I expect some pushback on this post, but here goes nothing.
Let’s start by reposting this:
Titles are reserved for programs that sign more blue-chip recruits than non-, and only 13 teams in the whole country met that threshold in 2018, including all four Playoff teams.
The SEC has seven teams above that cut right now for 2019, including three — A&M, Florida, and Tennessee — whose 2018 rosters left them just below the Blue-Chip Ratio line. The Vols got there by signing a five-star tackle, Darnell Wright, and four-star linebacker, Henry To’oto’o, in the last hour or so of the February NSD.
Both the Gators and the Vols are trying to emerge from irrelevance. Tennessee has a tougher row to hoe in that regard, both because it’s fallen farther and also because it’s a tougher place from which to recruit. That being said, the surest way to dig yourself out of an irrelevant hole is to sign better talent. Both programs appear to have done that with their 2019 classes.
Sure, being relevant and being elite are two different things. 2019’s done nothing to put either UF or UT on the same level, talentwise, as Georgia. But relevant programs can certainly win divisional and conference titles and make the national title postseason on occasion. It may take somewhat freakish opportunities — key injuries to opponents, injury luck for itself, a generational type player who elevates the program, turnover margin magic, etc. — but there are occasions when a puncher’s chance has been sufficient, if a program is sufficiently prepared to take advantage.
That’s exactly where I think Florida and Tennessee are now. The gap isn’t closing, but the chance to break through on occasion may be rising for the two. I think that’s particularly true for Florida. As I’ve mentioned, Tennessee is hampered by having a tougher time recruiting. It’s also got to deal with the reality of having Alabama on its schedule every season, a burden neither Georgia nor Florida have.
The other reason I think the trend favors the Gators is that I think they’re better built to deal with it. Pruitt’s record as a head coach is obviously too short to draw any real conclusions about his program management philosophy, but I don’t think Phil Fulmer is expecting anything less than a return to the glory days of the nineties, even though today’s SEC is a tougher place for the Vols to build sustained success.
Mullen, though, runs a program — at least from what we’ve seen from his days at Mississippi State and even a little from last season at Florida — in a way that’s conducive to success in accepting relevancy as a launch point. Along those lines, I had an interesting exchange with David Wunderlich on Twitter about that.
That’s where I see Florida. And I think Mullen is a good enough coach to make something like that work now and then. Mississippi State waxed and waned when he was there; it’s not hard to see Florida doing the same, except at a higher level on both ends because he’ll be working from a much better base of talent.
No, it won’t be a return to the Spurrier or Meyer eras. But I can certainly see a year here and a season there of frustration for Georgia fans. Hope I’m wrong, of course, but I bet I’m not.
As for Tennessee, ask me in another year or two.