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Florida recruiting roundtable
UF recruiting reporters Zach Abolverdi (SEC Country), Blake Alderman ( 247Sports) and Andrew Spivey ( Gator Country) give their thoughts on former Gators coach Jim McElwain, his potential replacements and Florida’s 2018 class.
What grade would you give Jim McElwain for his recruiting efforts at Florida?
Abolverdi: “B. It took McElwain too long to start recruiting at an elite level, but he had seemingly turned the corner with his commits for the 2018 sand 2019 class. McElwain did an admirable job salvaging his first class and landed some serious talent, but failing to sign a quarterback in 2015 came back to bite him. And after that ’15 class, he didn’t sign or land a commitment from a consensus 5-star recruit. McElwain improved Florida’s recruiting staff and infrastructure, but the lack of top-tier talent in his first two classes showed up on the field this season.”
Alderman: “I am going with a C or C- here. Under McElwain the Gators won some recruiting battles, and landed several four-star prospects that have done some good things on the field. However, being in a hotbed of talent in the state of Florida, top recruiting classes should be a regularity at a school like UF. In a full recruiting cycle of his own at the helm at Florida, McElwain did not ink a consensus five-star prospect. This is something the next staff at Florida will need to improve on in the future when playing in the SEC against programs that sign top recruits yearly.”
Spivey: “B. McElwain was big on establishing relationships, which meant things were slow getting started. You could tell how his strategy was working in the 2018 and 2019 classes, as the Gators sit in the top 10 for both years. Adding to McElwain’s slow start was assistant coaches — who have since been replaced — not being able to recruit up to par. A head coach is often times only as good as his assistant coaches in recruiting.”
Which head coaching candidate would be the best hire for Florida recruiting?
Abolverdi: “I think USF’s Charlie Strong and Oregon’s Willie Taggart would both kill it for the Gators, but UCF coach Scott Frost is the best hire they can make. Florida needs a young, offensive-minded head coach who has the name recognition and track record to grab the attention of recruits right away. Frost fits the bill. His high-scoring offense and undefeated record in 2017 holds weight in the state of Florida, and his arrival at UF would make the Gators very appealing.”
Alderman: “I feel like the best recruiting hires you can make if you are Florida would be Willie Taggart, Dan Mullen, and Scott Frost. Taggart is an excellent recruiting head coach with heavy ties to the state of Florida. His staff at Oregon is recruiting lights out in the first year with a top 10 recruiting class on 247Sports. With Mullen, it’s more of an experience that he brings to the table on the recruiting trail. With ties to the state recruiting during his time as Florida’s OC is a benefit, to go along with his long tenure of recruiting in the SEC at Mississippi State. With Frost, I don’t think he has quite the resume as a recruiter with the other names mentioned, however his high-powered offense scores a ton of points, which in turn would attract a lot of talent in the state of Florida. His two years at UCF has given Frost ties to the sunshine state, which he’s going to need if he is the guy for the Gators.”
Spivey: “First, let me say that I think a lot of the guys that are being mentioned for the job could recruit well for Florida. The Florida program sells itself, but they just need someone to create some excitement around the program. So to answer the question, I think Scott Frost is a guy that gives you that excitement with his personality and his style of offense.”
Excluding QB Matt Corral, who is the most important recruit for the Gators to keep committed?
Abolverdi: “ Jacob Copeland. With Ja’Marr Chase de-committing from the Gators on Wednesday, Copeland’s pledge now holds even more significance to this class. Florida has lost a handful of in-state recruits to Alabama in recent years, but Copeland turned that tide with his commitment to the Gators on Aug. 3. McElwain’s departure has opened the door for Alabama to possibly flip Copeland, and he visited Tuscaloosa last weekend for the third time this fall. Keeping Copeland committed will be of the utmost importance for Florida’s next coach. These are the kind of recruiting battles he has to win.”
Alderman: “The offensive line was an area the staff needed to address this cycle and a week before the news of McElwain’s departure the Gators landed a commitment from top offensive tackle Richard Gouraige. The Gators have struggled up front this season, which is an issue the next head coach will inherit. One way to improve this position is to recruit talent upfront, which is where Gouraige comes in. The possibility of left tackle Martez Ivey heading to the NFL draft would make that need upfront even bigger. Corral is absolutely the most important recruit for the next head coach to hold onto, but the next most important position for UF to recruit in my opinion is the big bodies that protect your signal caller.”
Spivey: “This is a tough one for me but I’m going to say Richard Gouraige because of the position he plays. The Gators are in need of offensive linemen in a bad way this year and Gouraige is the top guy committed at the position so far. An argument could be made for several other guys who are important at their position but offensive line wins out right now with the Gators program.”
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