GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Jim McElwain’s on-field reaction to Luke Del Rio’s injury earned the appreciation of his quarterback and players.
But it also resonated with recruits.
The Florida coach had to be restrained last Saturday after screaming at the North Texas sideline from midfield. He lost his cool over the low hit that caused Del Rio’s knee sprain, which was feared to be worse at the time.
“I care about these kids. They’re mine,” McElwain said. “When I see something like that, it ain’t right.”
Florida athlete commit Kadarius Toney didn’t expect McElwain to react the way he did, but he loved watching it.
“I talk to Coach Mac all the time and he’s usually calm and collected, so I was actually kind of shocked,” Toney said. “But he’s not all about himself and that’s the kind of coach I want to play for. It kind of boosted me up a little bit.”
Gators defensive tackle pledge Jordon Scott also enjoyed seeing McElwain wear his heart on his sleeve. Though it happened during the course of the game, Scott said the passion McElwain showed goes beyond football.
“It really let me know he cares about his team on a personal level more than just what they can do for him as players,” Scott said. “He’s responsible for us, and it’s good to see what my coach at the next level will do. That makes me feel great.”
Toney, who plays quarterback in high school, doesn’t think McElwain acted that way just because of the position Del Rio plays.
“I feel like if that was me or the next recruit out there, he would do the same thing,” Toney said. “He’ll really die for his team and I’d do the same thing for him. I have his back no matter what and he has mine.”
McElwain’s defense of Del Rio is a good look in recruiting, but he didn’t do that to prove a point to prospects. That’s just who he is and how he’s been.
“I think when you look at the track record of the guys that have played for me in the past, they all know that I’m a phone call away to help them in anything that they ever need,” McElwain said. “And to me, that’s what life’s all about.”
Pair of 4-star defensive ends visit UF
Last weekend, Florida hosted the top two in-state defensive ends for 2018.
Four-star prospects Nik Bonitto (Fort Lauderdale) and Stacy Kirby (Orlando) were in attendance for the 32-0 win over North Texas.
“It was a real amazing feeling, it was actually my first official game,” Kirby said of the visit. “I’ve been to their spring game before. I’m just real grateful that the coaches allowed me to visit.”
Kirby is being recruited by Gators defensive coordinator Geoff Collins and defensive line coach Chris Rumph. Their unit set the school record for fewest yards allowed (53) against the Mean Green.
“It was an amazing experience to watch a great defense like that work as hard as they could,” Kirby said. “What stood out was the defensive pressure Florida had. The defense didn’t allow them to score and held them to zero points the whole game.”
The 6-foot-3, 235-pound pass rusher has more than a dozen offers and is being heavily pursued by Florida State, Miami and Ohio State.
Bonitto holds 20-plus offers, but has yet to land one from the Gators. He’s hoping it will come soon from linebackers coach Randy Shannon, his primary recruiter.
“It would be a dream come true,” Bonitto said of a potential UF offer. “This has been my dream school since I was born. I came out the womb loving the Gators.”
The 6-foot-3, 210-pound Bonitto said the staff wants him to gain some weight because he’s undersized. As for his visit, he was also impressed by Florida’s defense as well as the environment in The Swamp.
“There was a lot of energy in the crowd. It was just fun,” Bonitto said. “The defensive line was playing outstanding. They caused a lot of trouble for the quarterbacks and the DB’s were playing well, too.”