HOOVER, Ala. — Between Gators entering the transfer portal (at least nine) and 2019 recruits not arriving (at least two others), Florida’s scholarship numbers are down.
Coach Dan Mullen doesn’t know the exact number off the top of its head – it’s not less than 78 of the 85 the NCAA allows — and he isn’t worried about it, either.
“I think it’s kind of the new era of college football,” Mullen said during SEC media days at the Hyatt Regency Birmingham – Wynfrey Hotel. “Unless the NCAA does something to change the rules to let you sign over with guys that are transferring out, it’s going to be hard to have a full roster.”
Mullen has some tools available to boost that number, whatever it is. Expect UF to award a scholarship to a walk-on player or two. The Gators have a couple initial spots available, which means a grad transfer is still a possibility, even this close to the start of the season. Mullen said after the spring game that he was specifically looking for an offensive lineman to add to a group that loses four starters.
“What you’re trying to do now is balance out the numbers over several years,” Mullen said. “How many initials do we want to try to make sure we save for people leaving and the number of transfers as you continue to move (forward)?”
Mullen said he wasn’t surprised that two of his blue-chip 2019 recruits (linebacker Diwun Black and offensive lineman Deyavie Hammond) failed to qualify academically, and that’s not an abnormally high number, either. Those risks are known beforehand, and Mullen believes they’re risks worth taking. Maybe a player’s grades take off late and he can make it on campus. Or even if he goes to junior college or prep school, there’s a chance he joins the program in another year or two.
“I think a lot of them do, because of the reasons they wanted to come play for you in the first place,” Mullen said. “Obviously it’s like a speed bump for them in their career. They go somewhere else and get the grades and then come have a successful career.”
At least two signees did that when Mullen was at Mississippi State — tight end Artimas Samuel and defensive back Lashard Durr. Reggie Nelson did the same for the Gators, where he won was a star on UF’s 2006 title team.
But none of that will help the Gators this season, and it probably won’t help them in 2020 or ’21, either.
Mullen remains unfazed. The Gators were down a couple spots from the 85 limit last year, too, and the transfer portal is zapping depth across the rest of the SEC and country.
“I think we were kind of expecting the (signee) numbers to be a certain way and the way they are,” Mullen said. “But the transfer thing, you can’t really control in today’s world."