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  • Dec 6, 2014; Gainesville, FL, USA; Florida Gators head coach Jim McElwain is introduced as head coach during a press conference at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Coach Mac’s most
important recruit

Written by Nick de la Torre, December 23, 2014, 10 Comments,
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Jim McElwain didn’t waste any time.

While the opportunity to take over what he called one of the greatest brands in college sports was an honor that humbled the Florida Gators new head coach, he knew the tremendous undertaking that lay before him.

So he went to work with the first order of business to recruit like he’d never recruited before. Time was his enemy, the dead period standing in his way and — after some attrition — just seven prospects with a pledged commitment to him and his university.

The dead period has come and gone. McElwain’s Gators have just eight commitments in the class and the possibility of pulling in a highly ranked recruiting class is slim. That’s not McElwain’s fault, nor should it even be his biggest concern. He was playing behind the eight ball in terms of recruiting high school talent this recruiting cycle but his biggest recruiting job isn’t a blue-chip defensive end from the Tampa area, or finding a quarterback from this class.

McElwain’s biggest recruiting test will be keeping secondary coach Travaris Robinson in the right shade of orange and blue.

A Miami native, Robinson was a four-year letterwinner at Auburn (1999-2002). Playing for Tommy Tuberville, Robinson appeared in 48 games and helped the Tigers to three SEC West championships. Robinson was names All-SEC by the AP following his senior year and played three seasons in the NFL before returning to the plains to finish a degree in telecommunications and begin coaching.

It’s where he met Will Muschamp — who was the defensive coordinator at the time.

Travaris Robinson, Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Gainesville, Florida

Will Muschamp and Travaris Robinson have spent six years coaching together. / Gator Country photo by David Bowie

Muschamp gave Robinson his first coaching opportunity as a graduate assistant for two seasons before accepting a full-time job at Western Kentucky. Robinson would spend just one year at Western Kentucky then one at Southern Mississippi and one more at Texas Tech before he would get the biggest break of his coaching career.

Robinson’s phone rang. The guy on the other end of the phone was a familiar voice, one with a little southern twang to it.

Muschamp had just been named the head coach at the University of Florida and he wanted Robinson to join him in Gainesville. Robinson didn’t have to think twice, jumping from Lubbock, Texas and moving to Gainesville without a second thought.

Robinson and Muschamp coached the secondary together — Muschamp taking the safeties, Robinson taking the cornerbacks. Together, they coached some of the best secondaries the Florida Gators have ever had. Matt Elam, Josh Evans, Marcus Roberson and Loucheiz Purifoy are all enjoying life playing football professionally on Sunday’s after being coached by Robinson.

Robinson is also a tremendous recruiter. He’s young — 33 years old — but he relates to the high school athlete more than any other coach in Gainesville. Many recruits say that Robinson grew up just like they did. He knows the struggles of a young kid growing up in a rough neighborhood. He’s been there, he had the desire to get out — the same desire that many recruits growing up in rough neighborhoods have — and he did. Robinson has played in college, played in the league. He’s lived what the kids he recruits want to achieve. He gets it and kids gravitate towards that.

Duke Dawson, Gainesville, Florida

Travaris Robinson works with freshman Duke Dawson during spring practice. / Gator Country photo by David Bowue

Robinson is credited with being the main recruiter for current Gators Vernon Hargreaves III, Caleb Brantley, Duke Dawson, J.C. Jackson, Marcell Harris, Keanu Neal, Jalen Tabor, Treon Harris, Quincy Wilson, Brandon Powell, C.J. Worton and, well, yeah, you get the picture.

Travaris Robinson is Florida’s biggest weapon as a recruiter and he’s the biggest recruit that Florida needs to land this offseason.
The moment Will Muschamp accepted the defensive coordinator position at Auburn Robinson’s phone began ringing — just as it had four years ago. The message was the same, “come join me and help me build something special.”

