Will Muschamp only spent one year coaching at Miami in 2005, but his time as a Dolphin has had a lasting effect.
Nowadays he’s a ‘flipper’ on the recruiting trail.
Muschamp has flipped a dozen prospects since he arrived at Florida in December of 2011.
After just six weeks on the job, Muschamp stole linebacker Graham Stewart from Boston College and signed cornerback Marcus Roberson two days after he committed to Auburn.
In the 2012 recruiting class, Muschamp convinced quarterback Skyler Mornhinweg (Penn State), defensive tackle Damien Jacobs (Tennessee), defensive end Dante Folwer Jr. (Florida State) and cornerback Willie Bailey (Miami) to switch schools.
His biggest get was Fowler, a five-star recruit who had been pledged to the Seminoles for over a year before flipping to Florida on National Signing Day.
Fowler was a lifelong FSU fan like his father, Dante Sr., who said it wasn’t easy for Muschamp to turn his son around.
“They talked on the phone at least once or twice a week,” the elder Fowler said. “I didn’t even know that until the end. They built a good relationship and he trusted coach Muschamp more than any other coach.”
Fowler said it was hard to see his son ditch FSU, but he didn’t want to force him to stick with the Seminoles. He eventually embraced Dante Jr. going to UF because of how Muschamp recruited him.
“Not one time did he say anything bad about Florida State to me or my son, not one time,” he said. “And that was kind of a shock because we got that from other schools. But Will never talked about them. He and his staff just made us feel comfortable.
“Coach Muschamp was honest and passionate about what he did, and so was his coaching staff. Basically, they never lied to us. Other schools did. Every time we visited Florida, they made us feel like family. I knew I was leaving my son in good hands with good people.”
This year, Muschamp has continued the trend. Half of his eight early enrollees in January were recruits he flipped from other schools.
The last recruit to report to campus was linebacker Alex Anzalone, who grew up rooting for the Gators but spurned them twice when he committed to Ohio State in April and then Notre Dame over the summer.
Despite picking two different schools over Florida, the UF coaches never held a grudge against Anzalone.
“They don’t criticize kids for their decisions, they’re not judgmental and they don’t take it personal,” said Anzalone’s father, Sal. “A lot of schools get frustrated and quit recruiting kids. But they understand that circumstances and feelings can change.”
They changed for Anzalone just days before he was scheduled to report to South Bend, as reports surfaced that Irish coach Brian Kelly was interviewing for the Philadelphia Eagles job.
When the news broke, Anzalone didn’t have to search long for a new place to call home.
“Florida was the only school that recruited him throughout the process,” his father said. “Muschamp always kept the door open for him, and (new defensive coordinator) D.J. Durkin was tremendous. He came up and saw Alex after he had committed to Notre Dame just because he was in the area and wanted to see him. They didn’t even talk recruiting.
“Most kids can distinguish between perception and reality. Coaches will promise and say many different things. But Alex saw the sincerity of Muschamp and his staff. He recognized their honesty and care for him, which ultimately won us over.”
The same compassion was shown to linebacker Matt Rolin, who flipped from South Carolina to Florida after being committed to the Gamecocks for seven months.
“In the end, I had to do what was best for me,” Rolin said. “South Carolina stopped calling me. During the season I didn’t hear from them that much. So I decided to take a visit to Florida and coach Muschamp gave me some good advice.”
Muschamp told Rolin he had to make a selfish decision, which really hit home for him. He knew spurning South Carolina for UF wouldn’t sit well with his family members.
“Carolina was the easy choice,” said Rolin’s father, Mike. “There was a lot of family pressure. I went there, my wife went there, my brother graduated from there, my father played for Carolina and most of our relatives live in the state of South Carolina. That would have been a great fit.”
But when Rolin suffered a torn ACL in November, his father said college coaches backed away. Muschamp and Durkin did the opposite.
“Schools stopped recruiting Matt after his injury, but I must say Will and D.J. really cared about Matt,” Rolin said. “They were concerned about getting his knee rehabbed and it wasn’t a problem for them. They had a close bond with Matt and our family felt their staff would support him the right way.”
The decision to come to UF was also difficult for receiver Demarcus Robinson. His high school coach, Chad Campbell, admittedly wanted him at Clemson, the school he was committed to for five months.
But Robinson said Florida’s coaches recruited him harder than any other staff in the fall, and their efforts paid off.
“I expected him to go to Clemson and honor his commitment, I encouraged it,” Campbell said. “But coach Muschamp and his staff just wouldn’t let up. I think the relationship they built with Demarcus was real strong, and he knew they were going to take care of him like we did. But I still can’t believe they changed his mind to be honest with you.”
JUCO defensive tackle Darious Cummings is the fourth early enrollee who flipped to the Gators. He switched his commitment from Ole Miss to Florida immediately after visiting UF.
Cummings went through the recruiting process twice and called Muschamp the ‘realest coach’ he dealt with.
“He doesn’t tell you that you’re going to come in and start right away like everyone else,” Cummings said. “All he says is you’ll get a fair shot. You got some coaches that promise a starting job from day one, but coach Muschamp only promises you an opportunity to play and prove yourself. That’s what kids like about him and it sold me.”
Linebacker Jarrad Davis and JUCO offensive tackle Trenton Brown are the other class members who Muschamp nabbed from other schools. Davis dropped his Auburn commitment during his UF visit and Brown silently committed to the Gators while pledged to Georgia.
With one week to go until National Signing Day, Muschamp is still trying to steal cornerback Jalen Ramsey (USC), defensive end Tashawn Bower (Auburn) and JUCO defensive tackle Jarran Reed (Ole Miss). And he already has his sights set on 2014 prospects such as running back Bo Scarbrough, who is committed to Alabama and hails from Tucaloosa.
Flipping Scarbrough sounds like a tall task for Muschamp, but there isn’t a body of water that he’s afraid to dive in.
“Not many coaches can walk into the home of a committed recruit and convince him and his family to come to their school,” Anzalone said. “But if they’re willing to listen to Muschamp and what he has to offer, I wouldn’t count him out with anyone.”