The Florida Gators losing blue-chip defensive back Chris Steele to the transfer portal is bad enough on its own. Steele was a top-50 recruit who was going to play immediately and, maybe, develop into a really good player at an important position.
It’s worse considering the context. He was the second blue-chip early enrollee to enter the portal in a two-week span, joining quarterback Jalon Jones (whose circumstances are obviously different).
But from a football-only perspective, here’s the worst part for the Gators: Steele is the latest elite recruit who didn’t work out in Gainesville.
UF has signed 21 recruits ranked in the top 125 nationally since 2014 (excluding the 2019 signees who aren’t on campus yet). Of those 21, six transferred or were dismissed from the team: Gerald Willis, Will Grier, Treon Harris, Antonneous Clayton, Justin Watkins and now Steele. Two more (Thomas Holley and James Robinson) ended their careers for medical reasons. That means more than a third of UF’s top prospects flamed out, for one reason or another.
Compare those figures to rival Florida State. The Seminoles signed 36 recruits from the top 125 in that span, and only five transferred or were dismissed.
Both numbers in that comparison should be concerning for the Gators. UF hasn’t been competing for national championships because it hasn’t been recruiting at the level Jimbo Fisher did at FSU, or Kirby Smart is doing at Georgia. Not only are the Gators failing to sign enough top-tier prospects to challenge for championships, but they aren’t keeping enough of the ones they do sign.
That’s a trend that predates Steele’s decision. And it’s one UF must start addressing.