Robinson likes Florida. Gainesville isn’t quite Miami — where Robinson was born and raised — but Auburn, Alabama is the antithesis of Miami.

He lived in Muschamp’s shadow the past four years as well. Everyone who watches college football knows Muschamp’s acumen for defense. D.J. Durkin’s promotion to defensive coordinator was brushed off; this was Muschamp’s defense, that was just a title for for Durkin. Robinson also bore the brunt of Muschamp’s brilliance. Muschamp — a former safety like Robinson — coached the safeties even though Robinson was the secondary coach he would only coach the cornerbacks.

However, Muschamp is offering Robinson a chance to return to his alma mater and to something familiar. Returning to Auburn would be comfortable. Robinson has only been a coach for eight years and six of those have been spent side by side with Muschamp.

McElwain, Jeremy Foley and the Florida Gators have made their stance clear; they want the coach that the players affectionately refer to as T-Rob back. They’re ready to do whatever they need to do in order to retain him.

Muschamp and Auburn have also made their intentions clear. They want T-Rob and they’re prepared to do whatever they need to do to make that a reality.

The ball is in Robinson’s court.

Jalen Tabor, Gainesville, Florida

Travaris Robinson works with Jalen Tabor during fall practice. / Gator Country photo by David Bowie

On one hand there is an opportunity to go back to your alma mater, continue learning from one of the best defensive minds in the game and at the same time continue working with a close friend.

On the other hand, the opportunity to stay in Gainesville, prove your coaching chops without the shadow of Will Muschamp looming over you and help rebuild a brand that has been tarnished is appealing.

There is another thing that plays in Florida’s favor. Robinson’s biggest asset to the University of Florida has been his recruiting ability. Robinson’s recruits are some of the best players on the roster and the reason he is so successful recruiting player is the bond that he is able to build with the recruits during the two or three years he spends recruiting them in high school.

The players, including five cornerbacks from the last recruiting cycle alone, have a bond with Robinson like they share with no other coach on staff. Robinson is like a surrogate father to the kids he recruits and coaches and the man that mothers entrust their sons to. Privately, he’s told those players and their families that he won’t leave the boys. But, of course he would say that to them at this point in time.

College football is a business. Coaches know this and sign up for it willingly; players and their families learn the hard way.

There are countless reasons for Robinson to leave and follow Muschamp to Auburn. There are countless reasons for Robinson to stay in Gainesville and stick it out with those same young men that he recruited and preached loyalty to throughout the recruiting process.

McElwain’s first recruiting class will likely be his worst. He got a late start and Muschamp’s recruiting efforts had largely fallen on deaf ears as he coached on a hot seat and then as a lame duck.

The recruiting class can be a success. The dead period won’t affect the most important recruit that the Gators can land this season, in fact, they can even take him out to dinner — McElwain and Robinson were seen together in downtown Gainesville last week — no impermissible benefits when you’re recruiting a coach.

McElwain is working against a stacked deck but securing a commitment from Travaris Robinson would be the biggest success he could ask for during the first few months of his tenure at Florida.

In his opening press conference, McElwain said you need to “recruit daily or die.” The first signs of life would be keeping Robinson on staff.

Nick de la Torre

About Nick de la Torre

A South Florida native, Nick developed a passion for all things sports at a very young age. His love for baseball was solidified when he saw Al Leiter’s no-hitter for the Marlins live in May of 1996. He was able to play baseball in college but quickly realized there isn’t much of a market for short, slow outfielders that hit around the Mendoza line. Wanting to continue with sports in some capacity he studied journalism at the University of Central Florida. Nick got his first start in the business as an intern for a website covering all things related to the NFL draft before spending two seasons covering the Florida football team at Bleacher Report. That job led him to GatorCountry. When he isn’t covering Gator sports, Nick enjoys hitting way too many shots on the golf course, attempting to keep up with his favorite t.v. shows and watching the Heat, Dolphins and Marlins. Follow him on twitter @NickdelatorreGC

