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March 15, 2010

Tate's Take: The Recruiting Process

The University of Florida being an upper-tier football program hasn't happened by accident. Every bit as important as the coaching staff and the players is the support staff working behind the scenes who help to drive the effort.

Over the past several off season's InsidetheGators.net has taken a look at those invaluable members of the team though our Behind the Scenes series. This year, we're going to try something different.

Tate Casey, former Gator starting tight end, now is a part of the GBN family and provides us with an inside look at the Florida program, from a player's point of view, based on his time in Gainesville.

Casey originally burst onto the scene as a freshman playing in all twelve contests that year - making four starts and scoring four touchdowns. Despite that fast start to his career, he will always be best known as the recipient of Tim Tebow's 'jump pass' for the go-ahead touchdown in the 2006 win over LSU.

In all he played in 54 games, starting 16 of them.

Casey was a favorite at Florida among coaches and players and was seen as one of the most popular Gators, among his teammates, of the Meyer era.

Here in this edition of Tate's Take, Casey talks about the player's involvement in the recruiting process and everything that entails.



PLAYER INVOLVEMENT IN THE RECRUITING PROCESS

It wasn't necessarily that I knew the best places to take recruits while they were on their visits or anything like that. It was my approach. I didn't talk to them about girls or clubs or playing time. The coaches never asked me to talk about any of that. I talked to them straight from the heart about how things were being done.

I always told them the same thing - 'If your plan is to come in on day one and be handed a starting job and you're not ready to come in and work for it - then you're better off not coming here.'

From day one that was what Meyer's philosophy with the team and with recruiting. We don't want to sell a recruit on taking the easy road. That if you come to Florida you're going to have your classes taken care of and you're going to be given a starting position. If that's what you want to hear or that's what is going to sell you on committing, this isn't going to be a good fit for you in the first place.

I never lied to a recruit. I always told them that if you aren't willing to come in and bust your ass and help us get better as a team, we really don't want you.

The thing that gets asked about the most is they would ask about coach Meyer and what he is really like. I would tell them the truth because they are going to hear it somewhere else and if the truth bothers them, they aren't going to be the right fit.

I would tell them, yes coach Meyer is pretty hard-nosed. He is going to stay on your ass. He is going to make you go to class. If you don't go to class, you are going to think he is a hard ass because he is going to get on you. I tell them the truth because if it bothered them, if they felt like they could come in and not go to class or put in the hard work to make us better I didn't want them on my team.

SOME PLAYERS ARE MOVE INVOLVED THAN OTHERS

I think the biggest thing with Meyer and this staff is trust. Does Meyer trust you to be someone that he wants representing him and Florida when recruits come in? If you're around Meyer for any amount of time at all - you know that trust is a big issue with him. He doesn't allow just anybody to be around recruits.

I know of a couple of times a recruit was steered away from being around a player because Meyer has to trust you totally before he wants you representing Florida. He doesn't want someone who hasn't got rid of all their bad habits around a recruit. Even if the player is a star, he wants players he trusts out there on the front lines in recruiting.

Someone like David Nelson, Meyer trusts him totally. To Meyer he is like a Jemalle Cornelius or Cornelius Ingram. There are players who were bigger stars [than Nelson] that Meyer didn't trust as much. Trust from Meyer doesn't come from making plays on the field - it comes from doing the right thing Monday through Friday.

Honestly the first three years that me and Brandon Siler were helping - I would like to say we had a grip on every major recruit who came through there. The coaches kept us involved that much because we would do our homework. When we met them at the hotel we would know their dad and mom's name and where they were from. Some guys would host prospects and they would have to see their jacket to see where they were from. Me and Brandon studied it. That made things flow a lot smoother and made them feel comfortable with us.

You really don't have to sell Florida football.

If they know anything at all about college football, it's not hard to get them to want to go to Florida. If they come in for a game weekend and sit in that stadium - Florida sells itself.

If that isn't enough you let them compare Florida to what's out there.

Compare game day, the facilities, the conference, playing on TV, the academics, the tradition, the campus, the city of Gainesville. Just go down the list and Florida stacks up against anyone. We should get the top recruits in here. There would be something wrong if we didn't.

Getting the top recruits interested and wanting to commit is the easy part. Getting the right recruits for the team part of it is harder. Picking the right ones to be a Gator.

I think our honesty is the reason me and Brandon had the success we had in helping sign the players we signed. I don't have the list in-front of me, but besides C.J. Spiller, I really think that we did a good job landing the guys we personally had a hand in recruiting.

If the guy I was helping with didn't play my position I would make sure that he got to speak with someone he would be competing against while he was there. Like for Brandon Antwine, who I talked to some, I made sure he got to see Javier Estopinan.

We would pick the recruit up at the hotel and once the dinner and coaching part was out of the way, I always wanted to make sure I took the recruit around as many players as I could so they could see how they fit in - especially around players at their position that they would be around the most if they signed.

In part three Casey will discuss what is happening this time of the year as far as the off season workout regiment and voluntary drills.

- As told to Mark Wheeler


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