Florida football coach Jim McElwain discusses his first recruiting class (Quotes provided by ASAP Sports):
COACH McELWAIN: How’s everybody doing, all right? You have a wonderful signing day like everybody else did in the country? It’s a whole lot of fun out there.
But guys, for the first signing class and our first signing class, first and foremost, the momentum that we’ve gained has been fantastic. The doors that we’ve opened in this short period of time back in the places that we need to be successful at when we go out and recruit, go out and recruit, and obviously that’s in the State of Florida first, and bumping into that five‑hour radius part as we go up into Georgia is something that we need to make sure that we work on and keep getting better at.
I think we answered some things from all kind of corners of the state, and that’s a good thing; whether it be up in the pan handle, whether it be in this mid‑section or whether it’s down in the Miami area, I think our guys worked their tail off getting out there and getting to as many places as we could, and, you know, breaking some doors down. So that’s a real positive.
The other thing is, I can’t go any further without mentioning how this team really embraced this recruiting season. These guys were really positive in everything that they did and that shows great things about the character of the guys we have in our program and the character of guys that we are looking to bring out.
So kind of, as we talk about it from kind of our needs standpoint, obviously, as you took a look early on, we talked about the offensive line position; you know, our goal was to try to hit in that five to six range in there, and I think we were pretty good hitting those numbers. 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 that we had.
And 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.
We still will have a couple that we will hold for some possible late additions as we move forward, and then obviously look for guys in next year’s class as we get into possible early enrollees as we are already looking towards the 2016 class. That was kind of the plan going in. I thought we executed that plan very well, and you know what, there are a lot of positive things for the Gators.
Q. How hard was it coming from behind when you get off to such a late start with a coaching change and all?
COACH McELWAIN: Well, we weren’t the only ones in the country, you know, on that situation. It happens every year. The good thing, I guess kind of was a little bit of experience going through it one time already.
I think the key is, is getting out as soon as you can, as many places as you can. Not always do you get to spend a ton of quality time but at the same time, you’ve got to take advantage of the time you had out.
So I know this: Our guys worked overtime getting to as many places as we could, and I think our reception was really good, which helped us moving forward.
Q. Can you talk about the way you closed, not just today, but over the last week and a half?
COACH McELWAIN: Yeah, I thought our momentum ‑‑ we felt decent all the way along and felt really good about the kind of kid that we brought in here. We strive not only for guys beyond just the playing ability that were a fit for the University of Florida that fit the character mode; that fit a lot of the things, the leadership modes that we are looking for as we built this class and with that, you know, I think as you take a look at the kids that chose to be Gators, I think that that’s something that really stands out, as well.
Q. Can you just describe how this day was for you? Obviously I know you’re confident and I’m sure your staff felt good about your chances with kids, but I’m sure it was nerve‑wracking not having known them for a long time and what was it like to see it play out?
COACH McELWAIN: Well, every year, this is a fun day, and it’s one ‑‑ it’s one of reflection; it’s one that you are really excited about the guys who chose to be part of your family. We welcome all of them with open arms, and yet we were able to get a lot of work done and evaluation on the next couple classes coming up, which is a normal workday for us this time of year. So we were able to get some things done that way, which was really good.
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.
Q. And then also, you talked about building the infrastructure here and improving a lot of things. Many recruits talked about that they were shown the indoor practice facility plans. There was a photo where you guys had like 13 Tahoes parked outside the stadium. Did you sense an excitement of the new direction of where things are headed and how much do you think that played into how well you guys closed with kids?
COACH McELWAIN: Well, I mean, one of the things you do constantly is you have to evolve and obviously bringing some of the things that we have done previous places when it comes to the recruiting weekend itself, and as we build our player personnel department and get our pieces in there, things will continue to get better and we’ll keep tweaking and keep working and making sure that that experience is really good for people, too.
Q. How critical was it closing with two players like Martez Ivey and Cece Jefferson in particular?
COACH McELWAIN: Well, Tez, as you know, that’s one of those that was a huge position and need for us and I think that really gave us some great momentum.
You know, we are still waiting on the fax, on the other mention. And as you guys saw, I didn’t think there was a fax machine outside under those tents, so I’m not sure. You know, can’t say anything until that fax gets in.
Q. You’ve recruited in the SEC before as an assistant. What was the view as a head coach and just the competitiveness of recruiting in the league?
COACH McELWAIN: Well, I mean, this is a top league in the country in all areas in all respects and each staff has great recruiters on it and good coaches that go about it however they choose to go about it.
You know, it’s fun to be back in the competition. You know, been sitting here in the State of Florida, I’m not sure there’s a school in the country that doesn’t come to this state to recruit.
That speaks volumes for the high school coaches, the type of players that are in this state, and you know, that’s something that we need to get back and really focus on as University of Florida is getting ourselves and making sure that we make it hard for those guys to leave the state.
Q. Obviously this is stuff you and your staff are probably oblivious to, but the gloom and doom out there in the media ‑‑
COACH McELWAIN: Gloom and doom?
