We know for a fact now that Florida will be losing several players to transfer, and backup QB’s Tyler Murphy, Max Staver and (likely) Skylar Mornhinweg are among them. That makes eight players to transfer, and would mean that under Will Muschamp, nineteen players have transferred.
Normally, I’d brush this off the same way that I see a lot of Gator fans are. I’d just throw out one of the popular goodbye-don’t-let-the-door-hit-you-on-the-way-out cliches my fellow Gator fans are using, such as “Good, that frees up a scholarship”, “Let’s replace him with a younger, better guy who actually wants to be a Gator”, “Muschamp’s weeding out the weaklings”, and everybody’s favorite, “If you ain’t a Gator, you’re Gatorbait”.
But after seeing this group of players leave, I’m beginning to wonder if there’s a long term problem here. I’ve already publicly stated on CBS Tampa radio, (twice, actually) that Muschamp should have been shown the door already. However, in those radio interviews, I pointed out two of the positives of having him as a head coach: his ability to build a defense and his ability to recruit.
Now, though, I can’t help but think that maybe Muschamp can’t even do those things right. His vaunted (yet admittedly injury prone) defense was shredded by a Georgia Southern offense that half of GSU’s opponents did a better job stopping than Florida (yardage wise), and now these prized recruits that everybody is so giddy about in February are leaving in bunches in December.
I know, none of the guys who are leaving except for Ian Silberman and Murphy made valuable contributions to the Florida Gators. But in any case, the overall quantity of players who have left the program is alarming. I’m sure many people have forgotten at least some of the players who have transferred, because once a player leaves, fans usually make a note to get them out of their head. But I haven’t forgotten. Consider the following list of players who have signed with Florida since 2011 (Muschamp’s first year) who have transferred:
|Player||Year||Pos. Rank||New School|
|Ja’Juan Story||2011||#6 WR||TCU|
|AC Leonard||2011||#7 ATH||Tenn. State|
|Mike Blakely||2011||#7 RB||Auburn|
|De’Ante Saunders||2011||#10 ATH||Tenn. State|
|Javares McRoy||2011||#28 WR||Texas Tech|
|Jacoby Brissett||2011||#25 QB||NC State|
|Chris Johnson||2011||#56 S||?|
|Graham Stewart||2011||#53 OLB||UConn|
|Jessamen Dunker||2012||#4 OG||Tenn. State|
|Kent Taylor||2012||#4 TE||?|
|Rhaheim Ledbetter||2012||#9 S||?|
|Skylar Mornhinweg*||2012||#19 QB||?|
|Quinteze Williams||2012||#22 DT||?|
|Jafar Mann||2012||#30 DT||?|
|Willie Bailey||2012||#24 CB||Louisville|
|Trevan Young||2013||#138 OT||?|
(Note: * means the transfer news has not been confirmed by the school)
That list was sort of meant to mock ESPN and their rankings, to show that they don’t mean anything. But more importantly, it shows just how much raw talent Florida lost under Will Muschamp, who is supposed to be one of the best at getting raw talent- and then developing them. This list doesn’t even include Janoris Jenkins, Dee Finley, Ian Silberman, Chris Dunkley or Tyler Murphy, who signed before Muschamp became the head coach. But throw those five in, and you’ve got enough pure talent (according to ESPN) to land a top 5 class. And I say that with a complete straight face.
The other way to look at this situation (the Muschamp apologists’ position) is that when you’re recruiting in college football, you’re going to swing and miss at some guys for various reasons. That’s just a given, because you’re recruiting 16-18 year old players and then coaching 18-21 year old players. Maybe the player gets injured, maybe he looked good against poor high school competition and is overwhelmed by the increase of talent around him, or maybe the player didn’t have the attitude that Muschamp wanted to see when he signed him. Maybe the player didn’t like being buried on the depth chart, or maybe the player just didn’t like Muschamp. Maybe he got in trouble and Muschamp gave him no choice but to transfer (which I’m not totally faulting him for). All of that’s fine… in a vacuum.
