Florida Gators coaches confident that recruiting will come alive as dead period ends

By Adam Silverstein
January 15, 2015

With the dead period over, nine Florida Gators staff members hit the recruiting trail on Thursday to salvage the program’s 2015 class. Standing at just eight commitments with no four- or five-star pledges, Florida’s class has plenty of spots to fill – and the coaches have little time to get it done.

National Signing Day is set for Wednesday, Feb. 4, giving the Gators just three weeks to lock up 15-20 players. This is why it was imperative for Florida to bring on head coach Jim McElwain – and for McElwain, in turn, to get his coordinators hired – early in December so the program could get an early start on re-recruiting players.

According to McElwain, that foresight paid off.

“We’ve gotten great buzz, and yet, time will tell. Obviously the guys that we put in place have value to these recruits as they want to perfect their craft at their individual positions moving forward,” he said of his staff. “They’re good dudes, man. They’re a lot of fun to be around. They got energy and they care about kids and they care about being involved in young men’s lives, not just in football.”

Offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier and defensive coordinator Geoff Collins will both be integral in the Gators’ success, but associate head coach and co-coordinator Randy Shannon looks to be McElwain’s secret weapon.

A 20-year coaching veteran, Shannon has recruited as an assistant, coordinator and head coach. He is praised as a tremendous South Florida recruiter, but he quickly noted that he is “a lot more versatile than recruiting just South Florida” because “recruiting is recruiting” no matter where it is done.

“It’s about just understanding the dynamics of making sure you get the right fit. Sometimes great players may not be the right fit for your university – i.e. off-the-field problems, things you don’t know but you have to find out,” he explained.

“A lot of times, coaches will tell you what you want to hear, but you have to go around and find out from maybe a janitor in the hallway because some players, they like to screw around with janitors and give them a hard time. You go ask a janitor a question, he’ll tell you everything you need to know. Or you may walk the hallways and see a young lady walking and you just say. ‘Hey, have you seen James Johnson? Either two things she’s going to say -either, ‘Yeah, he’s over here,’ or she’s going to tell you everything you want to know that’s bad.

“You have to be careful how you recruit. In this time and age and with the way social media is, you have to recruit and find out everything you can about a young man because once a young man comes to your university, it’s representing you and your university and you have to find out those things.”

Defensive line coach Terrell Williams agreed, nothing that recruiting is all about building relationships and “it doesn’t matter if it’s in South Florida or Alaska. If you can recruit and you can build relationships, you should be able to go and get a player from anywhere.”

Coming from the NFL, Williams is confident that his professional experience will help recruit top prospects. But what he believes will be of greater use is his passion for not just recruiting but coaching the defensive line.

“You know what? You either can do it or you can’t. I was telling my wife when I got here on Monday, ‘I feel like I got life back in me now.’ I’m recruiting, calling coaches and dealing with that. Recruiting is something that you either like it or you don’t. I always followed recruiting. In the NFL, Saturdays are basically a free day, so I always watched games and I’d get on the Internet and study who the top guys are. I still paid attention to it. Those guys thought I was crazy, but that was me,” he explained.

“The one thing about pro football is there’s no recruiting involved. A lot of guys in college football are just recruiters. They may not be able to coach but they can recruit, so they just hang around. In pro football, you can either coach football or you can’t coach football. I feel like I’ve been successful enough to coach pro football and stay in pro football, and I’ve had great success at the college level. I feel like as a coach, I can do both, recruit and coach players.”

Shannon says the Gators are focused on players who (a) want to graduate and (b) play football. Defensive backs coach Kirk Callahan shared that sentiment. “We want to bring in the right kids is the whole plan,” he said. “We’ll do the right thing in terms of recruiting and getting players to fit the system we want.”

Callahan, who previously coached and recruited for UCF, said he is excited to be on the trail with a Florida tag on his chest because “that Gator logo does mean a lot” and gives coaches a “chance to get anybody you like.”

The son of Seffner Armwood High School head coach Sean Callahan, he will likely be tasked with recruiting the Tampa area, though coaches have not yet discussed their specific assignments at this time. “We do need to take back the state in terms of the best players in the country are here in Florida, right in our back yard,” he said. “That’s part of the reason why I’m here, obviously to do that and go recruit with the connections and the resources down there that we have. We’re going to use them and get them up here to the Gators.”

Running backs coach Tim Skipper also believes the Florida brand, coupled with the passion of its new coaching staff, will make the Gators an easy sell over the next three weeks.

