It’s become commonplace in NCAA Division I football for coaches to put a unique spin on the recruitment trail.
Such is the case for Florida coach Dan Mullen.
On Saturday, Mullen and the UF coaching staff will host their first “Gator Grill Out”, an invite-only cookout featuring many prospects in the 2019 and 2020 classes who are high on Florida’s recruiting board.
Unlike traditional recruiting events, which often emphasize scouting, camps or campus tours, Saturday’s event aims to give the coaching staff an opportunity to interact with players and their families in a seemingly stress-free and delicious locale.
While the list remains fluid, the Gators are expecting to host a contingent of top prospects, including St. Thomas Aquinas defensive backs Jordan Battle and Jaden Davis, five-star defensive back Chris Steele, four-star defensive ends Lloyd Summerall, Derick Hunter and Nathan Pickering, Lake City wide receiver TJ Jones, Miami commit Jesiah Pierre and UF commit Dionte Marks.
And several other highly recruited prospects have indicated their status as a game-time decision for the weekend’s festivities, including top Florida targets such as defensive back Tyrique Stevenson, safety Brendan Gant, No. 1-ranked running back Trey Sanders and defensive back Kaiir Elam.
Hunter, a Ft. Myers native who has taken multiple visits to UF throughout his recruitment cycle, said he is intrigued by the event and believes it can only help Florida’s chances to land the highly recruited defensive lineman.
“It’s really interesting,” Hunter said of Saturday’s event, “and it can do a lot (for my recruitment), just to see all of the other recruits come together like this.
“Might even be some teammates in my future there.”
The new changes to the NCAA’s recruitment rules — players can now take official visits in the Spring, making recruiting a year-around endeavor — has programs across the country looking for new and exciting opportunities to host prospects, but the Gator Grill Out’s conception is far from the first time a UF head coach has introduced a fresh idea upon arriving in Gainesville.
Urban Meyer’s introduction of “Friday Night Lights”, an event which continued under the following head coaches and seems set to continue under Mullen, has been replicated by numerous programs since its inception in 2005, seeing as it helped recruit multiple five-star prospects — including a quarterback named Tim Tebow — to Florida.
Will Muschamp’s event came in the form of junior days, and he later added a 7v7 tournament in his final offseason in Florida.
Finally, Jim McElwain made Friday Night Lights his prime attraction, while making sure to add more camps and clinics as the rules became more lax. Those events should be here to stay at Florida under Mullen, and this weekend will tell if the Gator Grill Out becomes a mainstay on campus.