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Jim McElwain's First Class Still Has a Way to Go

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If you haven't been paying attention, the following may surprise you.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

No matter how things were going in Gainesville under Will Muschamp, you could count on his recruiting classes being stellar according to the rating services. His lowest rated class by the 247sports Composite was 12th, with even the class after 2013's 4-8 debacle clocking in at No. 9 nationally. After all, no matter who is in the captain's chair there, Florida always brings in top rated classes.

Well, until now.

Florida's 2015 class never filled up like a normal one does, thanks in very large part to the uncertainty around Muschamp's job status. No one knew if he'd make it through the 2014 season, and his eventual firing validated the considerable doubts on that subject. When Jim McElwain took over as the new head coach, most of the consensus 4-star players in the class decommitted shortly thereafter. Only seven total players remain today from Muschamp's recruiting efforts, and only one is already in school as an early enrollee.

McElwain was only able to add one other early enrollee, and despite a recent pair of commitments, he only has 10 players lined up for this year. None of the recent commits is a consensus 5-star or 4-star, though one has potential to play like one. Only a single player in the entire set is a consensus 4-star. And this is Florida.

Of course, this is also a transitional class. Those tend to be either the lowest or close to the lowest rated classes that coaches ever sign. Here is a sampling of recent transitional classes for SEC head coaches:

Coach Transitional Class Rank No. of Players 5-Stars 4-Stars Blue Chip Pct.
Will Muschamp 12 19 1 11 63.2%
Kevin Sumlin 16 19 2 8 52.6%
Gus Malzahn 13 24 2 7 37.5%
Derek Dooley 9 28 2 8 35.7%
Butch Jones 24 23 0 4 17.4%
Hugh Freeze 47 18 1 2 16.7%
Mark Stoops 34 23 0 3 13.0%
Bret Bielema 23 36 0 4 11.1%
Jim McElwain 78 10 0 1 10.0%
Derek Mason 46 22 0 2 9.1%
James Franklin 52 23 0 1 4.3%

McElwain isn't done, and his rank of 78 will certainly rise. Just dwell on this for a second though: the weekend before National Signing Day, Florida's class is nearly ranked in the 80s. This is uncharted territory no matter what caveats apply.

Though McElwain's current blue chip rate (percentage of class that is 4-star or 5-star players) is down in the Vanderbilt-Kentucky-picking up after John L. Smith range, he's in the running for some VHTs. Guessing right now, his first class will probably look numbers-wise like Hugh Freeze's: a modest total with just a few blue chippers.

The usual reminders do apply, as always. It's not just about the groceries you buy but what you cook with them. The highest rated transitional class belonged to Derek Dooley, and the one with the highest blue chip percentage was Muschamp's.

But still. Should McElwain's first class end up like Freeze's, it will mean a finish somewhere in the 40s. That would be by far the lowest rated class for Florida since class rating services have existed. Part of McElwain's appeal to Florida was not just his tactical coaching but also his player development history. He'll need to lean on every part of that expertise early, given that the offensive roster is not in good shape and not a lot of help is coming right away.