“The school sells itself – the community, everybody here, the tradition – it really does. That orange and blue, it means something. They see that Gator, that phone is going to get answered,” Skipper said.

“It’s been awesome. It’s been like a heat wave since we’ve got the staff together, and trying to get recruits. When I talk to a running back, there’s not many in the room. There’s a chance to come in and play pretty soon at a big-time university where they’ve had great ones like Emmitt Smith carry that ball. … We’re using that, playing to that and just the newness of the staff and the diversity of the staff and everything we have going, I think it’s an exciting time to be a Florida Gator.”

Florida is not without needs. The Gators are severely thin at offensive line, still need a quarterback in the class of 2015, have slots to fill at running back and could absolutely use some players in the defensive front seven.

There are not just open scholarships at Florida but opportunities to play right away, something offensive line coach Mike Summers believes will give the Gators an edge.

“We’re going to need some players ready to come in and be able to play. Wherever there are concerns, there’s also opportunities,” he said.

And for those that may hold up Florida’s facilities as a negative, Shannon believes that is quite overstated. Not only are the Gators’ facilities better than advertised, UF is on its way to building an indoor practice facility and there are likely plenty of other improvements in the works.

Either way, the Gators have plenty else to sell, Shannon said, which could make Florida a destination for uncommitted prospects – or commitments looking to flip – over the next three weeks.

“There is a lot to show the players,” he said. ” You know, Oregon has the uniforms; they got a unique situation [with Nike]. That’s Oregon, they got uniforms, it’s a selling point. Well, the thing that you look at with Florida, the selling point is our staff, people got to understand that.

“Young men, if you look at our staff, you have coaches that have coached NFL, have coached great quarterbacks, have coached great running backs, coached great linebackers, defensive backs. Our staff has done it all. When you put a bunch of guys together who have coached great players, then it becomes a lot easier.”

Easy recruiting would be nice for a change for the Gators, especially considering how difficult the process has been up to this point. Even averaging a commitment every two days would not fill up Florida’s class of 2015.

There should be no doubt, however, that the Gators’ coaching staff is doing whatever it can to not just gain commitments but get the right prospects on board as McElwain hopes to change Florida’s fortunes with Feb. 4 approaching.


  1. 305Gator says:

    It all sounds good but just 3 weeks to go until NSD is not a lot of time, it will be a tall task to salvage the 2015 class. Next year we will have a better idea on just how good this staff really is.

    • Gatorgrad79 says:

      Adam, anything on recruiting? I noticed some teams were signing guys this weekend…getting very nervous. Also any news on a WR coach? What is the probability that the WR coach target is still coaching one of the 4 remaining NFL teams?

  2. Ken (CA) says:

    It’s a lot of positive spin, and I do believe they will finish strongly, but I am somewhat concerned about “selling the staff” The whole point prior has been “selling the university” as the staff can come and go anytime.

    The scary thing about it is we really won’t know how well they have done until NSD. Many of the guys they are after will not be announcing until NSD, so even though ESPN did an article on Byron Cowart for example having made his decision, if it is for us, it won’t necessarily help us in recruiting if he doesn’t say until NSD unless he tells all of his friends he is trying to get to come with him, in which case it will get out sooner rather than later because someone won’t keep the secret.

    • There’s no spin here.

      • Matt says:

        I don’t think there is ‘positive spin’ in the article, but rather the staff themselves which is what you need to do when coming into a situation where the recruiting class rank isn’t even on the radar. It is all talk and hopefully substance behind the words.

      • Ken (CA) says:

        I didn’t mean to imply you were doing spin, I meant that the new staff is. And there is nothing wrong with that, just need to parse what they say carefully and in the end, the results will be what ends up counting.

        • Ken (CA) says:

          and just to be clear, “parse what they say”, I again, don’t mean you, I mean we the readers need to be careful paying attention to what they say and how they say it

  3. Dave Massey says:

    Chomp, Chomp, Chomp, go get em coaches. I think the key to success this year will be if they start getting some of the big name/star recruits to commit early. Then things could snowball. A lot of players are sitting out there with a wait and see attitude towards us.

    • Ken (CA) says:

      That’s the big problem I see. There are some big stars that definitely have us on the radar, but none of them are expected to announce before NSD, and if they don’t that won’t help recruiting much, like Cowart or Ivey.

  4. Dan says:

    Adam – with us being so thin on the lines do you think well get to the point of just filling up the class with bodies near the end or save some of those scholarships for next year?

