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How important are Florida recruiting ties in Gators’ coach search?

By Matt Baker
FILE - In this Saturday, Oct. 7, 2017, file photo, UCF head coach Scott Frost works the sidelines in the first half of an NCAA college football game against Cincinnati in Cincinnati. No. 15 UCF is undefeated and SMU is already bowl eligible going into the first weekend in November. The high-scoring American Athletic Conference teams now go head-to-head. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File) NY182

Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin mentioned a few criteria as he looks for the Gators' next football coach. He wants the program to be fun. He wants the person to be a good guy who will present the school well and fit the culture.

One thing he didn't mention: Recruiting ties to this talent-rich state.

At least one person who would know believes they're overrated.

"It doesn't matter if the head coach has ties," Rivals national recruiting director Mike Farrell said. "It matters who he hires as his assistants."

Recruiting in Florida is unique. The state is large and diverse. Recruiting Pasco High is much different than Plant High. Liberty City is not like Daytona Beach, or Belle Glade, or Orlando. The 7-on-7 circuit has ballooned, so those connected coaches can influence prospects, too.

It takes experience and knowledge to navigate those circles, but Farrell doesn't think the head coach has to know everything as long as he fills out his staff with recruiting in mind, not only Xs and Os.

Jim McElwain wasn't from Florida, but he recruited the state before joining UF. His last hires, including running backs coach Ja'Juan Seider and defensive backs coach Corey Bell, were south Florida natives who could help on the recruiting trail.

"You can take a guy like Chip Kelly who has zero connections to the state of Florida that I'm aware of…" Farrell said. "He'll be fine if he hires the right people."