Q. As far as the rankings, two or three weeks ago, you were ranked 99 or 102 ‑‑
COACH McELWAIN: Who were we ahead of? (Laughter).
Q. I think Fresno.
COACH McELWAIN: Is that about it, right? (Laughter).
Q. You guys are oblivious, but did you have to encounter that with players as far as negativity at all?
COACH McELWAIN: No. You know, you get negative recruited against from other people and that’s just other schools techniques. That’s not something that we adhere to. We go ahead and let them do that because they are probably not real secure about sometimes what they have at their programs.
In our case, we have a lot of great things to sell, and there really wasn’t ‑‑ we knew it was going to be late because we were getting in late on a lot of guys. We had to go back and re‑evaluate a lot of players to fit the criteria that we felt were going to be successful Gators and I feel really good about those guys that ended up coming.
Q. Is there any concern that you were not able to get a quarterback in this class?
COACH McELWAIN: No. You know, I feel really good about our quarterbacks. Obviously it’s a position that you recruit every year. You don’t settle. You go out and try to get what there is. There may be some that are still out there as this kind of goes forward. You know, we’ll answer that, like I said, with some of those spots, if needed, moving forward.
Q. You said there are a lot of coaches in your situation; not a whole lot of coaches had to go against their predecessor in recruiting. How difficult an obstacle was Will Muschamp to overcome?
COACH McELWAIN: Like I’ve said, the guy is a great ball coach and he had obviously some insights that I’m sure they were able to use and yet it’s never about anybody else. It’s about what we have and who we are and we are very secure in that and know we are going to move forward and be successful in what we are trying to accomplish.
So, you know, that’s part of the game. Never really thought about it to be honest.
Q. Do you think if you were not recruiting against him, you might have had an even better class?
COACH McELWAIN: Well, a hypothetical question, right. What do you think, I just fell off the turnip truck yesterday? My first press conference ever? Come on. (Laughter).
Q. First recruiting press conference here.
COACH McELWAIN: That was good right there. I’ll remember that one.
Q. How much did the existing recruiting structure with Drew Hughes and that staff really help you get the class together so quickly?
COACH McELWAIN: I thought Drew did a really good job. He’s a guy that was able to hold it together. We were able to add Kevin Barbay, we are still in the process of adding some more people that have a lot of experience in those areas that are going to help us move forward in the player personnel department and that’s part of the infrastructure change that we are getting ready to make. It evolves over time.
But obviously Drew had a real handle on what was going on and knew where a lot of the players were.
Q. How did your experience getting a transitional recruiting class help you this go around?
COACH McELWAIN: It did. It helped a lot. Any time you have experience doing that, I think there’s no doubt it helps. But each place is different. Every place has its different set of circumstances and things you need to deal with. But as I go back, I’ve got to tell you, the players are the ones, and the guys here really have accepted this and jumped on board.
Q. You said a few questions ago that you had to sell your program and not worry about Muschamp and the coaches that are no longer here. But did that at all affect the way you sold it; this is Florida and this is me and our staff and what our plan is?
COACH McELWAIN: There’s so much positive here. There’s never a need to ‑‑ you just ‑‑ I don’t know why you ever have to go in and bad mouth something, you know. It’s just not how I was brought up. So we’ve got a lot of positive things to sell here and that’s what we do.
Q. Talk about the efforts of Tyler Jordan and helping sell this class.
COACH McELWAIN: I’ve got to tell you, Tyler, Kalif, Bay‑Bay (ph), those young guys that were the first to kind of jump in, and of course Kalif and Bay‑Bay are on campus, as well. Those guys were fantastic; they jumped right in.
And Tyler, in particular, he was real positive on his visit that he made up here and did a good job of kind of staying in touch I think with these guys in this class. But that’s really what it’s all about. They were recruiting teammates.
Q. When you turn on the tape and look at Tyler, what do you see?
COACH McELWAIN: You know, here is a guy that I think, the way he bends ‑‑ he can bend. He’s got great feet and snap, and you know, he’s also a guy, obviously, high intelligence and football IQ. His days are bright, bright, looking forward.
Q. Mike Summers from last year’s coaching staff, how integral was he in landing the gold target of offensive linemen, especially Ivey?
COACH McELWAIN: Well, he had developed ‑‑ he had been recruiting the area, obviously. He has built relationships with a lot of the offensive linemen. Just nature of the position. So Mike did an outstanding job, as all our coaches did, getting involved and pitching in where needed.
Q. You mentioned having prior relationships that you went right back to when you got in here. Did you have a sense one way or the other whether or not that was going to be easy or difficult and how was it?
COACH McELWAIN: Well, easy difficult, it’s recruiting. Each recruits different. There’s a different set of circumstances involved in every single kid ‑‑
Q. Not necessarily a kid but the relationships you have with some of the people.
COACH McELWAIN: And the coaches, being able to see them again and see the smiles on their face and how excited they were to see us in here, it’s been fantastic. I look forward to seeing those guys when they come up and come to clinics and come watch us practice. It will be a lot of fun.