  5. Michael J. says:

    I think any coach is fooling himself if he says his priority is to get players that want to graduate. Most of the top players now could care less about graduating. They actually see school as an impediment in the way of their real goal, playing in the NFL. It’s nice to pretend that the best players are student-athletes, but, in reality, it’s just the opposite. Many are athlete-students. How many of the players leaving early for the NFL, from all the schools this year, have their degrees? It’s gotten to the point that they don’t even pretend that they’re interested in getting a degree. How many kids now, when they announce their choice of a school, proclaim that they are “taking their talent for the next three years” to some school? How many actually intend to graduate in three years? If you want a winning program, then your first priority is not wanting kids who’s main goal is to graduate. It’s politically correct, but is not reality.

    • Ken (CA) says:

      That may be true for a fan of a school who is the 15th worst in the country at GSR with a 65% graduation rate vs. a school like Florida that has a GSR of 83%, but we at Florida pride ourselves on trying to prepare the players for life after football.

      “The Gators’ overall athletic Graduation Success Rate checked in at 83 percent, above the Division I national average of 82 percent”

      • Ken (CA) says:

        And before you point out “Yea, but you ran that coach out of town”, Colorado State had a GSR of 79%

    • MAR says:

      FSU’s academic standards pale in comparison to UF’s. UF needs to recruit kids who at least show an interest in applying themselves at school or else they don’t stand a chance. FSU can take anybody with no risk of future academic ineligibility. It’s these standards, among many others, that has UF as one of the top academic institutions in the south. What makes it more impressive is the fact that Florida can maintain these standards and still have one of, if not THE best athletic departments in the country. An FSU troll coming on here and talking about graduation, recruiting with academic backgrounds in mind, or anything related to academics is comical. Keep it coming MJ, for sheer ignorance can sometimes be entertaining.

      • Ken (CA) says:

        I would only correct you on one thing. UF is not one of the best academic institutions in the south it is one of the top institutions in the country, especially among public universities. While it is true, Academic standards are relaxed for athletes, they still have higher standards to meet than FSU requires and the UF APR and GSR are significantly higher. There is a reason why UF is one of 3 SEC institutions in the AAU, and FSU doesn’t even come close to being eligible.

      • Daniel M. says:

        Now that was a proper undressing of a ‘hole troll.

        • Sgt. Friday says:

          Once gain, people are posting nonsense. There’s not one of FSU’s recruits that would not be welcomed with open arms at UF. What you are spewing is nonsense. Schools recruit the same players, if you haven’t noticed, and UF is not Vandy, Duke, or Stanford. It’s one thing to be a fan, but it’s something else to say something that is gibberish. I’m sure that some of you will say that UF is struggling this year because of “academic standards”, Who are you trying to convince? Yourselves? When you’re a mediocre program, like UF is at the present time, fantasy runs rampant.Attacking the academic qualifications of someone like Jalen Merrick, who said no to UF, is childish. Grow up!

          • Ken (CA) says:

            You truly are a loon and not a fan at all, and have no clue whatsoever. UF is a member of the AAU, one of only 2 SEC schools that was until Mizzou joined, now one of 3. UF is rated in the top 55 universities in the country, public or private, you take out the private, it is in the top 20.

            You truly are an embarrassment SF and not a fan at all, you sound like the gnoll troll. No facts, just let us put down the Gators. you really should get a life. You realize that our current starting QB was originally committed to FSU? or that the staff is trying very hard to get another one this year? Nope, we don’t have the same academic standards of a duke or a notre dame for entry, but we do for continuing progress once in. All you have to do is look at the APR or graduation rate I mentioned in a previous post.

            It is really a shame that you try to promote a dialogue of how average UF is when it is far more than that in so many ways. Shame on you for promoting that. Shame on anyone here who actually believes you.

            • Michael J. says:

              It seems, once again, you ignore the facts. Nothing you said refutes the fact that FSU and UF recruit the same players, and one can’t ignore that fact. Both schools take players, that if only judged on academics, would probably not be admitted to either school. A player who is in the news, and not in a good way, is Gerald Willis. He wasn’t offered by Duke, Vandy, or Stanford, or Notre Dame. Schools like UF, FSU, LSU, and many others did want him, and it had zero academic reasons.

  6. Rob says:

    M.J. I don’t have the time to check but do you actually ever post on a FSU site? I was at UF when Emmitt returned to finish his degree. Top rated 2011 QB Driskel does not have to sit out a year when transferring because he “graduated.” A degree from some schools carry more weight in the business world so I somewhat understand your conclusion. It is important for the parents of many of these Student-athletes that they finish what they started in school.

