Recruiting a huge priority for Florida’s McElwain

By Adam Silverstein
December 24, 2014

It is no secret that the Florida Gators have been out-recruited by in-state rival Florida State over the last few seasons. And as the end of the 2015 cycle approaches, it is obvious that the Gators have been out-recruited by the majority of teams in college football over the last year, a tide that new Florida head coach Jim McElwain was looking to turn before he even held his introductory press conference.

Due to a lack of overall success on the field, an inability to produce offensively and season-long instability at head coach, the Gators currently stand with just eight commitments for 2015, all of whom are three-star prospects and only half of which are from the state of Florida, one of the top recruiting hotbeds in the country.

That is where McElwain plans to begin his journey to turn the Gators into a recruiting powerhouse once again, perhaps as soon as National Signing Day in February.

“When you look from a historical standpoint, when Florida was really rolling, they controlled and had the majority of really good players out of [its home state]. First and foremost, we have to get back in and make sure we get the best out of that area as we build our team,” he told Tampa Bay’s WDAE 620 AM on Monday. “Obviously I’m a firm believer: we are the University of Florida, and it is Florida first – and then the rest of it is second. We’ve had to go back in, we’re reevaluating guys as we speak, making sure that we get the right fit, first and foremost with players from the state of Florida.”

Florida’s recruiting class has been a work in progress all season but only dropped to its current level once the Gators’ losses piled up and Will Muschamp was fired; Florida saw its top four commitments – all four-star prospects – withdraw their verbal pledges.

Now the Gators are looking to salvage a class that still has nearly 20 scholarships available. McElwain is seemingly taking a page out of the recruiting handbook of FSU’s Jimbo Fisher, who a few years ago pitched the Seminoles as a once-incredibly successful program turning over a new leaf following Bobby Bowden’s retirement.

With the failed Muschamp tenure now in the past, McElwain hopes to show recruits that things have changed at Florida with things looking up for the state’s flagship program.

“At the end of every chapter, another chapter can be written. This is an opportunity for a lot of young men, in this recruiting class, to make a difference at the University of Florida,” he explained Tuesday on Orlando’s 720 The Game. “We’ve been out doing everything we could during contact period to, just more than anything, say, ‘Hey, give us an opportunity here. Give us a chance to build some relationships and then make a decision that fits you.’

“At the end of the day, there’s a lot of guys out there that would love to wear the blue and orange of the Florida Gators, and we’re obviously going to give them that opportunity and give them the opportunity to come in and kind of be that first class to get us back where we need to go and get the Gators back where the fans deserve them to be.”

With a non-contact period existing during the holiday season, McElwain is stuck in limbo and unable to meet with prospects again until the new year. Once the calendar turns, McElwain is prepared to “hit the ground running,” which should be easier now that he appears to have both his coordinators locked up.

But what exactly is McElwain looking for out on the recruiting trail?

Explosive talent that will fill holes and build roster depth.

“There’s some really good players out there that have taken a look at us since we’ve got on board and some guys who haven’t made their minds up yet,” he told the Tampa Bay station. “Obviously for us, creating roster balance is huge and really it all starts with explosive playmakers at each position. When you talk about that, that doesn’t mean it’s got to be a guy who has the ball in his hands all the time. It can be a guy who can change the game, whether that be on the offensive line, it doesn’t matter what position that is. Obviously we need to get our numbers back up at the offensive line position, and that’s something we’re really pounding on right now.”

McElwain has a lot to accomplish and little time to get it done with plenty of prospects enrolling early in January and National Signing Day set for February 4. Nevertheless, he remains confident that Gators fans will be happy when they see the incoming class Florida assembles in the next six weeks.

“We will do a great job of salvaging this recruiting class,” he told Jacksonville’s 1010 XL on Monday. “There’s some really good players out there that have given us notice and some that haven’t made up their minds yet. Those are the ones we’re going to go after. And then we’ve got to get a great start on the evaluations for the 2016 and 2017 classes. For us, that all starts with capturing the state of Florida as much as we can.”


  1. Marc says:

    This is so nit-picky and has no bearing on anything substantive but it’s “orange and blue” not “blue and orange”. Other than that, Coach Mac has me stoked for the future of Gator football.

    • He said a similar thing in another interview and said “orange and blue,” but the quote was not as good.

    • Gatoralum88 says:

      I don’t think it’s “nit picky” at all. He needs to get it right. Recruits nowadays in this state certainly know it’s O&B. Martez Ivey grew up a Gator fan & I read Cece Jefferson’s dad has a Gator head tattoo so if Mac goes into those homes saying “Blue & Orange” they’ll think he’s a fool.

      • jeremiah118 says:

        I disagree, I’m a current student at UF and me and all my friends tend to say Blue & Orange almost exclusively, almost to the point where it is awkward to switch it to your way, But there’s nothing wrong with either way, we’re all gators!

