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  • Jim McElwain

    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

Florida Gators charge
through National Signing Day

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  • Florida Gators charge through National Signing Day
Written by Nick de la Torre, February 4, 2015, 1 Comment,
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The Florida Gators wrapped up a very successful National Signing Day with a class of 20 players — including two early enrollees.

In one of his final press conferences, Will Muschamp said “don’t let the new guy tell you there isn’t any talent here.” Sure, Florida has some talent on the roster but Muschamp left a roster with just seven scholarship offensive linemen and just eight kids committed to the program. Two of those kids would decommit within weeks of Jim McElwain being hired and a third — Derrick Dillon — didn’t make it to the final class either.

The job that McElwain and his entire staff did in pulling together a recruiting class in just a few short months — going up against schools negatively recruiting how poor Florida had performed on the field, the staff turnover and against relationships that recruits had built for years with other coaching staffs — is nothing short of incredible.

An integral part of holding that group together was recruiting coordinator Drew Hughes. A holdover from the previous staff, Hughes was able to get the new coaching staff up to speed on where Florida stood with the guys they would be targeting for this class.

Martez Ivey

Martez Ivey/Andrew Spivey

“I thought Drew did a really good job. He was a guy who obviously was able to hold it together,” said McElwain. “Drew had a real handle of what’s going on and knew where a lot of the players were.”

Faced with an impossible task, McElwain and his staff ignored recruiting sites that had Florida’s recruiting class ranked outside the top-100 in the country. They didn’t have time to waste lamenting about the hand that they had been dealt, they simply had to make moves and make the best of what was given to them.

The end result is a haul that not only boats the top-ranked offensive linemen in the country (Martez Ivey), the second rated defensive end in the country (CeCe Jefferson) and a pair of bruising backs (Jordan Scarlett, Jordan Cronkite) but a few playmakers and offensive linemen to solidify a line that was in dire straights.

McElwain wanted to sign five or six offensive linemen this class to bolster their overall numbers and that’s just what he was able to do with Ivey, Nick Buchanan, Richerd Desir-Jones, Fredrick Johnson, Tyler Jordan and Brandon Sandifer.

“Our goal was to try to hit in that five to six range in there and I think we’re pretty good hitting those numbers,” McElwain said. “That was something that we felt we needed to do especially not because of the talent that we have but because of the lack of numbers we had. So I think that was really good and very important for us as we went out and then tried to create some balance in the other spots moving forward.”

Florida’s defense hasn’t been an issue the past few seasons, but the Gators will get help in the class from Jefferson, Rayshad Jackson, Luke Ancrum, Keivonnis Davis, Andrew Ivie, Kylan Johnson, Chris Williamson and Jabari Zuniga. However, the focus was on offense — rightfully so.

Of the 19 players that signed with the Florida Gators, 13 were on the offensive side of the ball. Some will point out that Florida did

Jordan Scarlett, Nike, The Opening

Jordan Scarlett gets ready to compete in the 7-on-7 championship game at The Opening. / Photo Courtesy of Student Sports

not sign a quarterback but with returning starter Treon Harris getting ready for his sophomore season and redshirt freshman Will Grier looking to compete for a starting job, signing a quarterback wasn’t totally necessary this cycle and not something the staff isn’t concerned with but they will keep options open.

“I feel really good about quarterbacks, obviously it was a position that you recruit every year, you don’t settle you go out and try to get what there is,” McElwain said. “There may be some that are still out there as this kinda goes forward and you know we’ll answer that, like I said, from some of those spots if needed moving forward.”

McElwain and his staff were the comeback kids on Wednesday afternoon. They’ll take a night off to relax and unwind after the whirlwind they just completed but don’t call it a vacation. There’s no time for that.

“What we’ll do is go out and have dinner as a staff and tell a few jokes and laugh a little bit and corroborate some stories that were out there and then we’ll get back at work in the morning to get ready to go for this spring ball,” said McElwain.

With National Signing Day 2015 over and done, the Gator family grew, they improved both on and off the field and they’re ready to build a program that fell into the SEC cellar under the previous staff.

“Every year this is a fun day,” McElwain said. “It’s one of reflection. It’s one that you’re really excited about the guys that chose to be a part of your family.”