  1. snowprintDecember 23, 2014, 7:19 am

    Robinson is not a big deal. Uf will not suffer one bit if he leaves. His recruiting prowess is overrated, it’s not like someone else can come in and do as well, or even better. It’s not like UF has dominated recruiting in the state with Robinson, far from it. If he stays, fine, but if he leaves it means absolutely nothing. It’s not hard to recruit in this state, if you can walk and chew bubble gum at the same time, you can get great players to come to Florida. In the first place, what has Robinson’s recruiting brought Florida? The last five years has seen UF the Gator’s only championship be a Gator Bowl. I know change scares some people, but what has happened the past five years has not worked, and Robinson is part of the reason. No, Robinson is meaningless. What UF needs are wins, that cures all. Start winning and the Dalvin Cooks will come, and it won’t matter who the coaches are doing the recruiting. Think about it, has anyone not done a swell job recruiting? Even Mr. Charisma, Galen Hall, did great.

    • DeBigLeezardDecember 23, 2014, 9:30 am

      “Mr. Charisma”….
      Snowprint… even with all the negativity… I have to admit that this is funny.
      I was there, right before “Captain Kangaroo” came on the scene and yes, his video presence was to be questioned… but the man could coach!

      But I have to disagree with you regarding Robinson.
      Football and recruiting are both a game of percentages. Sure, if Florida wins… recruits will flock.
      But… right now… Florida needs all the percentage points it can get and keeping Robinson will only add tremendously to those percentage points.

    • wci347December 23, 2014, 3:05 pm

      I will post the names.

      Robinson is credited with being the main recruiter for current Gators Vernon Hargreaves III, Caleb Brantley, Duke Dawson, J.C. Jackson, Marcell Harris, Keanu Neal, Jalen Tabor, Treon Harris, Quincy Wilson, Brandon Powell, C.J. Worton and, well, yeah, you get the picture.

      Perhaps the comment was satirical in an attempt to garner the types of responses that you are getting, but let’s face it. There are a handful of people who could bring that type of talent to one program in such a short period of time.

      I won’t suffer if I don’t take my vitamins, but taking them sure makes my life more enjoyable and productive. We would be remiss if we did not do everything we could to keep him on staff.

    • gator_n_scDecember 24, 2014, 10:30 am

      Snowflake, your not getting it. Its not just his recruiting but the way he coaches and connects with these kids. Buying into what you are learning is a major hurdle for kids development and Trob can get these kids to buy in.

      Our secondary was one of the youngest in the nation. By season end we were starting 2 true freshman corners, a true freshman safety, a sophmore corner, a sophmore safety, and a couple juniors in poole and maye. With the oldest of the bunch being gorman. Yet each week they got better especially the true freshman like wilson and tabor. The guy can coach and thats what we want is good coaching and of course….. continuity and familiarity.

    • ccsdkDecember 24, 2014, 12:33 pm

      Snowprint is a NOLE … didn’t you know that?

  2. kenny12gatorDecember 23, 2014, 9:22 am

    Hey dipshit, stop commenting on every article. No one wants to read your opinion. You think you are so insightful, but the truth is my one year old kbows more about Florida football than you ever will. Get a clue or get the f*** out.

    • wpelfrey5December 23, 2014, 9:43 am

      My thoughts exactly…except mine is a 2 year old girl that knows more than snowflake. I would bet my salary for a year he’s never played a down of ORGANIZED LEAGUE FOOTBALL on his life. Or her life….who knows?

    • kenny12gatorDecember 23, 2014, 10:07 am

      haha,” her life” would make sense. Maybe your daughter can teach her a thing or two. My son is just learning how to say football, so he could atleast improve snow flakes vocabulary.

