With the city center being some 75 miles away from the University of Florida campus and talent on hand in the area, it only makes sense that Duval County is a place that Florida regularly recruits for talent.
“We have 15-17 players from this area and for us this being so close and a major area, the high school football (is just) so good,” McElwain told a throng of reporters waiting for him before he spoke to the Club. “We are starting three starters on the offense from this area.”
Two starting offensive linemen, junior tackle David Sharpe and sophomore guard Tyler Jordan are from Jacksonville schools. Both are entrenched up front. Redshirt sophomore tackle Kavaris Harkless also hails from the area.
“Tyler played a big role for us as a true freshman a year ago,” McElwain said. “Seeing how he learned to communicate and play with some confidence (was great), especially with a freshman next to him in Fred Johnson.
“David Sharpe has really stepped up his leadership and his day-to-day practices are something that has helped the whole team. He’s a guy that is a true leader on the team and that’s good to see.”
“We really wanted to see him being aggressive with the ball in the air,” McElwain said of Fulwood. “It’s something he really took to heart and really did (this spring). In two of the scrimmages he had huge plays for us. He showed his speed and breakaway speed that he had and his ability to go get it in mid-flight.
“More than that, what he’s done in that receiver room in accepting the leadership role as an older guy… seeing how he has affected some of those younger guys… he’s really been a good mentor for them.”
The Gators will add two more receivers in June that will have major ties to Jacksonville. Raines star Rick Wells and Houston, Texas all-star Tyrie Cleveland join the fold in mid-summer. Cleveland spent most of his growing days in Jacksonville and knows Wells very well from his early years. McElwain can’t wait to see what they add to the mix.
“I’m excited about both of them,” McElwain said. “Rick was our first commit to that class. It means so much to us that he committed to us and what our vision was and saw it happen. That’s great.
“Obviously bringing one of ours home from Texas. Those two guys were buddies from growing up. To see that camaraderie just pick up when they visited on the same visit weekend (was great).”
McElwain made a point to say that these two are prototype guys for what they are looking for.
“Those are two size guys, guys that have the physical size, speed, and ability to play the position in the SEC,” he said. “That’s what we’re looking for.”
Although McElwain wasn’t asked about the defensive side of the ball, the Gators have quite a few players on that side that will contribute as well.
Sophomore defensive lineman CeCe Jefferson, senior linebacker Daniel McMillian, and junior safety Nick Washington will all play prominent roles if not start for Florida on the defensive side of the ball.
There is no doubt the area has been kind to Florida.