Florida coach Jim McElwain returned to Fort Collins, Colo., this week to celebrate Christmas with his family.
Once the holidays are over, McElwain will be back at work and gearing up for a sprint to signing day, Feb. 4. The Gators have eight verbal commitments and scholarship room for 25 signees at this time.
“We’ve got a lot of scholarships to give, and for us the biggest thing is making sure we get the right fit,” McElwain said Monday on the Ronnie and Tkras Show on 620 WDAE. “Not only great players, but great character and guys that fit the University of Florida.”
McElwain wants the makeup of the class to be balanced and said the offensive line, which could return just eight players next season, is a position he’s “really pounding on right now” as a priority. He visited three linemen his first weekday on the recruiting trail, including five-star offensive tackle Martez Ivey.
After his introductory press conference Dec. 6, McElwain spent the next eight days on the road before the dead period started Dec. 15.
The contact period resumes Jan. 15 and ends the 31st. McElwain will try to triple his current number of commits over the six weeks.
“It’s definitely one of those deals that we’ve really got to hit the ground running right after the first of the year,” McElwain said Monday on the Frank Frangie Show on 1010XL. “The response we’ve received, obviously there’s previously relationships that have been built with recruiters from different school with all these kids, and yet we are opening up a new opportunity.
“A new opportunity to be a Gator. There’s a lot of kids that have grown up wanting to be in that orange and blue, and you know what, we’re going to get back in, we’re going to give them that opportunity to be a part of a great university and really, a chance to build a legacy.”
That building process for McElwain will begin in UF’s own backyard. One of his main recruiting objectives is taking back the state of Florida, particularly the Tampa area.
He made more than two dozen visits earlier this month and saw nine of the top 20 in-state recruits, according to the rankings of 247Sports.com. Five of those nine were from the Tampa area.
“When you look from a historical standpoint, when Florida was really rolling, they controlled and had the majority of really good players out of that area,” McElwain told 620 WDAE. “We have to get back in and make sure we’re getting the best out of that area as we build our team.
“Obviously I’m a firm believer (that) we are the University of Florida and it’s Florida first, then the rest of it is second. … We’re re-evaluating guys as we speak and making sure that we get the right fit, and first and foremost with players from the state of Florida.”
McElwain, who expects to speak with some recruits by phone on Christmas, is confident the Gators will have a strong finish to the 2015 recruiting cycle.
“We will do a great job salvaging this recruiting class,” McElwain told 1010XL. “There are some really good players out there that have given us notice and some that haven’t made up their minds yet. Those are the ones we are going to go after. And then, we got to get a great start on the evaluation for the 2016 and 2017 class. For us, that all starts with capturing the state of Florida as much as we can.”