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College Football
Ivan Maisel
February 18, 2002
Urban Cowboys Texas landed the top class of recruits by signing stars from the state's inner cities
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February 18, 2002

College Football

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Ron Zook walks fast and talks faster, but not even he could cram a year's worth of recruiting into three weeks. Zook, who was named as Steve Spurrier's replacement at Florida on Jan. 9, did well to sign highly regarded players like quarterback Gavin Dickey of Tallahassee's Lincoln High and tailback DeShawn Wynn of Reading High in Cincinnati. Still, Spurrier's sudden departure left the Gators vulnerable, and their rivals pounced.

Florida State signed the four best players in Jacksonville, traditionally a Florida stronghold. Also, wide receiver Devin Aromashodu from Miami Springs High, who orally committed to Florida last month, changed his mind at the last minute and signed with Auburn on Feb. 6.

"You try to develop a relationship with a player based on trust," Zook says. "We were trying to develop that relationship in three weeks. In the end the length of time that we had caught up with us." Florida signed a solid class of 20 players, and though experts said it was a good class, they ranked it below the groups recruited by Tennessee, Georgia and South Carolina in the SEC, not to mention Miami and Florida State.

The Gators failed to fill their needs on defense, especially at tackle. That may be a reflection of Zook's decision to hire his offensive assistants first, believing that he had to reassure recruits that he wouldn't junk Spurrier's Fun 'n' Gun.

Zook, who left Florida in 1996 for the NFL, in which he was an assistant for three teams and was most recently the Saints' defensive coordinator, was stunned at how recruiting had changed in six years, especially because of the explosion of websites that track teams and their prospects. "The information that's out there is ridiculous," Zook says. "Recruits don't know who to believe."

With signing day passed, Zook can move on with filling out his staff and hiring a defensive coordinator. There's also tape to watch, spring practice to prepare for (the Gators start on March 12) and, most important, a house to buy. "My wife asked me if I could look at a place this weekend," Zook says. "I told her to pencil it in. Don't write it in ink."

Extra Points
The Bad Luck Of the Irish

The Florida State coaching staff had so little faith that All-America running back Lorenzo Booker of St. Bonaventure High in Ventura, Calif., would choose the Seminoles over Notre Dame that none of them stayed in the office on Feb. 6 to wait and see if Booker faxed his letter of intent to Tallahassee. Then, before Booker's nationally televised press conference, Seminoles recruiting coordinator John Lilly decided to come back to the office and give Booker one last call. When he hung up, Lilly held out slim hope that Booker would sign with Florida State. Minutes later later Booker surprised many by announcing that he would attend Florida State....

Last fall Virginia coach Al Groh said that in terms of recruiting, his roots in the state would permit him to overcome having spent the previous 12 years in the NFL. Groh, who attended Virginia and recruited there for more than a decade, was right: The Cavaliers signed their first top top 10 class in school history. Among Virginia's top recruits were linebackers Ahmad Brooks of Woodbridge, USA Today's Defensive Player of the Year, and Kai Parham of Virginia Beach. However, the top quarterback in the state, Marcus Vick, who was also courted by Virginia, followed in brother Michael's footsteps and signed with Virginia Tech....

The wall that Rutgers coach Greg Schiano hopes to build around New Jersey to keep its bounty of talent in-state remains under construction. The Scarlet Knights signed the state's top player, linebacker Berkeley Hutchinson of Dong Branch, but Notre Dame, Boston College, Penn State and even Connecticut lured away many of New Jersey's best players.

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