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 Florida recruiting news, tales from the trail and perspective on what it all means for the Gators.
A turning point for Florida recruiting
Two years ago, Jim McElwain had his first recruiting weekend for a marquee matchup in The Swamp.
The Florida-Tennessee game attracted a who’s who of big-name players wanting see McElwain’s team for the first time in SEC play.
Wide receiver was Florida’s No. 1 priority in that recruiting cycle, and at that point the Gators had commitments from Josh Hammond and Rick Wells.
UF still needed more elite players at the position, and several of them showed up for Tennessee game. McElwain & Co. hosted five receivers ranked in the top 150 nationally, according to the 247Sports Composite.
The group witnessed what many consider the greatest game-winning touchdown ever in The Swamp., with true freshman Antonio Callaway making a miraculous catch on fourth and long to put the Gators ahead late.
It was a huge moment for McElwain — both as a coach and as a recruiter. The thrilling comeback victory over the Vols put Florida over the top for 4-star WR Freddie Swain, the No. 133 overall prospect in the country.
He chose the Gators over Southern Cal and Tennessee in early October, two weeks after attending the game. Later that month, another visitor pulled the trigger.
Florida beat out Auburn and Tennessee to land somewhat of a surprising commitment from Antonneous Clayton, who hadn’t planned on ending his recruiting process that early.
At the time he was ranked a 4-star defensive end, but his stock increased with a strong senior season and dominant showing at the Under Armour All-America Game.
By the time signing day rolled around, Clayton was the highest-rated player in Florida’s class. He was ranked No. 10 nationally by ESPN and had a 5-star rating on Rivals.
After finishing strong in his first recruiting cycle, McElwain had landed mostly 3-star recruits for the 2016 class prior to the Tennessee game. That win got the ball rolling and boosted McElwain’s profile.
“Before you’d roll into a school and they really said, ‘You’ve got to show your ID.’ They didn’t know who the heck you were,” McElwain said in October 2015. “They thought I was kidding when I said I was the head coach at Florida. Now there’s a couple more people that know, which is a good thing for us.”
Florida finished with the nation’s No. 12 class in the 2016 recruiting cycle — up nine spots from the previous year — and also signed high-profile players Tyrie Cleveland, Feleipe Franks and Chauncey Gardner.
Miss a previous Gator Chomps notebook? Find every daily recap of Florida Gators recruiting right here.