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Gators making South Florida push with recent coaching hires

DAVIE, Fla. -- The Florida Gators had a strong finish on national signing day in early February and finished off its 2017 recruiting year with the 13th-ranked class in the country.

The big finish wasn’t enough for head coach Jim McElwain. The third-year Florida head coach wanted to make changes to his staff to improve recruiting and when defensive coordinator Geoff Collins departed to take the head coaching job at Temple, offensive line coach Mike Summers left to take the same position at Louisville and defensive backs coach Torrian Gray left to coach in the NFL, McElwain seized the opportunity to bolster his coaching staff’s recruiting prowess.

Linebacker’s coach and former Miami head coach Randy Shannon was promoted to defensive coordinator, West Virginia running back’s coach and South Florida native Ja’Juan Seider was named to the same position, another South Florida native, Corey Bell, was named defensive back’s coach and finally, Florida hired offensive line coach Brad Davis from North Texas.

While Davis is new to Florida, the other three have extensive ties to the Sunshine State, with Seider and Bell having both coached high school football in South Florida.

The Gators signed 10 players from the fertile recruiting area in this past class but still missed out on some elite targets such as Jerry Jeudy and Trevon Grimes.

With the new coaches in place, Florida is trying to expand their footprint on the most important recruiting area in the Southeast.

“I talked to Corey Bell when I visited a couple weeks ago when I visited. He’s a great coach and he’s taken a lot of guys to the league,” said cornerback prospect Patrick Surtain Jr., the No. 7 overall player in the 2018 class. “The new coaches they have with the South Florida ties plus coach Randy Shannon. He’s also a great coach and was raised down here in Miami. It just means a lot to see a lot of the coaches who are from down in this area.”

Despite giving his pledge to Alabama in mid-January, ESPN Junior 300 athlete Xavier Williams admits several schools including Miami, Nebraska, Clemson, Ohio State and Florida are still in contention. Williams says Seider is a big reason for the interest in the Gators.

“Coach Ja’Juan (Seider), when he was at West Virginia, that was like my second offer so me and him have always had that tight connection, Williams said. “I think he’s going to start reaching out a lot more now that he’s even closer to me.”

ESPN Junior 300 defensive back Al Blades Jr., whose father also played in the NFL, said it’s easier for players to connect with the coaches that are from the same area and it’s easy to develop a connection with a coach or school because of the familiarity.

“There’s a lot of coaches that come out of South Florida and go to certain schools and a lot of kids look at those coaches that they know and know about and look at them as a way to get to that school or a way to have a connection to that school,” Blades said. “It’s just nice to know someone that came from down here is at that specific school.”

With a bowl win over Iowa in the Outback Bowl, a strong finish to the 2017 recruiting class, and three new coaches with solid recruiting reputations, the Gators are hoping to build some momentum heading in to the offseason.

So while it is still a little early to tell just how much recruiting success Florida’s new coaches might have, there is certainly some buzz around the Florida program in regards to recruiting.