ESPN published an article that — if true — is a scathing indictment of Florida football coach Jim McElwain’s program and the way he recruits. Fortunately for Gators fans, the article has too many red flags to be trusted.
It’s no secret that McElwain has struggled to bring in recruiting classes that match those of his predecessor, Will Muschamp. This has caused consternation within the fan base, even as McElwain has won more games than Muschamp. McElwain’s position — backed up by the Florida administration — is that a lack of facilities and support staff is limiting his ability to recruit.
But the article asserts that Florida isn’t building relationships with big-time recruits until it’s too late. Trinity Christian (Jacksonville) assistant coach Gerald Ross is quoted as saying, “From my experience, and how (Florida has) been around us, they tend to wait until that kid has those big-time, Power 5 offers and then they try to sneak in.”
The article uses coveted defensive back recruit Shaun Wade, who enrolled at Ohio State, as an example. Wade’s father Randy said his family would have preferred Florida, but already had built a relationship with Ohio State.
On the surface, this looks true. Ohio State offered Wade in May 2014. Florida offered Wade eight months later.
But McElwain wasn’t the head coach until December 2014. Florida’s staff offered Wade less than two months after McElwain took the Florida job. That seems like a reasonable delay considering McElwain was focused on closing the 2015 recruiting class, improving its ranking from No. 92 to No. 21.
The article does note that Ross, the high school assistant coach, is a former defensive back for Florida State, disclosing what might be a clear conflict of interest.
What isn’t mentioned is that Armwood High School (Seffner, Fla.) head coach Sean Callahan — quoted speaking quite negatively about Florida’s assistant coaches — is Kirk Callahan’s father. Callahan was a defensive backs coach McElwain brought to Florida in 2015. But he and Florida “parted ways” last January.
This seems like a relevant fact that got omitted.
Look, recruiting is the lifeblood of any program. And Jim McElwain’s recruiting needs to get better if Florida wants to win SEC championships, let alone national championships.
But the article is one-sided. He interviewed the family of one of Urban Meyer’s Ohio State recruits, an assistant coach who is also a former Seminole, and a high school head coach with a clear axe to grind with the current coaching staff. Consider me shocked that none of them had glowing things to say about McElwain’s recruiting process.
I didn’t need any tools beyond Google and the vague recollection that Florida used to have a coach named Callahan to poke significant holes in this story. The only piece of information I didn’t find is where Kirk Callahan is coaching now, as he seems to have fallen off the grid.
Florida may be bad at forming relationships with recruits. The Gators might have assistant coaches who aren’t pulling their weight. But the article didn’t include anyone who could give an unbiased assessment.
The Worldwide Leader should be ashamed. And Florida fans should not take this piece as the gospel about Gators recruiting.