The bottom line is, it’s totally acceptable from a program standpoint to see some guys leave. No coach is perfect at keeping all his players. So I’m not blaming Muschamp for the departure of Mike Blakely or Jessamen Dunker, per se: I’m blaming him for the entire list of guys above who transferred. Why are so many guys leaving a place like Florida, with three national championships, one of the nation’s best stadiums and a chance to play in the SEC? To be honest, I don’t know exactly, and it troubles me. The fact that Will Muschamp recruits so many kids who either get in trouble or don’t pan out for other reasons is not something I can easily brush off, like some other Gator fans.
Look at Dunker, for example. He got caught playing grand theft scooter. Only problem was, it was real life, and he got arrested for it. Then there’s Chris Johnson, who threw a punch at a Louisville player in last year’s Sugar Bowl and was ejected for it, and Muschamp basically booted him from the team because of it (remember the stupid penalty and turnover problems I’ve been harping on all year? See, it even happened last year). The most embarrassing such transfer case, however, belongs to AC Leonard, who was arrested after assaulting his girlfriend. Muschamp later suspended him and then forced him out.
Why are all these guys getting into legal trouble? Forget the fact that you shouldn’t break the law, period, football player or not. Do the kids recruited and signed by Muschamp not respect the University of Florida football program enough to know that they have responsibilities to follow the law, and if they don’t, it looks bad on the program, not to mention themselves? That’s a question only they can answer, and whatever they say in response to that question promises to be unsettling at best.
Let’s shift gears and look at a different type of transfer story (pun intended). There was Ja’Juan Story, the 6th ranked receiver in the country. He left for TCU because he didn’t like the way coaches dealt with him, and because the coaches felt he wasn’t putting in enough work, according to an assistant coach from his high school. Another similar such instance was in the case of Mike Blakely, a prized running back recruit from the same 2011 recruiting class as Story. He essentially just changed his mind, and was so unhappy he decided to transfer before taking a single rep with the Gators in practice. (For the record, he would later leave Auburn for similar reasons.)
Now, why is that happening? Why are there so many kids who signed to play for Muschamp doing an about face and bolting for less prestigious programs? If Story and Blakely were the only two examples, I wouldn’t mention it. But Javares McRoy, Willie Bailey and Pop Saunders left for essentially the same reasons, and Saunders in particular was a big loss.
I can’t really bring myself to care about losing guys like Tyler Murphy, who leave because they want to play. That’s not the coaching staff’s fault, and I have nothing but good wishes for Murphy. But again, why are there so many instances of Muschamp’s players getting in trouble? Why are so many of his highly touted recruits not putting in the work, or just don’t like the coaching staff?
The most disturbing part of this whole thing is, again, I don’t really know. I’m not in the locker room, I don’t know who Muschamp calls in for private meetings, I don’t know who reacts poorly in these meetings, I don’t know who has attitude problems in practices or on the sidelines during games, etc. All I know are the facts, and the fact that 19 players have transferred since Muschamp signed on as the head coach is extremely nauseating. The fact that most of the 19 players who have chosen to transfer in three years decided that they don’t want to play for Florida enough to work as hard as they possibly can, or even enough to respect the law, is even more nauseating.
But yet, that’s exactly what’s happened. Florida is currently hemorrhaging top ranked players under Muschamp, mainly because of attitude or legal reasons, both of which are completely unacceptable. And it needs to stop now, before Matt Jones becomes a star running back for Miami. Or something of that level. You can say I’m being a little dramatic, but I’ll just remind you of what happened with Cam Newton (yes, Urban Meyer had a similar problem. But he also won lots of games, which, fair or not, essentially hid everything negative). Even if Muschamp pulls in a top 10 recruiting class this year, who’s to say these kids will all stay?
The worst part is, I’m not sure Muschamp can fix it. Going 4-8 doesn’t really help matters, and I assume it’s possible that the most recent transfers left at least in part because of their inability to participate in a bowl game. Sure, they’ll never say that, but you have to think that they at least thought about that when compiling the pros and cons. With FSU, Alabama, LSU, Missouri, South Carolina and Georgia all on Florida’s schedule, I can easily see six losses. That’s definitely going to get Muschamp fired, which will bring in a new coach, but will also certainly cause one more batch of his players to transfer. Unless Florida miraculously goes 10-2 and wins the SEC East, this is a problem that’s going to get worse before it gets better.
(Sigh) In all kinds of weather, though….