For McElwain, recruiting the state of Florida is a huge deal. Jacksonville, just 75 miles away and with well over a million in population, is a place the Gators need to do well every year. Visiting to talk to the gator Club of Jacksonville is a pleasure. Of course the Gators play arch rival Georgia in Jacksonville every year as well.
"It's great to be here, and obviously Jacksonville means so much to the Gators, to our football program and obviously as we treat it as home every year, it's something that's, man, that's a great game and one that should be here and hopefully it stays here forever.
The Gators always recruit Jacksonville and this year a couple of headliners from the area will play prominent roles starting with senior safety Nick Washington.
"Nick is going to be a huge part of what we do, especially as a guy in that secondary with some of that youth that's going to be in there,” McElwain said. “He brings stability, he brings the communication skills and obviously he's a playmaker as well. He's a guy that has played a ton for us since we've been there,
Junior offensive lineman Tyler Jordan is as versatile as the gators have up front and has been playing a prominent role on offense for his first two years on campus.
“Tyler, who's been really a two-year starter for us and kind of got thrown in there,” McElwain said. “That year we recruited him I think we had four scholarship offensive linemen, and he definitely didn't back off. And we're looking for him obviously to continue to be part of what I think is our best group since we've been there obviously, but I think even on our team as far as strength with that offensive line group. And that's something that I know we're really excited about."
One other Jacksonville native that could fit into the puzzle but missed spring practice to show what he can do is junior offensive lineman Kavaris Harkless. McElwain thinks Harkless can add to the unit up front,
“Absolutely,” he said. “In fact, he's a guy that really had developed. I feel horrible that he missed this spring because it would have been an opportunity for him, obviously to get right in that rotation, and yet he's a smart guy. Everything seems to be checked out, he's working out now full go. So Kavaris is a guy that we need in that group."
Another that has missed because of injury will likely miss most if not all of 2017 as well. Redshirt freshman Rick Wells got hurt early in his first year, but was showing strong in practice as the season progressed. He hurt himself again before spring practice and the prognosis for playing isn’t good at this point.
“He’s one of those guys that I’m still… this guy’s going to play for the Gators,” McElwain said. “Where he had come, you know he injured a hamstring as a freshman. Never really came full-bore until the end of the year and at that time we made the decision of redshirting him. He was ready to play and in fact was the MVP of one of our final scrimmages during bowl week. He’s a guy that had a great offseason. It was a very misfortunate kind of freaky thing that happened, during conditioning. And yet, as disappointed as he was, I’m really excited how he’s attacked his rehab and not feeling sorry for himself. I think that’s a credit to his family that is very supportive and are great people.”