If this is what McElwain and Co. can do with just two months to build relationships, the entire country better be on alert and ready for the 2016 recruiting cycle.

cece jefferson, ben hill griffin stadium, gainesville, florida

CeCe Jefferson works out under the lights of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium during Friday Night Lights. / Photo by David Bowie

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. malscottFebruary 4, 2015, 6:57 pm

    Glorious day…Coach Mac is great with the media, a good man that emulates what you want in a coach. we got kids that want to be Gators…Things are looking better immediately. This, right here, right now is the new beginning. We haven’t even seen Grier yet and Harris will have another year under his belt. Some receivers, a bucket load of linemen, two stud running backs…kids on this team that are already good and will be better this year…and a gaggle of great defensive kids and athletes. And, a 5 star long snapper for extra credit! HA! Go Gators.

http://www.gatorcountry.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/USATSI_8253387_166229722_lowres-150x150.jpg Nick de la Torre FeatureFootballRecruiting ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
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The Florida Gators wrapped up a very successful National Signing Day with a class of 20 players — including two early enrollees.

In one of his final press conferences, Will Muschamp said “don’t let the new guy tell you there isn’t any talent here.” Sure, Florida has some talent on the roster but Muschamp left a roster with just seven scholarship offensive linemen and just eight kids committed to the program. Two of those kids would decommit within weeks of Jim McElwain being hired and a third — Derrick Dillon — didn’t make it to the final class either.

The job that McElwain and his entire staff did in pulling together a recruiting class in just a few short months — going up against schools negatively recruiting how poor Florida had performed on the field, the staff turnover and against relationships that recruits had built for years with other coaching staffs — is nothing short of incredible.

An integral part of holding that group together was recruiting coordinator Drew Hughes. A holdover from the previous staff, Hughes was able to get the new coaching staff up to speed on where Florida stood with the guys they would be targeting for this class.

Martez Ivey

Martez Ivey/Andrew Spivey

“I thought Drew did a really good job. He was a guy who obviously was able to hold it together,” said McElwain. “Drew had a real handle of what’s going on and knew where a lot of the players were.”

Faced with an impossible task, McElwain and his staff ignored recruiting sites that had Florida’s recruiting class ranked outside the top-100 in the country. They didn’t have time to waste lamenting about the hand that they had been dealt, they simply had to make moves and make the best of what was given to them.

The end result is a haul that not only boats the top-ranked offensive linemen in the country (Martez Ivey), the second rated defensive end in the country (CeCe Jefferson) and a pair of bruising backs (Jordan Scarlett, Jordan Cronkite) but a few playmakers and offensive linemen to solidify a line that was in dire straights.

McElwain wanted to sign five or six offensive linemen this class to bolster their overall numbers and that’s just what he was able to do with Ivey, Nick Buchanan, Richerd Desir-Jones, Fredrick Johnson, Tyler Jordan and Brandon Sandifer.

“Our goal was to try to hit in that five to six range in there and I think we’re pretty good hitting those numbers,” McElwain said. “That was something that we felt we needed to do especially not because of the talent that we have but because of the lack of numbers we had. So I think that was really good and very important for us as we went out and then tried to create some balance in the other spots moving forward.”

Florida’s defense hasn’t been an issue the past few seasons, but the Gators will get help in the class from Jefferson, Rayshad Jackson, Luke Ancrum, Keivonnis Davis, Andrew Ivie, Kylan Johnson, Chris Williamson and Jabari Zuniga. However, the focus was on offense — rightfully so.

Of the 19 players that signed with the Florida Gators, 13 were on the offensive side of the ball. Some will point out that Florida did

Jordan Scarlett, Nike, The Opening

Jordan Scarlett gets ready to compete in the 7-on-7 championship game at The Opening. / Photo Courtesy of Student Sports

not sign a quarterback but with returning starter Treon Harris getting ready for his sophomore season and redshirt freshman Will Grier looking to compete for a starting job, signing a quarterback wasn’t totally necessary this cycle and not something the staff isn’t concerned with but they will keep options open.

“I feel really good about quarterbacks, obviously it was a position that you recruit every year, you don’t settle you go out and try to get what there is,” McElwain said. “There may be some that are still out there as this kinda goes forward and you know we’ll answer that, like I said, from some of those spots if needed moving forward.”

McElwain and his staff were the comeback kids on Wednesday afternoon. They’ll take a night off to relax and unwind after the whirlwind they just completed but don’t call it a vacation. There’s no time for that.

“What we’ll do is go out and have dinner as a staff and tell a few jokes and laugh a little bit and corroborate some stories that were out there and then we’ll get back at work in the morning to get ready to go for this spring ball,” said McElwain.

With National Signing Day 2015 over and done, the Gator family grew, they improved both on and off the field and they’re ready to build a program that fell into the SEC cellar under the previous staff.

“Every year this is a fun day,” McElwain said. “It’s one of reflection. It’s one that you’re really excited about the guys that chose to be a part of your family.”

If this is what McElwain and Co. can do with just two months to build relationships, the entire country better be on alert and ready for the 2016 recruiting cycle.

cece jefferson, ben hill griffin stadium, gainesville, florida

CeCe Jefferson works out under the lights of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium during Friday Night Lights. / Photo by David Bowie

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