Florida coaches took Pahokee coach Alphonso Smith by surprise in the spring.
Not only was it the first time Florida coaches had visited Pahokee in a while, but Gators defensive line coach Chris Rumph came ready to have a substantive conversation with 2016 three-star prospect McArthur Burnett.
“Usually during the spring, it’s more of an informative thing when recruiters come in,” Smith said. “But when they came in, you could tell they really did their research before they came. That helps the entire process.”
Rumph knew the reason behind Burnett’s commitment to Miami, knew Burnett’s father was a Hurricanes fan and that Miami was the first big school to offer Burnett. Rumph even knew personal details regarding Burnett’s family.
“It was a lot of things that most of the other schools did not know,” Smith said.
That attention to detail helped flip Burnett from Miami to Florida, as the cornerback/running back verbally committed to the Gators on Saturday night after attending the Gators’ dominating 38-10 win over then-No. 3 Ole Miss on an unofficial visit.
It doesn’t hurt that the Gators are off to a 5-0 start under first-year head coach Jim McElwain. The fast start has recruiting trending in the right direction.
“I think there were a lot of players that were kind of watching with one eye what Florida was going to do,” Rivals.com recruiting analyst Rob Cassidy said. “I think Florida is always going to have that pull in the state, especially because of the SEC tie and the history. But you know, I think there was some skepticism, obviously.”
Florida’s 2016 recruiting class is currently ranked 14th nationally by Rivals.com and 247Sports. But the Gators can move up the list if they can continue to build on their success this season.
“There probably is a pretty good impact,” McElwain said of the connection between winning and recruiting. “The impact, I don’t know whether it is for this year or for classes coming forward. Getting a little buzz out there obviously helps you, no doubt about it.”
With top uncommitted 2016 prospects such as five-star Tampa Catholic wide receiver Nate Craig-Myers, five-star Wake Forest (N.C.) defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence, five-star Bradenton-IMG Academy defensive end Shavar Manuel, four-star Dooly County (Ga.) defensive end Antonneous Clayton and four-star Citra-North Marion wide receiver Freddie Swain still considering Florida, the Gators’ class has the potential to be special.
In fact, the 247Sports “Crystal Ball” predictions have Craig-Myers, Lawrence and Swain ending up at Florida.
“This place is really turned around,” Gators senior wide receiver Valdez Showers said Tuesday. “I mean we’re definitely on the come-up. Definitely. I would be excited if I was a recruit to be honest with you. I mean you look at the things we have here — (new) indoor facility — it’s some big changes going around.”
The Gators’ recruiting classes have been trending in the wrong direction over the past few years. After Florida’s 2013 group ranked fourth in the nation, its 2014 group ranked eighth and its 2015 group ranked 23rd, according to Rivals.com
But the Gators are on their way to ending that trend.
“If Florida is able to keep this going, I think it will pay off with some big names,” Cassidy said. “Opinions are pretty high right now and it can only get better from here, as long as Florida doesn’t tank the season or something.”