Other than the college football blogosphere and the occasional Stewart Mandel column (when he's not being a jackass and irrationally criticizing the SEC to provoke nasty e-mails so he can then pick the one with the worst grammar and the weakest reasoning to make himself feel like Norman Einstein), my favorite source of college football opinion this year has been Bruce Feldman's blog, which is worth the $4.95 per month for Insider, even if that $4.95 also requires me to haul ESPN the Magazine out to the dumpster every two weeks. (Maybe I'm just bitter that the "O.J. Misunderstood" cover that I predicted years ago when the Magazine was taking the side of every jerk in sports never materialized.) I usually like Feldman's writing, he took the time to respond to an e-mail I sent him when Miami signed Willie Williams, and he's a Member of the Tribe, which is so rare in the media these days.
That said, I'm not sure if Bruce was just looking for a straw man or just wanted to humor a Seminole, but he printed and responded to a letter from "Carter in Atlanta" (would a first name be too much to ask?), whining that recruits are signing with Florida under the mistaken impression that the Gator offense is better than that of the Noles. Since I don't have to be polite like Bruce, here's what I think of Carter's iron-clad reasoning:
1. Florida State fans hate Jeff Bowden. Chris Rix and his father hate Jeff Bowden. Fred Rouse hates Jeff Bowden. Lorenzo Booker hates Jeff Bowden (or at least he ought to, given that Bowden has taken the #1 running back from the 2002 recruiting class and led him to a whopping three 100+ yard games in his three-year career.) Anyone with a pulse who wants to see Florida State succeed (admittedly a small class) should hate Jeff Bowden for taking the keys to one of the most talented offenses in the country and driving it into the Grand Canyon. Jeff Bowden is going to stay as the offensive coordinator because he shares much of the same genetic material as the head coach of the Seminoles. Is that not clear enough?
2. Recruits make decisions on how given programs are going to be for the next 4-5 years. Given that context, it's foolish to look at one year worth of results. Urban Meyer's offense has been successful everywhere he's been. Jeff Bowden's offense? Not so much. If a recruit takes a four-year look backwards as opposed to a one-year snapshot, then the picture is much rosier for Meyer than it is for Bowden. Additionally, in projecting forward, a player needs to figure out with whom he's going to be playing. Florida just signed the #1 quarterback in the country, a quarterback who is a far better fit with the Meyer offense than Chris Leak is. Is any quarterback a good fit for Jeff Bowden's confused scheme?
3. As for this year, Florida State did average more yards per game than Florida did, but look at the distribution of those yards. 629 against the Citadel, 512 against Syracuse, 587 against Wake Forest, and 539 against Duke, as compared to 170 against Miami, 227 against N.C. State, 226 against Clemson, 334 against Florida (many of which were in garbage time after the Gators had pummelled the Noles like Sonny pummelled Carlo,) and 272 against Virginia Tech. What is a player like Percy Harvin going to gain by playing in an offense that destroys teams that are hopelessly outmatched athletically, but can't move the ball against a good team? Yes, Florida didn't set the world on fire against good defenses, but their performances were at least comparable and they got better as the season progressed and Meyer figured out that his scheme was not a fit for his talent, whereas FSU's offense got worse and worse.
4. And this statement by Carter is simply wrong:
"This is all because the media has completely got sucked in by Urban Meyer, even though his vaunted spread option, which by the way ain't that revolutionary (see: West Virginia) completely tanked in the SEC this year."
West Virginia's offense is spread option, but it is significantly different from Meyer's, which uses motion far more and breaks down the difference between wide receivers and running backs. West Virginia's offense is not that dissimilar from the offense run by Texas under Vince Young (or some of the looks that Alabama used with Andrew Zow and Freddie Milons in '99 and '00); Meyer's offense is a whole different beast, which is why teams struggled so much to defend it in the MWC and MAC.
5. In any event, it's not useful to make too much of recruiting rankings right now for two reasons. First, Florida is getting the bounce that every major program gets from a new coach's first full recruiting class. Second, Florida State will close strong, like they always do, because they most likely have several silent verbals that will spring forth on Signing Day. Carter's probably just bitter that Harvey wasn't one of those silent verbals.