Thoughts of the Day: August 4, 2021

A few thoughts to jump start your Wednesday morning:


Florida’s 2021 defense might be the perfect example of how the NCAA transfer portal and subsequent changes to transfer eligibility rules has changed recruiting now and forever more. High school kids who require time to develop will still be the foundation of every roster, but the ability to plug and play to fill holes caused by injuries, transfers or just a lack of development will make the transfer portal a coach’s best friend if he has a good eye for finding kids who are just the right fit.

A year ago, Florida’s defense was statistically the worst in school history. Sure, there were a couple of games – Georgia is one that comes to mind immediately – when the Gators got the job done defensively, but there was never any consistency. That can be said almost across the board in college football as fears of COVID-19 kept teams from full contact practices due to the fear of injury at a time when roster management fluctuated due to the virus. However, Florida’s defense took the most serious serious plunge, dropping from No. 9 nationally in 2019 to No. 83 in 2020.

Only four starters return from last year’s disaster – Zachary Carter, Brenton Cox Jr., Ventrell Miller and Kaiir Elam – but all four are very good players who are going to be earning Sunday paychecks in the future. The problem, at least on paper, is the other seven. Dan Mullen and coordinator Todd Grantham could fill out the defense with a host of backups and newbies from solid recruiting classes but that might not improve the unit enough to challenge for a second straight SEC East title but thanks to the portal, there is an alternative and it’s actually going to be a blueprint for how coaches are going to recruit in the future. Instead of 25 high school kids signed every year, expect that number to dip to 17-20 with the rest coming from the transfer portal.

Mullen has been supplementing his recruiting classes with transfers since he arrived in 2018 with the likes of wide receivers Van Jefferson and Trevon Grimes (2018); linebackers Jonathan Greenard and Cox (2019); and offensive lineman Stewart Reese, wide receivers Justin Shorter and Jordan Pouncey and running back Lorenzo Lingard (2020). Jefferson and Grimes were 4-star recruits out of high school. Cox, Shorter and Lingard were 5-star recruits and Reese and Greenard were multi-year starters at their previous schools.

All those transfers came before the NCAA radically changed its policies that allow a one-time transfer without having to sit a year. Additionally, the Southeastern Conference changed its rules that allow intra-conference transfers immediate eligibility. So, you take changed policies that benefit the transfer and a coach who has already mastered finding kids from other schools who are the right fit at UF and you have the making of what may end up being a perfect storm for returning the UF defense back to the land of the living. When the Gators run out onto the field for their season opener with Florida Atlantic on September 4 as many as half the starters on defense will have begun their collegiate careers elsewhere.

DE: Zachary Carter DT: Daquan Newkirk (transferred from Auburn) DT: Antonio Valetino (transferred from Penn State) EDGE: Brenton Cox Jr. (transferred from Georgia) LB: Mohamoud Diabate LB: Ventrell Miller