When recruits visit Florida this fall, the first thing they’ll want to see won’t be the football stadium or locker room.
UF’s new indoor practice facility opened over the weekend and has already generated excitement in recruiting.
“It’s really, really cool,” said Gators cornerback commit Jayvaughn Myers. “The facility is huge, and it’s nice for the football team to have. It’s a great look for Florida. They’ve never had one, so recruits are going to loving seeing it when they come. That’ll be the first thing they go check out.”
One of those recruits will be Jayvaughn’s brother, five-star wide receiver Nate Craig-Myers. Prospects of his caliber are always looking to be impressed when they visit college campuses.
“It’s all about style nowadays. Everybody likes new things,” said UF running back commit Lamical Perine. “Florida has been getting some good commits lately, but this is just going to add on to what they have to offer.
“Coach McElwain has been doing a great job with the program. I didn’t think they were going to be done with it this early. Everything he says to recruits he backs up. It opens people’s eyes when they see a coach doing what he talks about.”
When McElwain first arrived in Gainesville, he quickly realized the need for upgrading the football facilities and placed a premium on it. McElwain has yet to coach a game at Florida, but with the support of UF’s athletic association and board of trustees, he made what Gator Nation has wanted for years happen in a matter of months.
And recruits are taking notice.
“It helps,” McElwain said, “any time you’re able to do anything that enhances their ability to be a little bit better — even like with the academic center that’s been over doubled, what we’re doing at housing, some things like that — it’s all directly there for their benefit and for them to get better and help them not only as players but as students.
“Those are all the things that show a commitment and moving forward kind of cite that we’re not going to stand still. And I think that’s a positive note for all the recruits that are coming in.”
Like most prospects thus far, offensive lineman Brent Heggie made his commitment to McElwain based not on his on-field success but his plan and vision for the program. Improving the infrastructure has been his top priority from the onset.
“With coach McElwain and the new staff, the new facilities were a big deal,” McElwain said. “That’s been one of his main selling points. The IPF is definitely a step in the right direction. It’s another reason for people to choose Florida.”
Recruits, however, won’t necessarily pick the Gators solely because they have a newer or nicer indoor practice facility than other schools. It just gives UF more firepower to attract prospects and spark their interest.
“Facilities always help the recruiting conversation,” Florida athletics director Jeremy Foley said. “To me, it’s just part of the equation. The head coach is part of it. The campus is part of it. The education is part of it. The Swamp is part of it. The opportunity to play is part of it. The vibe in the locker room is part of it. It’s all part of it.
“When a recruit walks on here for football, first of all, he’ll seen the diagrams of the academic center, some modifications of our locker room. Walk down to the practice facility, sit in the locker room with Coach Mac, all the things we do in recruiting. … Anytime you show a commitment with a new facility like that, brand new bells and whistles, it will help. When the academic center is done, trust me, it’s going to blow people away.”
Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell doesn’t doubt that Florida’s IPF will get the attention — possibly the pledges — of recruits. But for the Gators to fully reap the benefits of their facility amenities, they must return to their winning ways.
“Kids these days are always looking for something that’s shiny and new,” Farrell said. “Now Florida has a pretty cool facility that these kids will be attracted to. Getting them attracted to your program is how you to get commitments. It’s always important. They call it the arms race. The competition for facilities is extremely high. When you do fall behind, as Florida did, it’s going to hurt you. That stuff sticks with recruits. There was obviously some sense of urgency from McElwain. If they were coming off two national titles in three years, there wouldn’t have been.
“But Florida is Florida. They’ll be back and they’re going to rebound. But you can’t just sit back and wait for it to happen. You have to take steps to make that occur, and this is a big step for Florida. Now you have to win. An indoor practice facility at a program that’s not winning, who cares. That’s pearls on a pig right there. Winning is the most important factor, period. When you start winning and you have these great facilities and you’re putting kids in the NFL and — there’s so many and’s. All put together, it could be a special thing.”
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