When Urban Meyer arrived at Florida in late 2004, he said he would recruit the southeast hard and branch out into Texas a bit. Two BCS titles later, it appears the Gators have gone national.
Tuesday, Palmdale (Calif.) High cornerback Joshua Shaw announced he plans to sign with Florida in February. Shaw also considered Ohio State and USC, and it's that second school that should worry coaches at elite schools across the country. If Florida, which already has one of the deepest rosters in the country, can go into Pete Carroll's backyard and grab a player Carroll wanted, who can't the Gators get?
Shaw, ranked the No. 23 overall recruit in the nation by Rivals.com, isn't Meyer's first commit from a SoCal high school. Meyer signed Woodland Hills quarterback Josh Portis - who had planned to play for Meyer at Utah - in 2005, and Florida signed Westlake Village defensive lineman Duke Lemmens in 2007. But Shaw is the first who also had an offer from USC. The Gators and Trojans also are fighting over Moreno Valley defensive end Ronald Powell (Rivals No. 5 overall) and La Canada safety Dietrich Riley (Rivals No. 93 overall).
Carroll built his dynasty at USC by grabbing everyone he wanted in Southern California and handpicking players from the rest of the country. So far, Meyer has stuck pretty much to the southeast and northeast. The aggressive recruitment of California stars suggests Meyer has completely opened the recruiting borders, and if the California schools don't defend their home turf, Florida could get even stronger.
Before we declare USC's recruiting downfall - which may already have happened, given the results of the past month of games - let's wait and see what Powell and Riley decide. Shaw was very comfortable with the idea of leaving home, evidenced by his intense interest in Ohio State. Some guys just want to leave the nest.
"I kind of had it as Ohio State as my favorite, of course, but Florida and USC were right there," Shaw told Rivals.com on Tuesday. "I was saying to myself that I thought it was going to come down to those three - which it has."
This may also be a one-year anomaly. To the members of the class of 2010, Florida can offer a legitimate chance to compete for early playing time at almost every position. That's attractive to prospects, and it clearly appealed to Shaw. "The plan is, talking to [Florida junior cornerback] Joe Haden, he plans on entering this year's draft," Shaw told Rivals.com. "Hopefully I can come in and compete for the job."
It will be intriguing to see how other coaches respond. Alabama's Nick Saban, Meyer's chief rival for recruits in the SEC, has rarely crossed the Mississippi River or the Mason-Dixon Line for players. Flint, Mich., tailback Mark Ingram is the exception that proves the rule. But if Florida makes inroads in talent-rich SoCal, will Alabama and the Gators' other SEC rivals follow? Tennessee is already there, thanks to the contacts Lane Kiffin developed while at USC. What if the rest of the SEC's elite invades? Carroll's job might get even tougher.
This could get very, very interesting.