As Jim McElwain tries to rebuild Florida football into a championship program, one of his mottos is “recruit daily or die.” Join us here on SEC Country for a daily recap of the latest UF recruiting news, tales from the trail and perspective on what it all means for the Gators.
Florida hosted 5-star cornerback Patrick Surtain Jr. and some of his high school teammates on a visit last month. His father, American Heritage head coach and former NFL cornerback Patrick Surtain, joined him on the trip.
UF is one of more than 30 schools that have offered his son, who is ranked the nation’s No. 1 cornerback in the 247Sports Composite.
“That visit was a good experience for him,” Surtain said. “He really enjoyed himself there and I like everything about Florida. The program speaks for itself. It’s the Florida Gators.
“It’s four hours from home, too. It’s always a good thing to stay close to home. Hopefully we can continue that pipeline with a few going this year and some more going later.”
Three of Surtain’s players signed with Florida in the previous class: linebacker James Houston, defensive tackle T.J. Slaton and cornerback Marco Wilson. American Heritage won the Class 5A state championship in 2016, the school’s third title in four years and second under Surtain.
He played 11 years in the NFL and was a three-time Pro Bowler with the Miami Dolphins. UF defensive coordinator Randy Shannon was an assistant coach for the Dolphins during Surtain’s first three seasons in Miami.
“Me and Randy go way back,” Surtain said. “I like the direction he’s taking them with the defense. It’s the same defense I ran when Randy Shannon coached me, so it kind of fits what I’ve taught my son. They finished strong last year when Randy took over for the bowl game.”
During their visit to Florida, Surtain and his son also met with Gators coach Jim McElwain, new secondary coach Corey Bell and new running backs coach Ja’Juan Seider. Surtain is impressed with the staff McElwain has assembled.
“They got some good coaches up there,” Surtain said. “I knew Corey Bell when he was at FAU and he’s a good coach. I know Randy obviously and Coach Seider, too. I think Coach McElwain is a cool guy and he’s bringing a lot of youth to his coaching staff. Hopefully they can get the train rolling.”
At this time, the Gators are trying to catch LSU and Florida State for Surtain Jr. The Tigers have been his long-time leader and his father was born and raised in New Orleans.
However, Surtain is not influencing his son’s recruitment with those Louisiana roots.
“I’m telling him to make his own decision,” Surtain said. “He needs to go through the recruiting process for himself and not anyone else. I’m going to help him along the way with whatever he needs, but I want him to take it all in because it only happens once in a lifetime.”
In addition to Florida, Alabama, Clemson, Miami and Ohio State are the other schools heavily involved with Surtain Jr. The 6-foot-2, 182-pound prospect plans to take all five official visits and make his decision after his senior season.
“At some point he will cut it down to a top 5,” Surtain said. “I told him with all these offers, he needs to cut it down because it can get annoying with 40 coaches calling you. It’s becomes a burden and I don’t want it to interfer with his school work.
“I’m his coach, but more importantly I’m his dad. I’m just fortunate that I’ve been through the process so I kind of give him some tips. We’ll make a proper decision. I want him to see everything so he can make the right choice when the time comes.”
Miss a previous Gator Chomps notebook? Find every daily recap of Florida Gators recruiting right here.