GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida coach Jim McElwain took a step away from his football team last week to hit the recruiting trail and conduct fall evaluations.
By all accounts, the bye week went well for McElwain and his assistants. They paid visits to their commits, top targets and future prospects.
McElwain liked the feedback he received while out on the road.
“It’s been great,” McElwain said. “It’s been really positive.”
It sure seems that way on the surface. The Gators landed another elite recruit Friday with the commitment of 4-star offensive tackle Richard Gouraige, and their highly-ranked commits all say they’re solid.
Despite recent losses and some negativity surrounding the program, Florida continues to kill it on the recruiting trail. McElwain attributed that success to a pair of factors.
“No. 1, relationships. No. 2, there are opportunities,” McElwain said. “… A lot of guys see the opportunity they’re going to have and momentum’s been really good with that.
“Seeing the growth, everything from the facilities to the emphasis put on certain things. I think that’s been really good.”
Florida QB pledge Matt Corral, the top-rated recruit in the class, echoed McElwain’s feelings last week when explaining why he and other commits aren’t wavering.
“It’s just getting the opportunity to play,” Corral said. “Coaches lay it all out for the players day in and day out. It’s up to the players to give back. If the players aren’t doing it correctly, that’s the coach’s job. The coach is not going to let that happen and recruits see that.”
The addition of Gouraige moved Florida past Georgia and Tennessee in the 247Sports Composite team rankings, and now the Gators have the No. 1 class in the SEC (sixth nationally).
Multiple prospects told SEC Country that other schools have tried negatively recruit against Florida, but declined to give any names.
This is not the first rodeo for McElwain, who has also dealt with death threats, calls for his job and Oregon State rumors this month.
“That’s a tactic that a lot of people use,” McElwain said of negative recruiting. “It’s not something we believe in. We’re honest and up front. Let them know the way it’s going to be.
“It’s interesting. It’s that time of year. And those are things that, you know, people throw out. At the same time, we’ve got a hell of a group coming in and we’re playing a lot of young guys right now that are playing pretty darned hard and I think have a chance to be really good players.”