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Despite producing as much prep talent as any state in the country, the schools in the Sunshine State have not been particularly competitive on the field outside of newcomer UCF over the past few seasons. With new regimes in place at two of the schools, let's take a look at where things stand at the four major programs in Florida.
State of the Program: Miami (FL)
The Miami program has quite a lot of flaws from an infrastructure standpoint. They do not have their own football stadium, and they play their home games at Hard Rock Stadium which is quite a haul from campus. This hurts not only their revenue but also the fan experience. It also makes it more difficult for students who live on campus to make it to games. Miami also has very out-of-date on-campus facilities. When you compare the facilities they have to the ones their in-state rival Florida has or really any SEC program theirs falls significantly short.
There is no easy solution to this problem as Miami is a private university that focuses primarily on academics, as many of the trustees and the president believe it should. But this leaves Miami strapped for cash while they hand much of their game-day proceeds to the Miami Dolphins to share their venue.
However, the good news is that Miami has a proven winner as a head coach something they have not had in a very long time. Mario Cristobal has won a pair of Pac 12 Championships at Oregon and looks to help Miami win their first ACC crown. Mario is also an alum, who played offensive line for the Hurricanes. He clearly understands the culture of Miami and also has an intimate knowledge of the program's shortcomings. This makes him the perfect person for the job and to help Miami creep out of the gutter.
As for on the field, the cupboards are never bare in Coral Gables even if the talent isn't as thick as it once was. QB Tyler Van Dyke may be the class of the ACC. Miami has plenty of talent to rush the passer, and their Achilles heel, the offensive line is Cristobal's area of expertise. The turnaround will be quick but not immediate. However, an ACC Coastal division title may be attainable in year one.
State of the program grade: B-
State of the program: Florida
The Gators had been to back-to-back-to-back New Years Six bowl games from 2018-2020 under Dan Mullens, and things appeared to be heading in the right direction when suddenly it was not anymore. I am rarely an advocate for firing a head coach who has had success after one lousy season, but an exception had to be made for Dan Mullen. Florida was woefully underprepared all season long. You can tell when the culture was off balance and it was evident that things were amiss in Gainesville. Mullen was a petulant child at the microphone and needed to come from way behind to beat Samford. Not Stanford. Samford. He had clearly lost the locker room, recruiting was down, and it was altogether a singing ship.
New hire Billy Napier comes in with some promise. He built the culture in Louisiana from the ground up. He had back-to-back stellar seasons which propelled him into the spot he is in now. Known as a great recruiter during his time on Nick Saban's staff he fits exactly the bill you missed with Mullen. He is a professional at the podium and has a great coaching lineage. And you know he understands the culture piece that is necessary to succeed. The immediate future is not a bright one. The offensive line will be a strength and they will run the football. However, I am not a believer in the admittedly gifted athlete at QB Anthony Richardson. That being said if Richardson can get things going and live up to some of the undue hype surrounding him Florida can be quite good immediately.
State of the program grade: C
State of the Program: Florida State
Jimbo Fisher took a torch to Tallahassee on his way to a massive payday at Texas A&M. The 'Noles whiffed on the hire of Willie Taggart and the Mike Norvell has been left to pick up the pieces. The first two seasons have not gone the 'Noles way, but there is reason for optimism if you are a Seminoles fan. QB Jordan Travis showed some life towards the end of last season, and there is plenty of help on the way from the transfer portal, particularly at linebacker which was a position of need. Additionally, it wasn't too long ago that Mike Norvell was an excellent coach at Memphis.
This is technically year three for Norvell in Tallahassee, but given that his first year was the COVID season, this is more like year two. I liked the fight I saw from the Seminoles last season, they lost a ton of close games to teams that frankly on paper should have whooped them. In a total rebuild, you have to lose small before you can win small. Norvell and the whole Florida State program took some lumps over the past two years, but a big step forward is due. Recruiting is stabilizing as well. Sure a top 25 class may not be much in the grand scheme of things. However given the circumstances, the hauls were not bad the last two cycles, with plenty of room to go up from here.
State of the Program grade: C-
State of the Program: Central Florida
Like it or not, this has been the best program in the state for much of the several seasons. Obviously, UCF lacks the resources currently that other programs in the state have. However, with the announcement that they will be joining the Big 12 conference in the near future, much of that is set to change. The conference revenue sharing for the Big 12 is expected to eclipse $35 million/school. The AAC was raking in a measly $6 million. UCF is the largest public university in the country with a huge alumni base, and it is located in Orlando, Florida, which is one of the fastest-growing cities in the country.
Heading to the Big 12 could wake up a sleeping giant in the sport. UCF will have the ability to bring in higher caliber recruits than ever before. Also will be able to update their facilities and perhaps even expand their stadium. UCF has produced on-field results in recent seasons but a step up financially will be a game-changer. Head coach Gus Malzahn has coached in a national championship game. He spent many years competing in the SEC at Auburn. Despite losing QB Dillion Gabriel to Oklahoma I cannot help but be excited about the new possibilities for this program. They are heading at light speed in the right direction.
State of the Program Grade: A-
At the end of the day, these Florida programs are coveted positions for head coaches. Because of the proximity to big-time recruits. But in the new world of NIL, the sunshiny state is a desirable destination. Each of these programs while flawed has extraordinary potential. I believe all four of these programs are heading in a positive direction can they build on that?