There’s nothing more important to a college football program’s success than recruiting.
Elite coaching doesn’t matter much without elite talent.
And no one understands that better right now than the Tennessee Vols.
Tennessee is taking advantage of players being able to earn money from their name, image, and likeness. Vols quarterback Hendon Hooker is reportedly earning over seven figures to return to Knoxville for another year.
And then there’s the report that a 2023 five-star quarterback is receiving $8 million to sign with a program. The assumption is that the recruit is Vols commit Nico Iamaleava, though that hasn’t been confirmed by any media outlets.
Tennessee is clearly committed to this new world of NIL. Thanks to athletic director Danny White, the Vols are being proactive when it comes to NIL deals instead of reactive. In other words, they aren’t going to be left behind in recruiting.
The Florida Gators, on the other hand, are absolutely going to be left behind in recruiting.
That’s because Florida, according to new head coach Billy Napier, isn’t getting involved in “NIL bidding wars”.
I don’t know if Napier is pretending to be “above” NIL deals for players or if he’s serious. But either way, this isn’t a wise approach by Florida.
Recruits know their worth. They know their market and they know there’s money to be made. I don’t see many recruits eschewing a big payday so they can go to Florida and be coached by…Billy Napier? A guy with no proven track record in the SEC? Napier probably won’t be the next Nick Saban. He’s more likely to turn into the next Will Muschamp or Jim McElwain.
The Gators are essentially telling recruits “don’t even bother coming here, we don’t intend to help you earn what you’re worth”.
Meanwhile, other programs — including Alabama — are opening advertising when players earn big money via NIL deals (for all that Saban has said recently, let’s not forget that he bragged about Bryce Young earning close to seven figures before last season).
If this is going to be Florida’s approach to recruiting moving forward, they’ll be taking up space in the bottom of the SEC standings for the foreseeable future.
No one is going to out recruit money. Not Saban (which is why he’s been so vocal about NIL deals and Texas A&M) and certainly not Napier.
Florida’s missteps are good news for the Vols. Tennessee is poised to finally move ahead of the Gators in the SEC pecking order.
Featured image via USA TODAY Sports