Jones, Brown decommitments from Florida justify urgency in McElwain hire
Florida couldn’t afford to waste any time locking down Jim McElwain as its next head coach. The Gators introduced McElwain on Saturday and will hit the road to begin recruiting on Monday, because, frankly, he can’t afford not to.
The Gators’ 2015 recruiting class has been whittled down to just seven commitments since Florida announced Will Muschamp would not be back as head coach next season. They’ve lost four commitments since Muschamp was fired, including two in the last week alone.
Four-star quarterback Sheriron Jones is no longer committed to Florida, and as of Saturday night neither is four-star lineman George Brown Jr.
— Thomas Goldkamp (@ThomasGoldkamp) December 7, 2014
With Jones and Brown decommitting, Florida needed a coach sooner than later to blaze a new path on the recruiting trail in limited time. It got that coach in McElwain, and not a moment too soon.
Related: Florida loses 4-star QB commit
McElwain has the potential to be a great hire for Florida, and he wasn’t brought in out of desperation. (Have you seen his buyout? This was not a desperate hire.)
But there’s a reason athletic director Jeremy Foley showed such a sense of urgency in pursuing McElwain, and it’s only due in part to his stellar body of work at Colorado State. It’s also due to Florida’s lack of commitments in its current recruiting class, McElwain’s familiarity with recruiting in Florida and the fact that five of the top 10 undeclared prospects in the Class of 2015 hail from the state of Florida.
“What I’m excited about most of anything is rekindling the relationships [in Florida],” McElwain said in his introductory press conference on Saturday. “I’m excited. I’m going to hit the road on Monday morning … probably what I’m most excited about is rekindling the relationships and getting back involved with the players we had an effect on their lives.”
The Gators must work twice as hard as most other schools just to salvage an adequate class, and that’s why Foley said he hoped to hire a new coach before Christmas upon firing Muschamp last month.
With McElwain now in place, the Gators have a direction, an identity and a selling point with which to attract recruits.
McElwain proved at Colorado State he can hack it as a head coach in terms of player development and on-field execution. When Florida hired Muschamp, he hadn’t proven any of that as the defensive coordinator at the University of Texas. McElwain already has a leg up on Muschamp in that regard, and Florida will certainly benefit in those areas with its new hire.
But it really needed McElwain to help Florida win in recruiting before ever coaching a game for the blue and orange.
Florida now has a head coach and some stability within its program. It hasn’t been able to say that since August of 2013, prior to the 4-8 debacle that began Muschamp’s backslide out of a job.
Prospects will love Florida’s football tradition, its facilities and its passionate fan base. They’ll love the warm weather of the Sunshine State and the Gators’ membership in the high-profile SEC.
Now they have a head coach they can love. Those decommited recruits had one when Muschamp had a job, and now a new set of recruits can come to Gainesville to play for a coach they know will be in place for the next few years (if not longer).
McElwain is an accomplished coach, and Florida is historically a very accomplished program. On paper it appears to be a marriage made in heaven.
But Florida had no time to lose, and it not only did it make the right hire, but it made it in nick of time.