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 UF recruiting news, tales from the trail and perspective on what it all means for the Gators.
Crunch time for McElwain
Florida coach Jim McElwain has some go-to pitches he uses on recruits. He typically says they’ll look good in orange and blue, and that being part of the Gator family sets them up for life after football.
Those aren’t the only selling points he discusses, and a variety of factors go into recruiting decisions. Playing time, however, is a common factor that matters to almost every prospect.
That’s something McElwain should be attracting his top targets with, and the proof is in the pudding.
— Jim McElwain (@CoachMcElwain) January 27, 2017
Eighteen of the 20 signees from McElwain’s first class played last season and started 72 games, with 10 of them becoming full-time starters. Eight of those 2015 signees saw action as a true freshmen and made 28 starts.
That trend continued in 2016. More than half (13) of the 25 signees played in 10 or more games last season, combining for 31 starts.
Over the past two years, McElwain has had nine players named to Freshman All-SEC teams. Wide receiver Antonio Callaway, linebacker David Reese and offensive tackle Jawaan Taylor also made the Freshman All-American teams by FWAA and Pro Football Focus, more than former coach Will Muschamp had during his four years at UF.
All three of those players were also 3-star recruits.
Callaway and Tyrie Cleveland are two of only three wide receivers in school history to have 100-yard receiving games as true freshmen. Callaway set the school record for most receiving yards by a true freshman in 2015, and last season Cleveland caught the second-longest play from scrimmage in UF history.
That 98-yard touchdown reception by Cleveland came in the LSU game, which was the biggest win of McElwain’s career and made him the first coach in SEC history to make the conference title game in his first two years.
Half of the 22 starters against LSU were McElwain recruits, including four underclassman offensive linemen. Those starters don’t include true freshmen Vosean Joseph and Lamical Perine — both of whom made game-changing plays against Tigers — or defensive back Chauncey Gardner — who started the final three games of the season and won Outback Bowl MVP.
McElwain has shown he’s not only unafraid to play freshmen, but they’re excelling under he and his staff. As Florida looks to finish strong in the Class of 2017, the production of his recruits cannot be emphasized enough.
Florida QB commit wined and dined on visit
Quarterback Jake Allen is the longest-tenured commit in Florida’s 2017 class, having pledged to the Gators in the summer of 2015.
He didn’t experience the recruiting process the way most prospects do, but that changed last weekend with his official visit to UF.
“You know, I committed so early and shut down my recruitment. I didn’t get recruited by other schools my junior and senior year,” Allen said. “So to finally get whined and dined and get the good food for free, it felt good. I think I put on like 10 pounds. It was brutal. But it was nice to have the hotel stay and everything paid for.”
“Spending time with the guys was great. We’ve never really hung out with each other and learned about each other. We’ve only had a relationship over Twitter and texting, so it was cool to get together and just learn about them. We built some chemistry. And you know how official visits go, it was a really good time.”
Allen has visited Florida more than a half dozen times, so there weren’t many new things for him to see on his latest trip. However, he got a crash course on Florida’s offense from coordinator and QB coach Doug Nussmeier.
“Coach Nuss and I sat down to watch film and talk plays, talk formations and just talk offense. That was really cool,” Allen said. “We spent 30 minutes talking strictly ball. Not recruiting, not anything about my life or his life. It was all business. It was a good example of how I’ll be working at Florida.”
The Gators got some bad news on the recruiting trail Wednesday with 4-star Elijah Blades decommitting from the Gators and 4-star offensive tackle selecting Miami over UF. However, Allen feels Florida can still close strong next week.
“I think signing day could be huge,” Allen said. “We got some silents. Most of the uncommitted guys right now are waiting until Feb. 1. Those guys that visited with me, I think we can get all of them. So signing day is going to surprise some Gator fans.”
Miss a previous Gator Chomps notebook? Find every daily recap of Florida Gators recruiting right here.