On Friday, Florida State secured a commitment from defensive end Joshua Kaindoh of IMG Academy in Bradenton, FL. A five-star prospect per the 247Sports Composite rankings, Kaindoh is ranked as the 4th best player in the state of Florida and 21st overall in the nation. With the graduation of senior DeMarcus Walker, Kaindoh is certainly a much needed addition to the class and a player that will make an impact as a true freshman.
That now makes two commitments to Florida State from IMG Academy. Along with Kaindoh, the Seminoles landed three-star tight end Tre’ McKitty earlier this season.
IMG Academy’s football program has been home to dozens of talented recruits ever since they first fielded a football team in 2013. Players come from all over the nation to get a head start on their college careers with the best available coaching and facilities. IMG also fosters intense competition, as the recruits that suit up for the Ascenders are truly facing elite talent everyday in practice.
But despite the fact that IMG Academy is located in Bradenton, an hour’s drive south of Tampa, in-state schools have struggled with gaining traction with kids in the program. While you’d think that schools like Florida State and Florida would be drooling over all that talent located in their backyard, they have not been able to get many kids to sign with them ever since IMG Academy fielded a football team.
Since 2013, IMG Academy has produced 30 recruits who were ranked within the Top-100 in the state of Florida, or kids who have gone on to play for major Power Five schools. There are a handful of kids who have signed with lower-tiered schools or FCS teams, but since Florida State does not recruit these kids they are not considered in the data set. Because only two are from 2014 and three are from 2015, the vast majority of these recruits have come from last year’s 2016 class and the current class of 2017.
Of those 30 recruits, only seven stayed in-state to play college football.
Florida State signed four names on that list. Along with the aforementioned Kaindoh and McKitty, the Seminoles signed Shavar Manuel in 2016 and Deondre Francois in 2015. Miami (FL) has signed two and UCF rounds out the list with one signee. Notably, the Florida Gators have failed to sign an elite prospect from IMG since they formed.
That means 23 elite recruits who are technically classified as “Florida recruits” have left the state of Florida to play their college football elsewhere.
Why is this?
Well for one, the majority of these kids are not natives of Florida. A quick scan of the list will reveal home states such as Maryland, Louisiana, and Texas among others. These players start their high school careers in their home state, then transfer to IMG Academy usually for their junior or senior seasons to finish up before heading off to college.
Across the broad landscape of college football, geography often matters more than anything. One of the most important factors in recruiting is proximity to family. Very rarely do kids travel long distances for their college football. This makes sense, as it is easier for families to travel to see their kids play football if they are close to home.
For many of these IMG kids, Florida is not home. As such, when an IMG kid originally from Ohio chooses to go to Ohio State, he is actually returning to his home region despite the fact that he is technically classified as a “Florida recruit” since he attends IMG Academy.
This makes for a very confusing process when looking at recruiting in the state of Florida.
Four or five years ago, the top recruits in the state of Florida would typically choose between programs such as Florida State, Florida and Miami with the occasional Alabama or LSU sprinkled in there. But now, with the rise of IMG Academy and an influx of top talent from other regions, there are more top “Florida recruits” leaving the state and going to schools such as Notre Dame, Ohio State and Texas A&M.
For example, the top quarterback in the nation last year was Shea Patterson of IMG Academy. Originally from Louisiana, Patterson transferred to IMG Academy for his final year of high school ball. After high school, he went back to his home region and current starts for Ole Miss.
Remember those 30 recruits I mentioned earlier? Of those 30 kids, 19 of them went back to their home region for college football.
Of the four recruits that Florida State has pulled from IMG Academy, three of them are originally from the state of Florida. Francois is from Orlando and Manuel and McKitty are from Tampa. Getting a commitment from Kaindoh is huge because the five-star pass rusher is from Maryland and was actually committed to the Terps at one point.
Want more proof that geography matters? Of those 30 recruits, nine of them were originally from the state of Florida. Six of them stayed in state to play college ball and only three left the state.
So while Florida State is currently having success recruiting IMG Academy with two commits out of the famous program, don’t expect this trend to continue. While the Seminoles will continue to recruit and attempt to gain the commitments of the talented players that suit up for the Ascenders, remember that recruiting them is likely the same as recruiting a kid that is from out-of-state.