GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Jim McElwain and his staff continue to reap the benefits of having more time to evaluate and recruit.
In McElwain’s first full recruiting cycle, the Gators had the core of their 2016 class in place by mid-December with commitments from 23 of their 25 signees, including a school-record 12 early enrollees.
By securing that many players ahead of National Signing Day, McElwain and his assistants had extra time on their hands during the January contact period. While other coaches spent the final two and a half weeks primarily on 2016 prospects, Florida was able to allocate time toward next year’s class.
UF coaches visited more than 40 recruits for 2017 and 2018 in January.
“We already have great momentum on ’17 and ’18,” McElwain said. “I’m really excited about that, just the way we were able to kind of get an earlier start with all the guys and build relationships.”
McElwain did not have the luxury of an early start on 2016 prospects. He was handicapped in recruiting when he became Florida’s coach in December 2014.
UF only had eight commitments with less two months remaining in the 2015 cycle, so he had to focus all of his recruiting efforts on prospects for that class, which finished No. 21 in the 247Sports Composite team rankings after a strong finish.
The Gators could not turn their focus to 2016 until after signing day, but they made the most of their initial evaluations. Several of their early three-star commitments ended up becoming four-star recruits and/or getting pursued by other big-time programs after their senior seasons.
“I think we were able to get a jump on some guys,” McElwain said. “We were happy to see our evaluations as a lot of these guys had great senior years. It’s kind of interesting, you start a marathon and then a bunch of people jump in with a quarter of a mile to go and hand them the cup of water and you’re still hanging on.
“But it’s part of recruiting. That’s why I’m so proud of our evaluation process. We’ve got a real good jump start moving forward as we’re talking about 17’s and 18’s.”
The early returns already look promising for 2017. Florida’s three pledges — quarterback Jake Allen, wide receiver Daquon Green and offensive tackle Kadeem Telfort — committed last summer but are now ranked as four-star, top-200 overall prospects by at least one recruiting service.
UF held a huge Junior Day event on Jan. 30 and hosted elite defensive backs Cyrus Fagan, Shaun Wade and Tyreke Johnson (2018) on campus last Friday (tweets from their visit below).
The Gators have also handed out 11 scholarship offers — the majority of them by new assistant Torrian Gray — since signing day two weeks ago:
RB Ty Chandler, 5-11, 190, Nashville, Tn./Montgomery Bell Academy
ATH Markquese Bell, 6-3, 190, Bridgeton, N.J./Bridgeton
OL Aaron Banks, 6-5, 307, El Cerrito, Ca./El Cerrito
OL Netori Johnson, 6-5, 330, Ellenwood, Ga./Cedar Grove
DE Luiji Vilain, 6-3, 250, Alexandria, Va./Episcopal
DE Jordan Williams, 6-5, 245, Virginia Beach, Va./Frank W. Cox
CB Shawn Davis, 6-1, 190, Miami, Fla./Southridge
CB Amir Riep, 6-0, 180, Cincinnati, Ohio/Colerain
CB A.J. Terrell, 6-2, 175, Atlanta, Ga./Westlake
S Xavier McKinney, Rosewell, 6-1, 170, Roswell, Ga./Roswell (Alabama commit)
2018 DB Chamarri Conner, 6-0, 183, Jacksonville, Fla./Trinity Christian
— Embrace…✨ (@C4era) February 12, 2016
— tyreke johnson (@Im_showtime_) February 12, 2016