Former assistant explains how Gators' No. 1 recruiting class in 2018 fell apart
Former Florida running backs coach Ja’Juan Seider said he was surprised that he only stayed with the program for a year and believed that the recruiting classes the Gators were putting together for 2018 and 2019 would have been special.
Seider, 44, who has been the running backs coach at Penn State for the past 3 years, was a guest on “The Fish Cast” podcast over the weekend. He was hired by Jim McElwain in February 2017 after spending 4 seasons in a similar role at West Virginia.
“Gainesville was special to us,” Seider said. “My kids, when they got down there and went to school and became part of that community, they really fell in love with it. We bought a house when we got down there and thought we were going to plant our seeds and get Florida back to where it should be — competing for championships.”
After winning the SEC East Division in consecutive seasons, McElwain and Florida agreed to mutually part ways 7 games into his third season. He was 22-12 at Florida.
Seider said that the Gators were building a recruiting class that featured some of the best names in college football.
“I was super excited to be part of the staff, to be able to be home and go recruit Florida the way I felt Florida needed to be recruited,” Seider said. “I went and got Kyle Pitts for them. We almost had Justin Fields. It was an exciting time. At that time before (McElwain), got fired we had the No. 1 class in the country.
“(Georgia DB) Tyrique Stevenson. (Clemson receiver) Frank Ladson. Matt Corral. We had a bunch of guys that were, you know, the who’s who of college football. Let’s not forget LSU’s best wide receiver (Ja’Marr Chase) was committed to us at the time.”
The Gators’ class slipped to No. 14 in the final rankings.
Dan Mullen was hired in late November 2017 and wanted to retain Seider to be the tight ends coach, but Seider decided to look at other options. Seider said he had several options, including the NFL, but eventually settled on Penn State.
“I felt like where I was at in my career, I didn’t want to go backward,” Seider said. “I felt like I was a good recruiter and I felt like I was a good coach. I didn’t know how I fit in on that tree with Mullen. And I respect the guy for bringing in his staff. Him bringing in his guys and letting them do what they do was important.”
Seider was a standout quarterback in the early 1990s at Glades Central in Belle Glade, Florida. His teammates at Glades Central included running back Fred Taylor and wide receiver Reidel Anthony, who were integral parts of the Florida Gators’ national championship team in 1996.
“Florida will always hold a special place for me,” Seider said. “Growing up in Belle Glade, everyone in my high school went to Florida. I think I broke it when I left and went to West Virginia. I have a lot of respect for that program and the people that run that program.”
Seider went on to play college football at West Virginia and Florida A&M from 1995-1999. He coached at several high schools in Palm Beach County before being hired as a graduate assistant at West Virginia in 2008. Seider also spent 3 seasons at Marshall as the running backs coach and recruiting coordinator from 2010-2012.
You can listen to the full podcast here.