behind Florida, Florida State and Miami in branding, resources and prestige.
Those schools are Power 5 mainstays in the ACC and SEC, while the new coaches are squeezing into the Group of 5, fighting for acknowledgement. Only Strong inherits a program that's been bowl-eligible the last five years. FAU and FIU have played in two bowls each, while South Florida has been to eight total.
The Big Three have more than 120 bowl appearances combined.
Where these schools can challenge the bigger Florida schools is with late-blooming players who usually slip into the classes of the bigger schools, said Gerard Ross, an assistant coach who is in charge of recruiting at Trinity Christian Academy in Jacksonville, Florida. To Ross, the advantage these coaches will have is being able to lure less-heralded talent away from bigger schools by recruiting them as top options on their recruiting boards, as opposed to being second and third options at bigger schools.
"By having those reputable names at head coach, [the bigger Florida schools] may start struggling with getting that kid as easy," Ross said. "It's definitely going to add an interesting twist to it. At every school now in Florida, every school has a name that rings a bell. The state of Florida is loaded."
Matt Thompson, the head coach at Jesuit High in Tampa, Florida, agrees that those players could escape the grasp of the Big Three more, but he also thinks the biggest impact of the new coaches will be on smaller Power 5 and Group of 5 schools outside of the state. Players who once left the state for less-ballyhooed schools to be potential stars could now be more inclined to stay in state and learn from coaches who can easily sell being class headliners, experiencing NFL-type development, and staying close to home, Thompson said.
One SEC coordinator agreed with Thompson, saying "it'll be tough" for non-Florida schools that aren't on the elite level of an Ohio State or Clemson to have continued success in Florida.
"You're not going to see many of those one-to-three-star guys leaving to go to the MAC schools or leaving to go to Minnesota or any of those other lower [FBS] schools," Thompson said. "It's good for the state."
Added Ross: "You might as well stay in state where your family can watch you, and with these guys, you're still in good hands with a great head coach that can get you to the next level."
But having these big names taking over these smaller programs does create hesitation from high school coaches and players. Thompson worries about the shelf life for all three, considering Power 5 pasts and continued Power 5 aspirations. Thompson said he's had players express concern about these coaches using their current jobs as steppingstones to bigger programs and wonder whether these coaches will be at their current schools in two or three years.
"That's the problem with recruiting in Florida," Thompson said. "Our jobs are revolving doors, it seems like."
And Thompson could be absolutely right, and players should certainly think about that when considering all three coaches. But for now, all three are firmly in their new chairs and are trying to jump-start their respective programs. Maybe their arrivals won't usher in the kind of chaos their names beckon, but as long as these three are bunched in with the Big Three, the state of Florida will be that much more fascinating to watch.
"I think that's gonna be certainly interesting," an SEC coordinator said. "Hell, maybe there's just gonna be a conference called the 'Florida Conference.'"