So the Florida Gators can recruit again, huh?

By Adam Silverstein
August 7, 2017
So the Florida Gators can recruit again, huh?

Image Credit: ESPN Images

Don’t call it a comeback. Actually, you probably should.

After two years of questions and constant (somewhat understandable), the Florida Gators are once again recruiting like well, the Florida Gators.

Florida was seemingly in a bad way entering the final week ahead of 2017 National Signing Dayuntil head coach Jim McElwain clapped back against his haters with one of the strongest closes for a Gators class in recent memory.

Eight days after losing one of their top commits, missing out on another potential signee and plummeting to No. 31 in the 247Sports Composite team rankings, Florida rebounded in a major way. The Gators pressed late, acquired a few lower-tier prospects to gain momentum, overcame negative recruiting and flat-out lies to pick up a couple massive commitments, relentlessly went after their top remaining targets and took a couple legitimate risks. The result was moving up 21 spots and finishing with the 10th ranked class nationally.

Florida chose not to wait so long to get moving this time around. Faced in mid-July with the No. 61 class in the nation after seeing one of its few four-star prospects decommit, the Gators have made an astounding jump over the last few weeks.

Over the last 20 days, dating back to July 18, Florida has picked up 13 commitments including 10 new members of its Class of 2018 and three additions to its No. 1-ranked Class of 2019.

In that time frame, the Gators have six of their top seven verbal pledges for 2018, including five-star quarterback Matt Corral (Long Beach, CA), four-star wide receivers Jacob Copeland (Pensacola, FL) and JaMarr Chase (Metairle, LA), four-star running back Dameon Pierce (Bainbridge, GA), four-star offensive lineman Curtis Dunlap and four-star tight end Kyle Pitts (Warminster, PA).

Yes, those are all additions on offense, which while exciting for fans leaves open some legitimate criticism for a lack of concentration on the defensive side of the ball. Of course, with the way Florida is built out on offense in the Class of 2018, it could spend between now and National Signing Day not needing to recruit another offensive player and only gaining defensive pledges.

Those seven commitments played the biggest role in pushing the Gators’ 2018 class 54 spots to No. 7 in the nation and No. 2 in the SEC, while the three 2019 additions did little to affect those rankings — not that they needed to.

So how did this all go down? What is in Florida’s secret sauce? It obviously starts with recent coaching additions in JaJuan Seider (running backs), Brad Davis (offensive line) and Corey Bell (defensive backs), all of whom were added due in large part to their recruiting prowess.

McElwain is thrilled with the job those coaches have done but thinks there’s a lot more to it than just a change of personnel.

“This whole deal is about relationships. There weren’t a lot of people that knew much about us [when I was hired], and I think what’s come to fruition is the honesty in which we talk to them and we tell them,” he explained. “Our current players relay that to them, that what they’re saying is true. It’s not made up. And when you get here, it’s different. And I think that’s made a huge difference. I think the high school coaches, they know this is who I am and this is what I’m all about, and the way we treat our players I think is something that’s a real positive.

“Obviously, we’ve got guys that are really working at it, and yet, we always have. But it takes some time to develop that. I think the support of our administration has been great and the things that are about to happen in the future, and that’s something that’s very positive. I think right now there’s just that general vibe and [recruits] understanding that when they become a Gator, coach is going to take care of you. And even when you’re [done at Florida], coach is going to take care of you. And I think that’s something that’s really important.”

Considered the Gators’ key recruiter, defensive coordinator Randy Shannon also took time this week to share his philosophy on pitching prospects that Florida is the best spot for them.

“When we go out recruiting, we try to tell everybody, and I tell parents this in the home. When we come out to recruit a young man … we’re telling them that we’re bringing them in to take somebody’s position,” he said. “Now, vice versa, once you get here, we’re going to bring somebody else to take your position. So it’s the competition factor comes about.”

With the dead period having begun and the 2017 season about to commence, things should slow down for the Gators and the rest of the nation when it comes to recruiting. Another season of progress on the field should keep Florida’s momentum going all the way to the first Wednesday in February.


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