UF football recruiting program prepared for on-campus visits

Zach Abolverdi
Gator Sports
Florida football coach Dan Mullen and his program developed virtual visits to show top targets and their families what the school and team had to offer.

After more than a year with no in-person recruiting, the ban is about to be lifted.

On Thursday, the NCAA Division I Council approved a return to normal recruiting June 1, allowing prospects to take official visits and have face-to-face contact with coaches. A dead period has been in effect since March 2020 — and extended eight times — due to the pandemic. 

The council also voted unanimously in favor of a one-time transfer exception for athletes in all sports beginning this fall, giving Clemson running back transfer Demarkcus Bowman immediate eligibility with the Gators. 

UF director of player personnel Charlie Skalaski said he and his staff are anxiously awaiting the end of the dead period May 31. 

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“We are in vivid anticipation,” Skalaski said. “We are excited about it. We’d be lying if we said we didn’t want it to open up. It’s who we are. At heart we’re recruiters and hosts. 

“It’s going to be a floodgate. It’s been shut down for about 18 months. These kids in this ’22 class, many of them have not been on a campus. A lot of kids want to visit in this June timeframe.”

The Gators didn’t have any official visitors in the last recruiting cycle and haven’t hosted a prospect on campus since January 2020. That will change in June, with over a dozen recruits set to visit that first weekend and several more taking trips throughout the month. 

“We have a significant number of individuals already scheduled for official visits,” Skalaski said. “There’s going to be even more planning than normal. It’s quite a comprehensive logistical effort.

“That’s where (director of recruiting operations) Lee Davis gets heavily involved and does a spectacular job. That’s really all hands on deck when we have an official visit weekend.”

With the inability to host recruits last year, Florida developed virtual visits to show top targets and their families what the school and football program had to offer. UF’s creative media team was on the cutting edge of that technology, with some programs even trying to pick Skalaski’s brain about their videos. 

He wouldn’t name names, but thinks that virtual visits are here to stay despite the dead period ending. 

“Necessity is the mother of invention,” Skalaski said. “We really jumped into this thing with both feet using all of our creative expertise and Gator Vision and all our in-house capability so that when we do one of these virtual tours, it’s a comprehensive thing. I say this in all humility, but just talking to parents and talking to recruits, we were constantly getting feedback, ‘Man, your Zoom visits are the best in the country. ’

“If there’s anybody doing a better Zoom out there, I’d like to know. Had numerous friends in the industry come to me and say, ‘Tell us what you’re doing.’ And I will tell you this, even when this thing opens up, I think these virtual tours are going to be here to stay in some form or fashion.”