Posted: 9:50 a.m. Monday, April 8, 2013
By Andy Hutchins
Florida had an interesting weekend in a lot of ways, with great teams putting on great performances on campus and the spring "game" delivering very little in terms of both sizzle and steak, but the single biggest piece of news that broke this weekend in Gator Nation was the commitment of a football player who won't suit up for Florida for at least another 16 months.
But that's because 2014 Miami Central running back Dalvin Cook — who committed to Florida on Saturday, as first reported by Scout's Amy Campbell, flipping to the Gators from Clemson, after "pulling even" earlier in the day according to 247Sports' Thomas Goldkamp — is just that good.
Don't believe me? Watch him fly.
Cook is a 247Composite five-star recruit, and 247Sports' No. 22 player overall, No. 3 running back, and No. 2 player in the state of Florida; Rivals has Cook with four stars, but No. 22 nationally and No. 4 among running backs, an indication that the four stars may get a fifth as Rivals ramps up its 2014 scouting; ESPN has him on the 2014 ESPN Watch List, and notes that he'll be at Nike's The Opening this summer and is already signed up for the 2014 Under Armour All-America Game.
But it doesn't take a great recruiting eye to see that Cook's speed and agility are phenomenal, and it doesn't take a great mind for analysis to project Cook as the speedy complement to Kelvin Taylor's workhorse game in 2014 and 2015. Cook's got the potential to score six points from anywhere on the field, something that Florida's running game lacked in 2012 after the departures of Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey and something that it will lack this year, with Matt Jones and Taylor more likely to break off multiple withering 15-yard runs on a drive than a 75-yard scamper.
Cook isn't fragile like Demps and Rainey were, though, and, despite being 5'11" and 190ish pounds already, could add more steel to his already impressive frame. SB Nation Recruiting's Bud Elliott wrote about Cook in February:
In person, Cook looks bigger than 190 pounds. He is a solidly-built back, and after some time in a college weight program, should be capable of carrying the football 200 times in a college season if called to do so. For his size, Cook has very good speed. He is at his best when running in a straight line with minimal cuts in the backfield or the hole. Cook's moves aren't bad, but he is more fast than quick, so it behooves him to get going as soon as he can.
And Elliott told me today that he likes Cook even more now than he did then, having seen him at a Nike Football Training Camp in Miami in March.
With all that said about Cook as a player, however, securing Cook's commitment might mean even more for Florida as a program from an optics standpoint.
Most importantly, Cook is Florida's first huge commit from a powerhouse Miami high school — Miami Central is the school that rocked Gainesville High for Florida's 6A state title last fall — under Will Muschamp. Muschamp has been able to dip into South Florida for players with some regularity (2012 recruit Bryan Cox, Jr. and 2014 commit Anthony Moten are both from St. Thomas Aquinas in Fort Lauderdale; Taylor is from Belle Glade Glades Day), but only once before had Muschamp gotten a player from a Miami school to come to Gainesville: Monsignor Pace's Jabari Gorman, in 2011, was the first recruit in the 2011 class to commit to Florida after Muschamp was named Florida's head coach. 2010 recruit Quinton Dunbar of Booker T. Washington High is the most recent Florida player from a Miami public school.
There's a long time between Gorman's commitment in January 2011 and Cook's in April 2014, even for the program in Florida's Big Three that has had the most trouble recruiting Miami in recent years. It reflects well on Muschamp's ability to make inroads that Cook, a great player at a great Miami public high school, was even considering Florida, much less that he actually committed, and it's a massive luxury for the Gators to be able to draw from Miami in years like 2014 when all of Florida's talent is seemingly concentrated in Broward and Dade.
But Muschamp didn't have to wrest Cook away from Miami, which is somewhat surprising. Instead, Florida flipped a second blue-chip recruit from Clemson in the calendar year of 2013, with Cook's defection following Demarcus Robinson's slow-motion flip from Dabo Swinney's bunch that was completed in January. This is a message on two levels: 1) After getting beat for more than a few players by Clemson, Florida has turned the tide and 2) If Florida wants you, being committed to that other school doesn't mean a damn to Will Muschamp.
Muschamp's success with flipping makes him and Florida a target for negative recruiting, of course: Coaches can say "Muschamp doesn't think anything of your commitment, so what makes you think he won't leave for X?" and "Look, if you commit to Florida, they're just gonna flip Y down the road and screw you" and make those lines believable, regardless of their truth. But what Florida is building is more compelling than lines like that, and what Muschamp does on the recruiting trail has been more potent than opponents' jibes to this point, so I'm guessing he'll take the lumps along with the great players.
In flipping Dalvin Cook, after all, Muschamp landed a running back who creates a ridiculous backfield in 2014, struck a blow deep in the heart of Miami, flipped a stud from a perennial recruiting trail rival, and gave Florida fans a big, juicy hunk of news to gnaw on after giving them a lackluster spring "game." There are negatives here, but when weighed against the positives, they effectively don't matter.