- Jeff Barlis, College Football
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- A lot of college football coaches try to sell recruits on a family atmosphere around their programs.
The Florida Gators take it one step further -- they try to sell the recruit's family on the program as well.
With years of experience in the prime battlegrounds of the South, UF head coach Will Muschamp has proven himself as an elite recruiter. He's engineered back-to-back top-five classes at Florida, with another top-10 class likely on the way.
Two things that set Muschamp's coaching staff apart are the interest they take in a recruit's off-the-field life and the interest they take in a recruit's family.
"It's about building relationships and building trust with a young man and his family and the people who are going to help him make a decision," Muschamp said shortly after signing day last year in an interview with WYGM 740 AM in Orlando, Fla. "That's what we're trying to do."
And they do it well.
Gerard Ross, assistant head coach at Jacksonville (Fla.) Trinity Christian and former defensive back at Florida State, has seen it time and again.
"The experience I've had with them is they're stand-up guys," he said. "They don't come in with the approach as if they're just recruiting you. They're coming in to build a relationship and be up-front with the coaches and be up-front with the kids. They do a good job of that.
"So they're not just being robotic in saying, 'Oh, I want you. I want you.' They're just learning about who the kid is, who the coach is, who the parent is. And all of them do an excellent job of that. So I can see how kids and how families tend to cling to them when they really have interest in a certain kid."
In recruiting, the final decision can sometimes come down to a parent, guardian, sibling, coach, uncle or even a former teammate.
Florida coaches make it part of their job to find out who is in a recruit's inner circle.
"Whoever are the influences in the kid's lives, they do a good job of making sure they are at ease and comfortable," Ross said. "They know it all boils down to the family and the decision-makers in the family having a good relationship with them."
From junior days to spring football visits, summer camps, official visits in the fall, in-school and in-home visits and anything else they can squeeze in, it's all part of the process.
"When we hire my staff, I tell them, 'If you can't recruit, you're not going to coach at Florida because the bottom line is getting good players in here,'" Muschamp said. "There's a process about being a good coach, and I think the first thing is you've got to be able to evaluate. You've got to be able to put the film on and figure out, 'Does he fit in what we want?' Then you've got to be able to recruit and you've got to be able to build the relationship."
When the fit is right, Muschamp and his staff get along with a recruit and the people closest to him like, well, one big family.
They've made a believer out of Ross.
"I'm a Florida State guy myself, but I know those guys if they keep up what they're doing, they're going to turn it around," he said. "I have no doubt in my mind that they'll turn it around."