- Jeff Barlis, College Football
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Head coach Will Muschamp didn't get every player he wanted in Florida's recruiting class of 2014. No one ever does. But still, Muschamp was beaming with pride and excitement on Wednesday.
He and his coaching staff reeled in the nation's No. 6-ranked class. Quite a feat, considering the Gators were coming off a 4-8 season.
"We're really pleased," Muschamp told ESPN.com. "We went through a really difficult fall [season], and any time that happens it creates a lot of negativity around your program. We've got three new coaches in Kurt Roper, Coleman Hutzler and Mike Summers, and I thought our staff did a great job of coming together and coming out with a top-10 class. Not that the ranking is important, but we signed some really good football players in this class."
That remade Florida coaching staff is celebrating what was a very smooth signing day. All 13 of their commitments signed and faxed in national letters of intent to join nine early enrollees. Before mid-day, the Gators added two key prospects to finish the class with 24 recruits.
Wide receiver C.J. Worton, a former FSU commit, picked the Gators over West Virginia on Wednesday morning. Then, UF flipped Treon Harris from the arch-rival Seminoles. Harris, the nation's No. 7-ranked dual-threat QB prospect, had been committed to FSU since last July.
Both recruits embodied the Gators' new approach to recruiting for Roper's offense, which is expected to make use of spread and option elements.
"At the quarterback position, we needed to be able to be more mobile at that position, to [have] a dual-threat guy that can throw it and run," Muschamp said, adding that Florida also wanted to recruit "more of a slot receiver, a true slot that can win in some matchups inside.
"So being able to have [Roper] certainly helped solidify things with Ryan [Sousa] and get C.J."
There's just as much excitement over the rest of Wednesday's haul. Florida scored big in signing three of the nation's top prospects at positions of great need.
Another key recruit, ESPN 300 athlete J.C. Jackson, provided some of the only real drama of the day. Rumors had been swirling that he was considering Miami and FSU.
"It's amazing," Muschamp said. "I don't really follow the Internet much, but there's so much hearsay and as much information as there is out there, in my opinion, there's a lot of misinformation. I get tons of phone calls about, well, I heard this, I heard this. I mean I can't keep up with all the what-I-heard stuff. ...
"I know he looked at some other places, no different than a lot of kids do, and I encourage kids to go make sure they're making the right decision, to go take a look at another place. We never felt it was that much in the balance, maybe as what a lot of people seemed to think. We never felt that way."
Jackson ultimately had a drama-free signing day, quietly sending his paperwork to UF early in the morning.
But the end result is a class full of potential, which fits well with Florida's general theme of renewal and cleaning the slate.
"I think our staff has done an outstanding job," Muschamp said. "At the end of the day it's still the University of Florida. It's a top-10 public institution. It's a big‑time degree. You're going to get a great education. It's one of the few places in the country ‑‑ and I tell parents this and I tell recruits this ‑‑ where you can realistically win a national championship on and off the field. ...
"We had a rough fall, but being here and building those relationships with some of these young men for two years, two and a half years, they also saw us win 11 games the year before. They understand that and they are close to our program. I think they kind of understand where we're headed with the program and they're excited about our future."
The bright future, the highly ranked class, the good vibes -- it all made for a light-hearted and jocular head coach.
"Y'all know me," Muschamp said with a laugh. "I don't get overly concerned with [rankings]. I was watching ESPN this morning and somebody said Tom Luginbill was the No. 1-ranked junior college player when he came out.
"I intercepted Tom Luginbill, so that'll tell you how important those rankings are. And I texted him this morning just to remind him of that."