New Florida coach Jim McElwain only made it one minute into his National Signing Day press conference before changing the subject. He stopped talking about the players the Gators signed, the high schools they were able to build relationships with or the talks about Florida’s momentum gained down the stretch.
McElwain wanted to thank the players that bought into what he and his staff were teaching. He saw it during the three official visit weekends before players signed their paperwork to officially play at Florida. Despite all of the turmoil surrounding the program in recent months, the current players were positive with recruits and raved about their early impressions of the new staff.
“I can’t go any further without mentioning how our team really embraced this recruiting season,” McElwain said. “These guys really were positive in everything that they did and that shows great things about the character of the guys we have in our program and the character of guys we’re looking to bring out.”
Multiple players took to social media to talk with recruits and encourage them to sign with Florida. Offensive linemen mentioned the available playing time at the position next year, running backs begged for linemen to come block for them and defensive linemen made pleas for Byron Cowart and CeCe Jefferson to join them in Gainesville next season.
There were 2015 commitments that helped, too.
Tyler Jordan was committed to Florida since the spring and was involved in recruiting multiple players. He took his official visit to Florida in January and came to Gainesville during the other two visit weekends to help with the uncommitted prospects on campus.
Tight end Daniel Imatorbhebhe enrolled early and took over recruiting multiple players, especially those from his home state of Georgia. Imatorbhebhe was heavily involved in Florida signing offensive lineman Nick Buchanan, cornerback Chris Williamson and defensive lineman Jabari Zuniga. McElwain also complemented what freshmen receiver Kalif Jackson, another early enrollee, was able to do in helping the staff.
"Those guys were fantastic,” McElwain said. “They jumped right in. Tyler in particular, he was real positive on his visit that he made up here. He did a good job staying in touch with these guys in this class. That's what it's really all about. They were recruiting teammates."
Jordan will be an interior lineman for the Gators, and the Florida coaches are optimistic about him.
"He can bend, and he's got great feet and snap,” McElwain said. “He's also a guy that's highly intelligent and football IQ. His days are bright, bright looking forward."