  3. kenny12gatorDecember 23, 2014, 10:01 am

    Do i need to repost all of the players that T Rob personally recruited to UF, as Nick did in this article? MANY, if not all of the top recruits on our board are waiting to hear if Robinson will be retained. And guess what, you win games with good recruits. And guess what else, Despite our struggles our defense has still been top 5 in the nation because of Robinson and his ability to recruit. Where would we be without his players? Still think hes not important to UF, and any coach with half a brain could get the same kids to come to UF, while we are rebuilding? I doubt it.

    • snowprintDecember 23, 2014, 3:44 pm

      Yes, Florida would fall apart without him. Florida was just awful before Robinson came and couldn’t get any great recruits to come to UF. Obviously, none of that is true, so maube, just maybe I’m right about Robinson leaving would make no difference. It’s not going to be a good recruiting year this year, hasn’t anyone figured that out by now? Robinson’s presence is not going to change that, even a two year old could figure that out. It’s about the future, that starts next year in recruiting, this year is a bust.

http://www.gatorcountry.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Jim_McElwain_Florida_Gators_Football_120614_USAToday-150x150.jpg Nick de la Torre FeatureFootball ,,,,,,,,
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Jim McElwain didn’t waste any time.

While the opportunity to take over what he called one of the greatest brands in college sports was an honor that humbled the Florida Gators new head coach, he knew the tremendous undertaking that lay before him.

So he went to work with the first order of business to recruit like he’d never recruited before. Time was his enemy, the dead period standing in his way and — after some attrition — just seven prospects with a pledged commitment to him and his university.

The dead period has come and gone. McElwain’s Gators have just eight commitments in the class and the possibility of pulling in a highly ranked recruiting class is slim. That’s not McElwain’s fault, nor should it even be his biggest concern. He was playing behind the eight ball in terms of recruiting high school talent this recruiting cycle but his biggest recruiting job isn’t a blue-chip defensive end from the Tampa area, or finding a quarterback from this class.

McElwain’s biggest recruiting test will be keeping secondary coach Travaris Robinson in the right shade of orange and blue.

A Miami native, Robinson was a four-year letterwinner at Auburn (1999-2002). Playing for Tommy Tuberville, Robinson appeared in 48 games and helped the Tigers to three SEC West championships. Robinson was names All-SEC by the AP following his senior year and played three seasons in the NFL before returning to the plains to finish a degree in telecommunications and begin coaching.

It’s where he met Will Muschamp — who was the defensive coordinator at the time.

Travaris Robinson, Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Gainesville, Florida

Will Muschamp and Travaris Robinson have spent six years coaching together. / Gator Country photo by David Bowie

Muschamp gave Robinson his first coaching opportunity as a graduate assistant for two seasons before accepting a full-time job at Western Kentucky. Robinson would spend just one year at Western Kentucky then one at Southern Mississippi and one more at Texas Tech before he would get the biggest break of his coaching career.

Robinson’s phone rang. The guy on the other end of the phone was a familiar voice, one with a little southern twang to it.

Muschamp had just been named the head coach at the University of Florida and he wanted Robinson to join him in Gainesville. Robinson didn’t have to think twice, jumping from Lubbock, Texas and moving to Gainesville without a second thought.

Robinson and Muschamp coached the secondary together — Muschamp taking the safeties, Robinson taking the cornerbacks. Together, they coached some of the best secondaries the Florida Gators have ever had. Matt Elam, Josh Evans, Marcus Roberson and Loucheiz Purifoy are all enjoying life playing football professionally on Sunday’s after being coached by Robinson.

Robinson is also a tremendous recruiter. He’s young — 33 years old — but he relates to the high school athlete more than any other coach in Gainesville. Many recruits say that Robinson grew up just like they did. He knows the struggles of a young kid growing up in a rough neighborhood. He’s been there, he had the desire to get out — the same desire that many recruits growing up in rough neighborhoods have — and he did. Robinson has played in college, played in the league. He’s lived what the kids he recruits want to achieve. He gets it and kids gravitate towards that.