    • Ken (CA) says:

      Lol, I was student and had a couple of classes with Emmitt and one with Dwayne Schincis. They were both bright guys, no stolen crab legs between them!

      My sister went to FSU for a couple of years and got degree there after 2 years at UCF, and there is a reason why she was making half as much as me with similar degrees, and it isn’t gender related. As well as why I make well over 6 figures now and she doesn’t.

      There is also a reason why we have 1-2 graduate student xfers almost every year with the no-sit out rule, because our degrees actually mean something.

      I find it quite funny that the troll refuses to answer the 1 question I keep asking – What year did he graduate from FSU and was he even ever a student there?

      Seems like someone with no life, like to climb on bandwagon on team currently doing well, and a couple of bad years in FSU, he will suddenly pronounce he has been a Florida fan for life and that is why he has posted here so much!

    • Ken (CA) says:

      Sometimes I even wonder if he even knows the history of FSU and that it was just an all-girls school until the 50s and it is only in recent years that it petitioned the legislature (conveniently located in Tallahassee) to consider them a co-flagship university for the state. UF has been the flagship university for Florida for what, almost 100 years? I don’t know exact year it was designated to be THE University of Florida, not just another state-supported university

      • Sgt. Friday says:

        “The lady doth protest too much.” It sounds like you have FSU envy, since you can’t help talking about them, for absolutely no reason. Calm down, FSU is UF’s daddy right now, but that can change quickly if Foley made the right hire this time. Until then, your paranoia about FSU is embarrassing.

        • Ken (CA) says:

          yep, you got it, I am so envious of a brief moment in FSU history that they are good, that I can’t take it! What a joke. should I give away my seats that we took away with us from Doak cambell stadium when we were all there in the rain and we won 77-14 or so? woo hoo! FSU is the god of football! Will never understand how I missed that, I guess.

          • Sgt. Friday says:

            I deal in facts. It’s been a long time since UF was dominant over FSU. Those days are over. I’ll be happy to be even with them. The fact is that FSU has a winning record over UF since 1976, when a guy named Bowden was hired. His goal when he was hired was to be even with UF, I think that’s a reasonable goal for UF now. Crowing about dominating forty years ago is pathetic and sad.

            • Dave Massey says:

              Hey Girl Friday, oh twister of facts. Florida is 7-4 over the last eleven years against your girl school and would have been 8-4 over the last twelve years if if hadn’t been for one of the worst officiated games in the history of the NCAA thanks to a biased ACC ref crew. So what is your version of a long time? You seem to be crowing about events more than eleven years old, ancient history as you say.

              Amazing how you chose 1976 which was the last year of Florida’s run of nine straight over your s&*@holes. By the way, Bowden didn’t have a winning record against Florida either, he was even with us.

              If Muschamp wasn’t so incompetent we wouldn’t even be having this conversation. half ass u barely squeaked by this year so it isn’t like they are dominating. We’ll see how your girl school does going forward.

              half ass u would have to win eleven years in a row to get even with Florida. By my standards that means Florida has dominated the overall series.

              By the way, how did you girls like that butt hurting you got for the national championship in the Sugar Bowl?

              This is a Gators site so don’t be surprised not to find any love for half ass u here. So why don’t you and your b-buddy michael j go play on your girlie gnoll sites. You two can be BGFF there.

              • Michael J. says:

                He just stated a fact. It’s been over forty years since UF was dominant over FSU. If you want to deal in facts, not “ifs,” the first six games were played in Gainesville, There is photographic evidence of a game stolen by UF in 1966 by bad officiating, not supposition like your claim, when UF allowed a touchdown pass at the end of the game. UF started off 16-2-1 against FSU. That’s not hard to understand since FSU was a girl’s school until 1947 and the legislature had to force UF to play FSU. The fact is that FSU, in a much shorter time, has the same number, or more, accolades in football as UF. Both have the same number of national championships and Heisman Trophy winners. I expect both schools to have parity with each other for a long time, with intermittent swings in favor of both schools. Those are the facts, not a fantasy like the one in your mind. If McElwain is the right hire, I expect UF to be back on par with FSU. If not, UF will become Tennessee after they fired Fulmer. We’ll know the answer within the next five years.

            • OrangeAndBlueVictorious says:

              You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

              Because the FACT is:

              Since 1980, the longest winning streak between UF and FSU has been 6 games. It has happened twice. From 1981 – 1986 and 2004 – 2009. Both by FLORIDA. F-L-O-R-I-D-A. (I know reading comprehension is poor for you folks. Hoping that spelling is more in line with your intellect).

