Florida assistant Steve Addazio helped the Gators weather the greatest of storms and landed several of the top prospects in what is the best recruiting class on paper over the past five recruiting cycles. For this, he is the 2010 national recruiter of the year.
Addazio was Florida's coach-to-be after head coach Urban Meyer announced his resignation and then ultimately took a leave of absence from the Gators' football program because of health issues just following the SEC championship game in early December. On top of that, former defensive coordinator Charlie Strong took the head-coaching job at Louisville, bringing assistants Vance Bedford and Kenny Carter with him. Recruiting coordinator/receivers coach Billy Gonzales, who has a national reputation as a recruiter, also left the program for a position at LSU.
Despite the turmoil and picture of instability -- something that can kill a recruiting effort faster than anything -- the Gators landed the nation's top class and one of the best classes during Meyer's era.
"Steve Addazio is certainly one of the very best recruiters I've ever been around," Meyer said. "He brings the same passion and excellence to the recruiting trail that he does to coaching on the field. Our guys love him because he connects with them and cares about them, and that's very evident to anyone who spends time around our program."
Beyond the relationship-building and turmoil survival, the 2010 Florida class was also impressive in terms of where the Gators went and got talent. Florida signed many of the top prospects in the Sunshine State, but also signed two of the top players from California -- defensive end Ronald Powell (Moreno Valley, Calif./Rancho Verde), the nation's top prospect and cornerback Joshua Shaw (Palmdale, Calif./Palmdale) -- as well as three talented players from the Northeast -- Dominique Easley (Staten Island, N.Y./Curtis), Sharrif Floyd (Philadelphia/George Washington) and Tyler Murpy (Weathersfield, Conn./Weathersfield). Addazio, who is a native of Connecticut, landed the prospects out of the Northeast, where he has been recruiting for 15 years, since his days as an assistant at Syracuse.
"It's very difficult just to show up and say you are going to recruit a certain player," Addazio said. "Recruiting is a relationship business and there are lots of components to it. You have to build relationships. Otherwise, you are a stranger in a strange land. I am one of the guys that has been recruiting the Northeast for that long of a period of time."
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On top of the big three from the Northeast, Addazio had a hand in landing the nation's top safety prospect, Jonathan Dowling (Bradenton, Fla./Southeast) and the nation's No. 3 and 4 offensive tackle prospects, Ian Silberman (Orange Park, Fla./Fleming Island) and Chaz Green (Tampa, Fla./Catholic). He also landed talented quarterback-athlete Trey Burton (Venice, Fla./Venice).
"He did a great job of communicating with me and building a relationship with me," Floyd said. "Whatever would have happened with Coach Meyer, I knew I wanted to be at Florida and Coach Addazio was a big part of that."
While Addazio was personally responsible for many of the good happenings at Florida during this recruiting cycle, he immediately offered praise to others within the program.
"It's been a great year for our program here at Florida," Addazio said. "Everyone here does such a great job and works so well together, from the support staff to the assistant coaches to the head coach right on down."
Another thing that made this recruiting effort for the Gators so unique is that Meyer's personal situation and the departure of multiple assistants worked in Florida's favor. Normally, prospects jump ship at the first sign of instability, but that wasn't the case. Multiple prospects cited the personal relationship that the Gators' coaching staff and other Florida recruits had built with them when they made their final decision to head to Gainesville.
"Families go through tough times and that was kind of a rallying cry," Addazio said. "That became a rallying cry for our kids and it was kind of cool to have that kind of chemistry among the members of this class. There was sort of a unified specialness to this class."
JC Shurburtt covers recruiting for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.