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Jim McElwain adds recruiting power with Seider and Bell hires

Hours before the clock struck midnight to close the chapter on 2014, rap icon Luther Campbell -- aka "Uncle Luke" -- prophesied a Florida Gators run through his home area of south Florida.

The 2 Live Crew lead vocalist didn't mince words on Twitter when he pleaded for his favorite college program -- Miami -- to snatch then-Florida Atlantic defensive backs coach Corey Bell before the Gators did.

Fast-forward to February 2017, and Randy Shannon, recently named Florida's new defensive coordinator, helped Jim McElwain do exactly that. Oh, and then McElwain added even more south Florida expertise by hiring former West Virginia running backs coach and Belle Glade, Florida, native Ja'Juan Seider.

The trio of Shannon, Seider and Bell brings nearly 50 years of south Florida coaching at the high school, collegiate and professional level to UF's staff. McElwain knew he had to make wholesale changes to his staffing philosophy when it came to recruiting, especially in the Gators' home state, and the additions of Seider and Bell to accompany Shannon appear to have done just that.

“With those three right there, they have an all-star team now,” Campbell, who spent the last decade coaching high school football in Miami, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's SEC Country. “The commitment Florida has in hiring all those guys, that shows you they want players from south Florida.

“You know me, I’m a die-hard Miami fan. But we might not have a chance to get the top players now. That’s how serious that crew will be at Florida. It’s a crazy all-star team.”

Frankly, that's what Florida needed. Yes, these two have to be able to perfect the X's and O's at one of the premier college football programs, but bringing in elite talent in a state like Florida and in a conference like the SEC is an absolute must. The Gators haven't exactly delivered in that department like an Alabama, a Florida State or an Ohio State. Heck, Georgia's 2016 recruiting class is one Florida fans can only dream about right now.

For years, top-five classes were the norm in Gainesville with Will Muschamp and Urban Meyer. McElwain hasn't kept pace, but after his mighty 2016 recruiting close -- headlined by signing 11 (10 ESPN 300 members) of the Sunshine State's top 60 players -- and the hiring of Seider and Bell, McElwain has made it clear there will be a more aggressive emphasis on recruiting as he looks to take Florida to the next step and close the talent gap with in-state rival Florida State and SEC king Alabama.

“What’s separated Florida from Florida State the last couple of years [in recruiting] is Florida State’s ability to go out and [get] the elite – elite – guys," said an FBS coach who has known Seider for more than 20 years. “Adding Corey and adding Ja’Juan is really going to allow -- especially in south Florida -- them to go in and decide who you want and go get them. ... It allows them to be proactive.”

That's what Florida is used to, but that's been an issue in the last two classes, as Florida has only signed 17 ESPN 300 members. Alabama and Georgia had 21 and 18 this year alone, respectively. Florida State has signed 29 in the last two classes.

Florida can no longer recruit on name alone, like it once did, but adding some quality bodies to that name will certainly help.

"While Bell was a solid addition for the Gators, Ja’Juan Seider is the home-run hire of the three new coaches," ESPN RecruitingNation reporter Derek Tyson said. "Seider has earned a reputation as one of the top recruiters in the Southeast and has extensive ties to south Florida. ... The Gators signed a very solid class on Feb. 1, but Seider was the biggest prospect McElwain signed this year. In my opinion, this hire show’s McElwain acknowledged a recruiting problem and is dedicated to fixing it."

Seider spent eight years at the high school coaching level at Glades Central, Palm Beach Lakes and Lake Worth -- all in south Florida -- and was the recruiting coordinator while at Marshall (2010-12), where he earned more south Florida recruiting clout.

Bell spent more than a decade in the south Florida high school coaching ranks, was Miami's director of player ops in 2007-10 and was set to be USF's recruiting coordinator before Florida swayed him away after only a short time on the job.

And when you look at the fact that Florida has missed out on top south Florida prospects like Amari Cooper, Cavin Ridley and Jerry Jeudy to Alabama, and Joey and Nick Bosa and Trevon Grimes to Ohio State, recruiting philosophies had to change at UF. McElwain needed to get guys who could dig their nails deeper into that sweet south Florida sand.

"McElwain was sick of losing out on some of the top guys in Florida’s back yard. Hiring two coaches with extensive ties to south Florida showed just how serious McElwain is about recruiting the fertile area," Tyson said.