Q. Could you talk a little about Andrew Ivie and what you see in terms of him coming in?
COACH McELWAIN: As you know, I kind of like multi‑sport guys. Here is a guy that obviously his record as a wrist letter and what he does, the discipline it takes; he’s very, very strong obviously, and there again comes from pretty good blood lines, his brother, right, playing fret give for us.
Q. With Fowler headed to the NFL Draft, how important was reloading in terms of pass rushers?
COACH McELWAIN: You know, it’s interesting, you get a great player like that, like Dante, and a great Gator, a guy who did a lot for this program and this university. I look at it as, you don’t necessarily replace that guy but the pieces around him have to elevate their game, right, around that spot, as well, until somebody gets into that role.
We have got a lot of players here that I’m looking forward to seeing in spring, but there again, I don’t think you ever replace a first round draft choice necessarily. You may in time because obviously through experience, guys are going to continue to get better. But in that case, I sure would like to see him comeback for another year, right.
Q. How do you feel about the pass rushers you were able to sign?
COACH McELWAIN: We got some real long ‑‑ I think you guys are going to like some of these guys. Maybe under the radar a little bit and yet from an evaluation standpoint, we felt they were great players and guys that had a chance to really develop into being forces.
Q. Where do you see McGriff fitting in?
COACH McELWAIN: The guy is an athlete, needs a ball in his hands. There’s a lot of different spots, and the way you play different personnel groupings, he’s a guy that works in and now all of a sudden, what is he, what spot is he at. And to add to the confusion, you know, for the defenses; any time you get an athlete of that calibre, there’s a lot of different places he can play, and you can see by his film the different spots and what a weapon he is when he has the ball in his hands.
For us, getting a versatile guy, now all of a sudden, really expands what you can do on offense.
Q. How do you envision Jordan Cronkrite and Jordan Scarlett’s roles in this new offense?
COACH McELWAIN: Well, I mean, obviously the guys are good running backs, right. And you know, any research you’ve done, real big on just a guy carrying it 40 times. I believe you need to have a one‑, two‑, and three‑punch when you’re going in there.
I really like the way these guys interacted and understood how they can help each other and push each other through competition to be better.
Q. And there’s a report about, you possibly adding another punter. Can you confirm that?
COACH McELWAIN: I must have missed that Tweet (Laughter).
Q. You talked about Dante Fowler. How do you see Cece Jefferson’s game, comparing to him?
COACH McELWAIN: That’s one, again, we haven’t answered it up here earlier. We haven’t had that ‑‑ yeah.
Q. When Robertson left, fans felt like it might hurt you guys. Can you talk about the job you were able to do specifically in that area with the number of guys you signed?
COACH McELWAIN: Well, obviously Randy is a guy that everybody knows and has been down in that area for a long time. And yet, as we took all the coaches down different positions, I felt that we did a great job down there. It’s one that’s in an area, when Florida was really rolling, they were getting guys from, and they were getting the right kind of guys from there, and that’s an area that we’re going to continue to go back to.
Q. How big was Jordan ‑‑
COACH McELWAIN: That was huge. And Jordan was a guy that we targeted when we first got here, and that was one of the first places we went down because we felt that’s the type of back that would really fit here at the University of Florida, and as all these guys, I’m just really excited that they chose to be part of our family.
Q. What kind of commits seem pretty intriguing ‑‑ Williamson, seem to have a lot of success on the offensive side of the ball. Will they both play secondary?
COACH McELWAIN: Yeah, you know, one of the things when you look, some of the things that are fatal flaws on the defensive side of the ball are guys that cannot play the ball in the air. Obviously these guys ability to play on the offensive side, go up and get the ball, got great size and length; I’m really excited they chose to be Gators.
Q. Just saw that Gerald Willis is going to Miami. Can you touch on that?
COACH McELWAIN: That’s good (laughing). Way to go.
Q. Any update on where you’re at with wide receiver coach and did that impact any of the wide receivers you were recruiting not having one?
COACH McELWAIN: No, I don’t think so. We got our playmaker that we were looking for when we were able to get it down there in Florida ‑‑ or down into Miami, so that was really exciting. And we’ll have one here real shortly.
Q. A lot of the recruiting gurus say that there’s a lot more flipping and de commitments now than there used to be and the verbal commitments don’t mean as much, have you found that to be true?
COACH McELWAIN: There’s the best one. Now think about this. This is new. You’ve got a silent verbal. (Laughter) just think about those names, okay. Hey, Coach, you have a silent verbal. I believe that’s an oxymoron, is it not? Yeah, okay, good.
Some of the lingo that goes on ‑‑ I don’t think any more, I think you guys call them commitments, I think maybe reservations is probably the way to put it, right. It always goes down to signing day. It doesn’t matter. It’s been doing that forever.
Now, obviously, there’s a lot more attention paid to it because just the social media that we’re on today. So it has been a lifelong deal. It just happens to be maybe a little more pizzazz today than it was years ago.
Q. The bat signal ‑‑
COACH McELWAIN: The bat signal? That’s pretty cool isn’t it. Every now and then I have something up my sleeve (laughing). Thanks.