Recruits don’t want to hear about how good you’re going to be, how many games you’re going to win, how many players you’re going to send to the NFL.
They want to actually see it.
That’s where Dan Mullen is right now at Florida.
He’s showing it on the field, where the Gators have had back-to-back double-digit win seasons and top-10 national finishes.
He’s showing it in the NFL draft, where seven Gators were selected last weekend, led by cornerback CJ Henderson in the first round and wide receiver Van Jefferson in the second. (UF has four other players who have already signed with teams as undrafted free agents).
Recruits are seeing all this, for sure.
“I think (recruits) are looking here,” Mullen said earlier this week. “In just two years, we have the program built to this level where we finished in the top 10 in football the last two years. We’re the only top-10 football team that’s a top-10 academic school as well.
“And we’re producing an extremely high number of NFL talent. So, it makes a lot of sense to come to Florida. If you’re a recruit, you get the best of both worlds coming here. Plus, we have sunshine and palm trees, which is pretty nice, too.”
What’s really nice from a prospect’s perspective is the way Mullen and his staff are developing talent and sending players on to the NFL. During their respective coaching careers, Mullen and defensive coordinator Todd Grantham have combined to produce 22 first-round picks — 12 by Mullen on offense, 10 by Grantham on defense.
“It doesn’t hurt (in recruiting),” Mullen said. “To go in the first round you have to have a certain level of talent. If you come play for us, if you have that talent, we’re going to maximize that talent and put you in a position to go be a first-round draft pick, which is really special.”
The latest first-rounder belongs to Grantham — Henderson, who was the ninth player selected overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars.
He is fully developed and ready to be an instant starter at the next level, Mullen said.
“Absolutely,” he said. “He is a guy that’s going to have the opportunity (to start), just because of his attitude, not just his talent, but his approach within his preparation, how he handles himself on a daily basis. He’s certainly going to have the opportunity to start Day One.”
In last weekend’s draft, the Gators had four offensive players taken (running back Lamical Perine and wide receivers Jefferson, Freddie Swain and Tyrie Cleveland) and three defensive players (Henderson, Jonathan Greenard and defensive end Jabari Zuniga).
The three wide receivers drafted were the most by any school in the country. Add in undrafted free agent Josh Hammond, who signed with the Jaguars, and you have four former UF wide receivers heading to the NFL.
That’s potentially big in recruiting, and for the young receivers already on the roster, Mullen said.
“It’s huge,” he said. “Our guys bought into (spreading the ball around to multiple receivers) and now they all are reaping the rewards. On the recruiting trail, you’re calling these different receivers and they’re like, ‘Well, coach, this school, they had one guy get all these catches.’ And I’ll say, ‘What if you’re not the one?’
“You come to Florida, you’re not only going to get coached, you’re going to get developed. You’ll have the opportunity to get touches on the field and the opportunity to go to the next level and play in the NFL. That’s such a huge selling point.”
As for the receivers who played behind the four seniors last season, they’ve already bought into the Mullen/Billy Gonzales approach to playing the position and the philosophy of sharing the load.
“It’s a really easy selling point for our younger guys,” Mullen said. “They saw, ‘Hey, these older guys all bought in, play as hard as you can, don’t worry about individual stats, got involved in special teams and now four of them are moving on to the NFL.’
“Not only did we have four (receivers) go to the NFL, all four have graduated college. That’s something that’s special and unique.”
Overall, the Gators had seven players get drafted and four others sign undrafted free-agent contracts with teams. That adds up to 11 former UF players with NFL opportunities. That’s a big number. One recruits are sure to notice.
“All 11 guys were great workers, great program guys,” Mullen said. “They showed up every day and did everything they were supposed to. If you’re a younger guy in the program, you’re looking at these guys. The goal is the opportunity to go to the NFL one day. Now, they’re looking at these guys going to the NFL.
“They worked hard, they practiced hard, they carried themselves the right way, had a great attitude within the program. A lot of people look at those last four others (Hammond, linebacker David Reese, defensive tackle Adam Shuler and punter Tommy Townsend) and no one’s going to be shocked if they make the rosters, either.
“We didn’t have a huge senior class. But to have that many guys who have the opportunity to play (at the next level) is really special.”