Recruiting is a lot about relationships and fortunately for Florida and its new head football coach Jim McElwain, he has several relationships already in the Florida ranks and plans on renewing them and making a bunch more as he gets out on the recruiting trail early Monday.
“I recruited Florida when I was at the University of Louisville, when I was at Michigan State, recruited Florida obviously for the University of Alabama,” McElwain said at his introductory press conference Saturday morning. “What I'm excited about most of anything is rekindling the relationships.
“In fact, one of my good friends, former coach, Bradenton Southeast, Coach Maechtle, that goes way back when I first got into this state. Being able to go do that, seeing those guys, I'm excited.
“I'm going to hit the road on Monday morning. I'll be back… when it becomes dead again, which is the following week. Probably what I'm most excited about is rekindling the relationships, getting back involved with the players that we had an effect on their lives. That's really what it's all about.
We'll hit the road next week, get to as many places as humanly possible from the recruiting standpoint because it's one of those things recruit daily or die now. We've got to make sure we secure a great class.
McElwain talked a lot on Saturday about the ability to be versatile with his offense. At Alabama he had running backs that won Heisman Trophies and three All-Americans in the four years. His offenses were more run heavy, but also had stars like Julio Jones that he got the ball too.
What he has been able to do with running backs has been very impressive.
“I think one of the things they're going to be able to look at is say, ‘This guy has had some guys’. We'll fit the system to whatever their traits are.
Alabama runners Eddie Lacy, Trent Richardson, and Mark Ingram all brought different traits to the field and he was able to utilize and maximize those traits. At Colorado State and in 2013, McElwain had a one year wonder in sophomore Kapri Bibbs who left immediately after the season for the NFL. Bibbs rushed for 1,741 yards (6th nationally) and an NCAA best 31 touchdowns in 2013. This year Alabama transfer Dee Hart transferred to Colorado State and has already rushed for 1,254 yards and 15 touchdowns to go along with 1,640 yard receiver Rashard Higgins.
“We were different obviously with Eddie than we were Trent than we were Mark, right?,” McElwain said. “I just left a place where last year the running back led the country I think in touchdowns, Kapri did… not bad, then replaced him this year with a guy obviously in Dee that took off.”
McElwain will make sure to point that out to the running back prospects he recruits.
“I think if there's a running back out there, they might want to take a look,” he said.
Florida currently has nine commitments and it has been tough to keep guys in the fold. The Gators have lost several guys in the class, but McElwain has had a chance to see the commitments and a few others on film already. Through the miracles of technology he was on this before ever arriving in Gainesville Friday but was up late Friday night looking even more and getting with the recruiting staff about the prospects.
There are some great commitments right now,” McElwain said. “There are guys waiting to see what's going to happen, what's going on.
“We've already met on recruiting. We had an extensive meeting late last night. If I look a little tired, there might be a reason, okay?”
Florida offensive line commitment Tyler Jordan of Jacksonville Bishop Kenny is one of the prized prospects on the commitment list. The Under-Armour All0-American watched the McElwaine press conference and likes what he knows already about the new Florida coach.
“I love Coach McElwain,” Jordan said Saturday afternoon. “He’s a great guy who I believe knows what he is doing. I’m very confident in his plan.”
And McElwain knows what he will tell the prospects that might not already be sold on the Gator program and its new leader.
“Number one, you got an opportunity to win a national championship,” McElwain started about the spiel he will give prospective recruits. “But first and foremost, it's about what that is going to do for the rest of your life, what being a Gator is, then adjusting to that and understanding, look, we're here to make sure that your experience is going to do nothing but set you apart for the rest of your life. That's what it is to be a Gator.”