Florida football coach Jim McElwain speaks at the Polk County Gator Club Gathering at the Lake Mirror Center in Lakeland on Wednesday. Scott Wheeler/GateHouse Media Services
LAKELAND — Jim McElwain reeled in a pair of Polk County recruits in Lakeland receiver James Robinson and Kathleen linebacker Ventrell Miller. Rivals on the field, both will head to Gainesville in hopes of competing for playing time as true freshmen.
The Gators coach told reporters at the Lake Mirror Center on Wednesday that he’s excited to dip back into the recruiting waters in Polk County. Entering his third year at Florida, McElwain also noted that he’s not afraid to play a true freshman like Robinson or Miller.
But there’s more to that than just talent.
“I’m also not in a big hurry to put somebody out there that’s going to fail,” he said. “We tell every guy on the team, they know from the start, that none of us coaches are responsible for playing time. The actual individuals are responsible for playing time, and we’re going to put the best players out there.”
McElwain spoke to Gator boosters at the annual Gator Gathering event, but the conversation before his appearance centered on the local freshmen. Miller, a four-star recruit, had been committed to McElwain since June of 2016.
But Robinson, who was cited for marijuana possession during an official visit to Ohio State, was a surprising signee on national signing day. The four-star receiver was criticized after a pair of tweets disputing that he was arrested.
McElwain still took a chance on him.
“I’d be willing to bet that whoever reads this article or whoever listens to this might have maybe, at one time in their life, maybe messed up a little bit,” he said. “It’s not about him; it’s about all our players. It’s about what we do to help them be successful, help them learn. I look forward to him being part of us.”
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