The moment that Jim McElwain was named the head coach the Gators were down to a paltry nine commitments. Before midnight the same day, they were down to seven.
Four-star quarterback Sheriron Jones and three-star offensive tackle George Brown both de-committed from Florida on Saturday and are just a simple microcosm of what McElwain and his staff are going to be up against.
A lot of coaches will tell you that recruiting is all about relationships and there is a lot of truth to that. The recruiting of most high level college prospects takes place now from really their sophomore season on. During that time, coaches become a part of those prospect’s lives.
This is where McElwain is behind and quite a bit.
McElwain has been at Colorado State for the last three years. He did have eight players on the current roster at CSU from The Sunshine State, but to say he has been a regular in Florida would be misleading at minimum. His main recruiting area when he spent the previous four years at Alabama was here in Florida, so that should help. He talked Saturday about getting reacquainted with the high school coaches and that will help, but time is of the essence.
To be fair, Jones was committed all the way from California and Brown is from Cincinnati, Ohio. The distance is almost always a factor in recruiting and holding on to prospects from that far away isn’t easy even when things are somewhat normal. Compound the distance with what is going on at Florida right now and things aren’t getting easier.
McElwain is going to have to get a staff named pretty quickly, at least enough of a staff that they can start recruiting this class and making a difference. Jeremy Foley moved fast to hire McElwain on December 4, and there is no doubt a big reason for moving swiftly was for the recruiting aspect, now it is time to see how McElwain reacts and gets the bulk of his staff together.
It shouldn’t be alarming about defections, even right when the new guy is hired. Some of the more loosely committed prospects were likely hanging on just to see who would be the next coach. McElwain isn’t exactly the flashiest name that could have gotten the job and other schools are going to plant that seed of “who is this guy?” in their heads quickly.
There is also the thought that maybe McElwain and the staff might not be interested in keeping all of the current prospects. A different man in charge is going to like different things.
The bottom line is we need to remember that this is somewhat par for the course when you have a coaching transition and until the coach gets the right guys in to recruit to what he wants, it will get worse before it gets better.