But McElwain and his assistants have also found some early success in Georgia.
The Gators closed out their 2015 class with the addition of five Peach State prospects, the second most Florida has signed in the last decade.
McElwain discussed those recruiting results in Georgia with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
“I think (it was due to a) couple of things,” McElwain told the AJC. “There were pre-existing relationships with some guys on our staff who recruited that area in the past. That obviously helps.
“But for us, our thought is a five-hour radius of Gainesville. And with that being said, that (radius) goes up into Georgia, and that will be something that we’ll try to continue to make Gator Country.”
McElwain landed his first verbal commitment from tight end Daniel Imatorbhebhe and secured the pledge of offensive lineman Brandon Sandifer, who held offers from Alabama, Florida State and South Carolina, among others.
McElwain and his staff then flipped underrated defensive lineman Jabari Zuniga from N.C. State, outlasted Michigan for four-star cornerback Chris Williamson and beat out in-state UGA for offensive lineman Nick Buchanan.
“Kind of how we look at everything is that each player is evaluated on his own merits,” McElwain said. “For us, it’s important that they fit the criteria that we deem to help them be successful at whatever position it might be.
“And there are obviously great players in Florida, and we want to try to recruit those guys as hard as anybody. At the same, we’ll try to think in the footprint of the SEC. There’s really good coaching and really good players in Georgia as well.”
McElwain also has to land the big fish in his own backyard, which he did on signing day with the commitment of local five-star defensive end CeCe Jefferson.
McElwain spoke to the AJC about the drama surrounding Jefferson’s letter of intent, which was faxed to Florida after a five-day delay and a coaching change at his position.
“At that point (when recruits hold off), you can’t take any of it personal,” McElwain said. “You move on and do the best you can. In that particular case, he always wanted to come here. And it was a good fit. So it worked out in the end. Yet he wasn’t the first one that hasn’t signed on signing day. That’s happened before.”