        • Gatoralum88 says:

          Really?…(sigh)…yet another reason the believe the apocalypse is nearing…& more proof of George Bernard Shaw’s famous quote “Youth is wasted on the young”. So much for tradition. Go Gators! (or is that passe now also?)

        • 305Gator says:

          Yes we are all Gators Jeremiah. In that vein I urge you and your friends to get it right, it has always been, it will always be, and it is right now ORANGE and BLUE.
          Having said that I don’t think it matters to the recruits if Mac twists it around sometimes as long as he gets it right most of the time.
          Go Gators let’s all cheer for the Orange and Blue!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

        • Ken (CA) says:

          It’s kind of a sad state of affairs when it becomes “blue and orange” just like “me and my friends” backwards grammatically from a college student becomes the norm.

    • JLBOB says:

      Marc, I reacted the same way when I saw it.

    • Michael Jones says:

      Ha ha! That is so funny, guys, because I was thinking the exact same thing as I read the article.

      In all fairness, he’s still in a little bit of a honeymoon period. He’ll get all of that stuff right and straightened out. The guy is obviously extremely bright. You can tell just by listening to him or reading his quotes. He’ll get it figured out, and quickly.

      Go Gators!!! Orange and Blue, baby!!!

  2. Sjkoepp says:

    Hey Adam,

    Not sure if you would know this, but have you ever seen a situation like this going into the new year where there’s a pretty barren recruiting class but the coach fills it up? Or is it simply too little too late?

    • Ken (CA) says:

      not adam, but it has happened actually quite frequently…I wouldn’t be concerned about the class at all at this point

  3. Ken (CA) says:

    I would be shocked if Jefferson, Cowart and surprisingly Ivey who I thought was gonna go to Auburn don’t commit to UF. They all wanted to be here in the first place and it was other things that made them think otherwise. It is clear that Ivey has a huge opportunity at UF that he won’t have at Auburn early and I have been reading he is again leaning UF rather than Auburn. Of course our personal gnoll troll will refuse to admit anything that is positive UF, especially recruiting news that is positive because that will refute all of his believed glory of FSU having an awesome program (state sponsored, of course, they can’t even support themselves)

    I am a bit shocked about the OC he chose, but at this point, have no point to distrust, still in the honeymoon period and not a frigging Charley Weis appointment so have to give benefit of doubt to him. And contrary to the gnoll troll, there is a ton of buzz right now about Gator recruiting and I bet we end up with a top 10 class

    • Michael Jones says:

      +1, except for that I might like the Nussmeier hire a little bit more than you do. Otherwise, agree on all points.

    • KB says:

      I wonder if this is whom Mac had tabbed all along being the fact that he was on the market since early December. I guess if it was and Nuss accepted a position on staff then Mac has his own timeline on making announcements public. There is nothing to really dislike about the OC hire at this point as this new coach and staff brings a clean slate along with the hopes of breathing new life into the program and cultivating a winning culture. I hope you are right about Jefferson, Cowart, and Ivey but if they don’t choose UF I won’t be surprised. Mac has a lot of work to do in a small time window and it might be too much to expect to cultivate relationships and trust with kids he had not been recruiting before until now.
      Mac seems to be a coach with a plan with the intent to execute it. From an outside perspective in reading his quotes he seems adaptable to change what doesn’t work and not a rigid one way thinking coach. If that holds true then that bodes well for the program in every area in my opinion. Mac knows, as well as we all know, that UF needs to get back to getting their share of the elite difference making players in-state. It has been slanted in favor of that school in Tallahassee and some of those elite kids whom liked UF have left the state as well. He knows that needs to change and right now the fact that he acknowledges that publicly and is going to work his but off in changing that is like music to my ears. I hope he gets it rolling like you said with a top 10 class but even if he doesn’t I expect that he will. Whatever he gets in his first class it will be important to develop that talent and display a much improved consistent offense & special teams with very little defensive drop off. If he builds it they will come and UF will be back where they need to be which is right up there with the elite of elite programs at this time of year.

      • Ken (CA) says:

        “There’s some really good players out there that have given us notice”

        You can take that 2 ways, it may be his way of saying that some players are now looking at UF that haven’t before, but if you parse it with the rest of his state “and others who haven’t made up their minds yet”, it sounds very much like they already have some pocket commitments. I would bet they are those I have been mentioning as “probables” but since the staff isn’t allowed to talk about the specifics in recruiting, the kids are going to announce on the national stage such as the UA game.

  4. jbratc says:

    Look at it this way. With Nuss, coach Mac has an OC he is comfortable with unlike Muschamp going after big names that he wasn’t familiar with. Roper. Weis. Pease

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