              In the past 35 years, FSU’s longest streak over UF has been 4 games. Since 2000, FSU hasn’t won more than 2 straight. Your current streak is at 2. You’re not dominant now. You never have been.

              Learn math, morons.

  7. Brandon says:

    We really need Byron cowart . I had a chance to watch him play down in seffner his junior year , guy is a beast . With his strength , passion , and commitment to the game of football , no other recruit comes close to him . I really hope he comes to Florida , cause if he’s on the other teams sidelines when it comes game time , I’m going to be nervous on the outcome of the game . Byron come to Florida .

    • Ken (CA) says:

      ESPN is predicting he will head to Auburn at this point, but knowing what he can do for UF and the fact he doesn’t want to just be part of a program, but wants to build it, and knowing he will be making a difference from day 1, which is something he commented about during the UA practices, I am hoping he will come to UF with great passion, even if his HS coach’s son weren’t hired, I still think UF is his passion. He has been trying to get folks to go where he wants to go quietly for the past month, not go where they are committed. The really interesting question is will he go to UF where it sounds like he really wants to go (and who will he bring with him if he does), or will he cave to peer pressure and go to Auburn where so many have been talking about.

      This is a very impressive staff that has been built, and this will be a very early indicator. If they manage to got Cowart, Ivey, Holland (who was solid UF, but they are saying now is leaning elsewhere) and a few others on NSD, what a coup that would be, and what a great start that would be to restoring the prominence of the program.

      If it isn’t all hype and the few things leaking out since they can’t talk about recruits or commits specifically until after NSD, it has sounded like they have a number of commits that haven’t announced publicly yet, and t his could be huge for UF even in the short time frame. If they get almost no one, this could be a huge black eye on recruiting ability of this staff. The next 3 weeks will be very telling.

      • 305Gator says:

        Disagree that if we “don’t get anyone” it will be a black eye for this staff. This staff has only been around for a few weeks and we only have a few more to go before NSD. Whatever bad happens this year recruiting wise it is all thanks to Muschamp. He is the one who only had about 10 guys commited. He is the one who lost the top 2 commits well before he was fired just because he kept losing. Only 2 kids decommited after he was fired. Thanks to Muschamp and his losing ways that we are where we are today. However anything good that happens in the rest of this recruiting cycle will be thanks to Big Mac and the new staff.

        • Ken (CA) says:

          That’s fair, and what I said wasn’t worded well. I am not expecting every uncommitted prospect to suddenly show up and come to UF (although that would be great!), but just based on who they have and the relationships they have, I am expecting them to come up with a few big surprises though. I would be very disappointed if we end up with 12 or so total and no 4 or 5 stars, but I think there are a couple we can be pretty confident about, however you never know until they actually sign

  8. Michael Jones says:

    The dynamic personalities of these coaches jumps off the page, and it’s the coaches that these kids will be playing for, along with the brand, that succeeds in recruiting. It’s a striking contrast from the former regime. We will do well, I am confident of it, not just with doing as much as possible in a short amount of time with this class, but also with future classes.

    I hope that we load up with offensive and defensive lineman. Not just this year, but in every class. That’s where the championship teams are strong. Ohio State had chubby, out-of-shape Oregon so outmanned on the line of scrimmage that it was embarrassing. And you can’t just have a good first string, you have to have a good second string, third string, etc., because you have to keep those hosses fresh for 4 quarters. Coach Mac and his boys will get it done. I’m confident.

    It’s going to be fun to be a Florida Gators football fan again.

  9. Fernzpat says:

    Sigh. I remember the not-so-long-ago days when we would not get excited by a 4* commit.

    • Ken (CA) says:

      lol, while 4* commits were happening more often, always got excited about them, almost never got the 5 star, top of the charts folks but the 4 stars have been huge like dante fowler. in the top 50 or so only about 10-15 are 5 star in the best years. getting multiple 5 star is rare at best, always excited when get big difference makers!

  10. Michael J. says:

    The recruiting weekend is over, and it appears UF will not get a single pledge. It may be time to start panicking if UF can’t even get a Kentucky commit to flip. Only two more weekends to go to get around twenty additional players.

    • I have been approving all of your comments because while it is blatantly obvious your point here is either to goad people into arguments, be a contrarian or troll Florida fans, sometimes you do make good points.

      But posts like this, which are being made simply to piss off my readers, I’m just not going to allow anymore. I get way too many complaints, and it’s now become a pain for me. This is why we do not have forums but rather a comments section.

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