The University of Florida has made it a point to recruit South Florida, most notably Dade and Broward Counties. There has been moderate success for the Gators over time, but since the addition of Randy Shannon, the search for Broward-Dade talent has created quite the pipeline to Florida.
That continued again this year and the focus on the area amounted to a landslide of prospects from maybe the biggest hotbed of talent in the entire country.
The Gators signed 10 prospects from Broward-Dade on Wednesday, likely the most of any pledge class on record. In doing so, they signed 9 of the top 16 prospects in an area that Miami has been the biggest beneficiary of the homegrown talent for years.
Quarterback Jake Allen, tight end Kemore Gamble offensive tackle Kadeem Telfort, defensive tackle Tedarrell Slaton, linebacker James Houston, safety Shawn Davis, cornerback Marco Wilson, cornerback Brian Edwards, and cornerback Christopher Henderson comprise the list of nine. The Gators also added underrated linebacker Lacedrick Brunson at a position of real need.
Florida head coach Jim McElwain pointed to Coach Shannon and recruiting assistant John Herron as a large part of the success in the area. The two have more in-roads than Florida has ever had down south and did their thing this recruiting cycle.
“Well, from the time we were able to hire Randy he's been a right hand guy of mine… comes with unbelievable credibility from that area as well,” McElwain said of the man who played high school ball in Miami, played and coached at the University of Miami, and also had a stint on the Miami Dolphins of the NFL as an assistant. “We've had some other guys down there helping. But his name, recognition, more so how he is also a part of wanting to make sure that he affects young men's lives in a positive way. He knows he can be trusted.”
The bounty of big time prospects from Dade-Broward didn’t come without a lot of work. There were many sleepless nights put in and it is routinely an area where the recruiting can get a little rough around the edges.
Things almost headed in a different direction than the finish we saw on Wednesday. A couple of weeks ago, the Gators were faced with the problem of losing a couple of their primary prospects from the area to the hometown team Hurricanes.
Henderson and Edwards were the two main targets. Fresh off on official visit with the Gators, Henderson was feeling Florida and everybody on both sides knew it. He got back home from his visit and the Hurricanes quickly pounced.
The one time Hurricane commitment found himself torn between the two and those following the recruitment closely, kept hearing the whispers that he had turned to the Hurricanes and just a day or two after his official visit to Florida.
While this was going on, a group of Twitter posts made its way around the Internet. The posts were seemingly made form a local high school coach and blasting a ‘Florida recruiter’ and saying that the particular recruiter would not be allowed on his campus again. Here is the first tweet of man from an account that has since disappeared from Twitter.
I banned a certain recruiter from UF from my school. Nope, u not welcomed here!
— A.B. Ward (@Coach_AWard) January 16, 2017
It didn’t take long for a Georgia Bulldog site to take the story that was floating around about the tweets above and broadcast ‘what he was hearing’ about the situation.
Call me a conspiracy theorist if you will, but it seems awful convenient that the head coach at Miami happened to coach at the University of Georgia last year and that a Georgia site happened to run with the story that ended up not being true via Twitter.
As it turns out, the fake high school coach tweet, actually originated on the campus at the University of Miami.
This stuff is getting good.
Well, as negative recruiting goes, the Miami Hurricane staff jumped on an opportunity. Having had to go toe-to-toe with Florida and losing a bunch of battles in their own back yard so far this recruiting cycle, they turned to these little hearsay tweets and began selling the prospects they were competing with Florida on that the Gators were going to be in trouble because of NCAA violations.
A couple of days later, the lid was blown off of the farce that was the tweets, and all of the gibberish spewed by the recruiters came back to bite them in the butt.
“I always get a kick out of that,” Florida head coach Jim McElwain said about the big time negative recruiting that happened in this situation. “It's something we will never do. It's something that we just don't believe in. Here is the interesting stuff. Some of that catches fire and then all of a sudden the truth comes out. Who looks like the idiot? The guy who reported it, right?”
He sees it all the time and knows it is something that will happen more often than not when programs compete with Florida.
“That's okay,” he said. That's all part of it.”
“The one thing is, when you're at a place like the University of Florida, you're a target because everybody knows the ability and what can happen as this thing keeps growing.
“We'll take a lot of targets. We'll take some of that stuff, and yet our coaches won't do that. We're not going to stoop to that level because that's not the level that is the Florida Gators. It's that simple.
Henderson was turned off by the antics, or so has been said. There were several Gator commitments that were targeted by the vicious false rumors and all to no avail.
“It is what it is today,” McElwain said. “The ability to put anything you want out there, really nameless, and not be responsible for it, that happens. We got a good laugh out of it, too, when it was getting hit. The guys who that they were trying to sway, obviously jumped back onboard so...”
And so of the top 16 players in the Dade-Broward area in the state of Florida 9 signed with Florida, Miami signed 4. That is within 45 minutes or less of their campus and 5 or more hours of Gainesville.
McElwain says they didn’t negative recruit to make that happen. He may be right or maybe not. I don’t know, but I assure you they weren’t feeding these prospects with lies they found on Twitter to get them on board. And whatever they did, it worked.