GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Football program success creates more opportunities in recruiting, and Florida is looking to capitalize on them.
In-state prospects will always be the priority for the Gators, but they’re starting to show the ability to recruit nationally as well. UF coach Jim McElwain and his staff expanded Florida’s recruiting footprint in the last class, and the envelope is being pushed even more for the 2017 cycle.
In the past two years, McElwain has landed three players from both Alabama and Texas. He also signed a prospect from Mississippi and Michigan, two states that don’t typically produce players for the Gators.
“There were some guys in particular that we evaluated and felt like they were in need positions for us,” McElwain said on signing day.
During the six-year period from 2003-08, the Gators signed a total of eight players from talent-rich Texas and five players out of Alabama, many of them a byproduct of Florida’s 2006 and 2008 national championships.
But in the six years following those title runs, UF signed just two Alabama prospects and zero from Texas.
McElwain & Co. continue trying to gain traction in recruiting outside of Florida. Since signing day, 54 of the 58 offers handed out by the Gators have been to out-of-state recruits.
UF coaches were able to get a head start on 2017 recruiting during the December and January contact periods. By early February, they had offered 57 in-state recruits for 2017 (61 now).
Of the 179 offers to date, two-thirds of them (118) are to out-of-state prospects from 25 different states.
“I don’t think what we do is hand out offers. A lot of people do in this business, OK. That’s not our gig,” McElwain said. “When you find somebody nationally that has a distinct reason or a want or an interest in the Florida Gators … you’re going to go ahead and do what you can to get them to be Gators.
“I wouldn’t say it’s anything abnormal than what we’ve done before, but obviously the brand makes it one of those things where a lot of people want to take a look.”
The same trend is happening in 2018 recruiting, with UF coaches targeting players in the state of Florida first. In-state prospects make up 27 of the 37 offers already out for 2018.
By this time next year, you’ll see the Gators making another push on a national scale. McElwain believes the success of Florida’s program will attract out-of-state recruits to Gainesville.
“It’s proven that we’ll play young guys,” McElwain said. “Obviously the facility upgrades — which you’re getting beat up about every single day — still need to occur in some areas, but in a lot of areas have gotten better. There are a lot of reasons for somebody to come to Florida right now.”