Florida’s recruiting journey to the first Wednesday in February has been about as wild as anyone could have predicted.
In fact, the wildest thing about it is how uneventful it was up until this week.
The Gators entered the week with eight committed players — including two early enrollees — and a class ranking near the likes of Florida Atlantic, Western Michigan and Temple.
But Florida finished signing day ranked No. 23, according to Rivals.com, with seven signing-day commits, seven blue-chip (either four or five-star) prospects in the class and 20 of 21 verbal commitments signed, totaling for an average class rating of 3.29 stars.
"For our first signing class, first and foremost, the momentum that we gained has been fantastic," coach Jim McElwain said. "The doors that we opened in this short period of time, back in the places that we need to be successful at when we go out and recruit and obviously that’s in the state of Florida first, and then bumping into that five-hour radius part as we go up into Georgia is something that we need to make sure we work on and keep getting better at. I think that we answered some things from all kind of corners of the state and that’s a good thing."
Florida’s 2015 signing day started just like many anticipated, with Jacksonville offensive lineman Tyler Jordan faxing in his letter of intent almost immediately after the 7 a.m. signing window opened.
By 8 a.m., the Gators had two signees with defensive tackle Andrew Ivie — brother of defensive lineman Joey — faxing his LOI in as well.
What then played out was a bit of a rivalry between Florida’s new coach and its old one, when three players committed to verbally or at least strongly considering coming to UF committed to Auburn and Will Muschamp.
The most notable was Armwood High School defensive lineman Byron Cowart, the No. 1 recruit in the nation.
McElwain was mum about the impact of recruiting against Florida’s former head man.
"Well, obviously the guy’s a great ball coach and he had obviously some insights that I’m sure they were able to use. But it’s never about anybody else," he said.
"It’s about what we have and who we are, and we’re very secure in that and know we’re going to move forward and be successful in what we’re trying to accomplish. That’s part of the game. I never really thought about it to be honest."
At 11:35 a.m. McElwain got some good news, when the nation’s No. 1 offensive tackle Martez Ivey signed to come to Florida.
From there, UF got the ball rolling.
Shortly after 2 p.m., the Gators closed their day strong with the commitment of defensive lineman CeCe Jefferson, followed by the trio of athletes Jordan Cronkrite, D’Anfernee Mcgriff and offensive lineman Nick Buchanan in a 30-minute span.
It’s not the first transitional recruiting class McElwain has ever put together, but if it serves as the building blocks to something greater, it may be the last he will have to put together for a long time.
"Anytime you have experience doing that, I think there’s no doubt it helps. But each place is different," McElwain said. "Each place has its different set of circumstances and things you need to deal with. But as I go back, I’ve gotta tell you the players are the ones, man. And the guys here have really accepted and jumped on board."
Follow Richard Johnson on Twitter @RagjUF