Duke Dawson, Gainesville, Florida

Travaris Robinson works with freshman Duke Dawson during spring practice. / Gator Country photo by David Bowue

Robinson is credited with being the main recruiter for current Gators Vernon Hargreaves III, Caleb Brantley, Duke Dawson, J.C. Jackson, Marcell Harris, Keanu Neal, Jalen Tabor, Treon Harris, Quincy Wilson, Brandon Powell, C.J. Worton and, well, yeah, you get the picture.

Travaris Robinson is Florida’s biggest weapon as a recruiter and he’s the biggest recruit that Florida needs to land this offseason.
The moment Will Muschamp accepted the defensive coordinator position at Auburn Robinson’s phone began ringing — just as it had four years ago. The message was the same, “come join me and help me build something special.”

Robinson likes Florida. Gainesville isn’t quite Miami — where Robinson was born and raised — but Auburn, Alabama is the antithesis of Miami.

He lived in Muschamp’s shadow the past four years as well. Everyone who watches college football knows Muschamp’s acumen for defense. D.J. Durkin’s promotion to defensive coordinator was brushed off; this was Muschamp’s defense, that was just a title for for Durkin. Robinson also bore the brunt of Muschamp’s brilliance. Muschamp — a former safety like Robinson — coached the safeties even though Robinson was the secondary coach he would only coach the cornerbacks.

However, Muschamp is offering Robinson a chance to return to his alma mater and to something familiar. Returning to Auburn would be comfortable. Robinson has only been a coach for eight years and six of those have been spent side by side with Muschamp.

McElwain, Jeremy Foley and the Florida Gators have made their stance clear; they want the coach that the players affectionately refer to as T-Rob back. They’re ready to do whatever they need to do in order to retain him.

Muschamp and Auburn have also made their intentions clear. They want T-Rob and they’re prepared to do whatever they need to do to make that a reality.

The ball is in Robinson’s court.

Jalen Tabor, Gainesville, Florida

Travaris Robinson works with Jalen Tabor during fall practice. / Gator Country photo by David Bowie

On one hand there is an opportunity to go back to your alma mater, continue learning from one of the best defensive minds in the game and at the same time continue working with a close friend.

On the other hand, the opportunity to stay in Gainesville, prove your coaching chops without the shadow of Will Muschamp looming over you and help rebuild a brand that has been tarnished is appealing.

There is another thing that plays in Florida’s favor. Robinson’s biggest asset to the University of Florida has been his recruiting ability. Robinson’s recruits are some of the best players on the roster and the reason he is so successful recruiting player is the bond that he is able to build with the recruits during the two or three years he spends recruiting them in high school.

The players, including five cornerbacks from the last recruiting cycle alone, have a bond with Robinson like they share with no other coach on staff. Robinson is like a surrogate father to the kids he recruits and coaches and the man that mothers entrust their sons to. Privately, he’s told those players and their families that he won’t leave the boys. But, of course he would say that to them at this point in time.

College football is a business. Coaches know this and sign up for it willingly; players and their families learn the hard way.

There are countless reasons for Robinson to leave and follow Muschamp to Auburn. There are countless reasons for Robinson to stay in Gainesville and stick it out with those same young men that he recruited and preached loyalty to throughout the recruiting process.

McElwain’s first recruiting class will likely be his worst. He got a late start and Muschamp’s recruiting efforts had largely fallen on deaf ears as he coached on a hot seat and then as a lame duck.

The recruiting class can be a success. The dead period won’t affect the most important recruit that the Gators can land this season, in fact, they can even take him out to dinner — McElwain and Robinson were seen together in downtown Gainesville last week — no impermissible benefits when you’re recruiting a coach.

McElwain is working against a stacked deck but securing a commitment from Travaris Robinson would be the biggest success he could ask for during the first few months of his tenure at Florida.

In his opening press conference, McElwain said you need to “recruit daily or die.” The first signs of life would be keeping Robinson on staff.

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