It's too soon to declare doomsday over Florida Gators football recruiting | David Whitley

David Whitley
Gator Sports

Dr. Robert Cade invented a revolutionary beverage in his UF medical lab 57 years ago. You know the rest of the Gatorade story.

It’s time somebody on campus invented another drink. Call it Fanade. It will relieve people of impatience, delusions and night sweats over the state of their favorite football teams.

The concoction must be rushed to the nearest tall building and handed to a Gator fan who’s about to jump.

In case you haven’t heard, the Florida football program is kaput. Billy Napier is in over his head. The Gators might as well give up and apply to join the Big Sky Conference, which would probably turn them down until they can sign a two-star punter.

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Let's keep recruiting in perspective

Gators head coach Billy Napier speaks during a press conference at The F-Club at the University of Florida in Gainesville, on May 26, 2022.

If all this is news to you, you obviously haven’t been tuned into the chat rooms, message boards and various fever swamps of the internet. They have been in DEFCON 1 since some high-value recruits decided to take their talents to South Beach, Tallahassee and other places not named Gainesville.

If these folks were restaurant critics, they’d leave after appetizers. If they were on a jury, they’d render a verdict midway through opening statements.

I guess I shouldn’t poke too much fun at the panic. Recruiting truly is the most important piece of the football puzzle. And Jaden Rashada, a quarterback from Pittsburg, Calif., would have fit in very nicely.

He flirted with UF but committed to Miami last weekend. Watching him flash the “U” sign was a gut punch to Gator Nation, and a few tears are in order.

It’s also fair to question whether Napier will be the uber recruiter fans have longed for since Urban Meyer left town. Of course, Napier never promised he’d be a recruiting Svengali.

He said he’d be relentless in the pursuit of football talent, just like Nick Saban and Kirby Smart. That doesn’t guarantee the same results, but it’s been a missing piece in the UF puzzle the past few years.

Napier has repeatedly said there’s no quick fix to what’s been ailing the program. There are going to be tough times. “All kinds of weather,” as a certain song puts it. It also mentions something about "sticking together."

“These things take time,” Napier has said a few hundred times.

Time? Who’s got time for that?

I’m old enough to remember when coaches were allowed to coach their first game before fans declared them a bust. Football was a life-or-death issue, but it wasn’t a year-round, 24-7 obsession. Then Al Gore invented the internet.

Fans can now feed their addiction nonstop, 365 days a year. Nowhere is that more apparent than with recruiting, which has basically become a sport unto itself.

Websites start tracking prospects in the womb. There are daily headlines like 3-star linebacker has UF on final four list and Pahokee TE prospect names dog "Tebow".

It’s tempting fare for fans, but recruiting should be treated like a NASCAR race. You’re much safer observing it from the sidelines.

Too many observers are now hopping onto the track and clinging to the hoods of cars being driven by kids who are barely old enough to get their driver’s licenses. I’m no psychologist, but it just doesn’t seem healthy to base your emotional well-being on the whims of a teenager who spends three hours a day on TikTok.

NIL adds to the college football drama

NIL has added a new layer to the psychodrama. The Rashada Affair rated four popcorn bags.

Someone leaked that he got a $9.5 million deal and his lawyer, Michael Caspino, said Rashada “left millions on the table." Miami sugar daddy John Ruiz said he (ahem) never even discussed Rashada with Caspino.

Caspino said UF’s collective is dysfunctional. The Gator story is that they didn't deal with Caspino and he's an NCAA violation waiting to happen.

If you’re an impartial observer, you don’t know whether to laugh at the interplay or cry at the absurdity that an 11th grader with a 57% completion rate might make more than the first QB picked in the NFL Draft.

If you were a partial observer, it was more reason to log into a chat room and question if Napier should pack his bags and go back to Louisiana.

Answer: No, and please sign up for a shipment of Fanade.

I don’t know if Napier will be the next Kirby Smart or the next Will Muschamp. I do know that a rocky recruiting start is no reason to jump off a tall building. And before we declare the Napier Era over, we should at least let it start.

David Whitley is The Gainesville Sun's sports columnist. Contact him at dwhitley@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter @DavidEWhitley