After signing just 20 players in December, Florida still has a bit of room under the 85-scholarship cap for the upcoming season.
There is still some uncertainty about how much, as some players who have hit the transfer portal could remove their names and decide to stay. Still more could enter it, as the deadline to put a name in is January 18. That deadline is solely to enter the portal; they can choose a destination anytime afterwards.
And, of course, there is the February signing day left to go. UF is in on offensive tackle prospect Caden Jones, for instance, and he makes his decision tomorrow on Saturday, January 7.
So even without a firm number to go on, you can be certain that Billy Napier and staff are working the transfer market. They’ve added a handful of players already, and they are reportedly hosting transfer visitors this weekend.
Before the activity heats up once again, here’s an overview of the state of play in regards to the Gators and the transfer market.
According to the 247 Sports transfer tracker, there are 22 scholarship players from the 2022 team who have entered the transfer portal. A notable former scholarship player, walk on long snapper Marco Ortiz, entered as well.
Most of the players who entered the portal are either reserves or players who got passed up on the depth chart. Only relatively recently, just before and after Christmas day, have starters Michael Tarquin, Ethan White, and Tre’Vez Johnson added their names.
Of the 22 portal players, 13 of them have chosen a new home. And, ten of the 13 picked Power 5 schools.
If this surprises you, it shouldn’t. Someone good enough to make it onto the UF roster is likely to want to stay on the Power 5 level, even if it’s a step down within the P5 to a place like Nebraska, Georgia Tech, or Pitt. On the other side of the transaction, if a guy is good enough to stay within the Power 5, then there will probably be competition for him as schools scramble to replace their own outgoing transfers.
I didn’t pick those example schools at random. Nebraska has taken three former Gators so far with Ortiz, Chief Borders, and Corey Collier. Nay’Quan Wright will be a Yellow Jacket, and Donovan McMillon will be a Panther.
Three guys will be staying in the SEC. Joshua Braun going to Arkansas is the most natural fit, as he committed to Sam Pittman at Georgia before flipping to Florida after Pittman got the Razorbacks job. Jalen Lee picked LSU, while Nick Elksnis is going to South Carolina. UF could see all three of them next year, as Arkansas rotates onto the schedule.
Among the outgoing starters, only Tarquin has chosen a destination. He’ll play for USC next season.
I’ll let you peruse the rest of the guys if you want, but those are the major names among players in the portal this winter.
Napier did not load up on players before the December signing day. There were some notable names in the portal at the time, but many more entered after their bowl games were completed. There is no shortage of potential contributors at present.
The first player UF snapped up was redshirt freshman defensive lineman Caleb Banks from Louisville. He only played in six games in 2022, but his stock has risen since high school with his physical development. He’s not a Day 1 starter, but he has the traits to be a rotation guy this year with upside for the future.
Next came the most polarizing take so far, former Wisconsin quarterback Graham Mertz. A former highly rated recruit, Mertz has the physical traits of a top passer. You can even edit together an impressive highlight reel from isolated plays.
However, his statistical production has been below average, and his lack of development was a big reason why Paul Chryst got fired. He has played a ton of games, so he’s a veteran whose top job is to keep Jaden Rashada from having to start from the jump. It’s unclear how much bigger of a role he’ll play than that.
The other two transfers to come in are Memphis DT CamRon Jackson and Ohio State LB Teradja Mitchell. Jackson will be an immediate contributor, joining Desmond Watson and Chris McClellan as major figures on the inside.
Mitchell was a starter and team captain for the Buckeyes in 2021. He would have been out of eligibility if not for a hamstring injury that limited him to four games in 2022, thereby allowing him to redshirt and extend his college career. He’s a veteran presence at inside linebacker that Florida simply wouldn’t have otherwise with Ventrell Miller moving on to the NFL.
If a sure-fire starter at any position wants to come to Gainesville, obviously the staff will listen. More tactically, the biggest needs are still along the lines.
Florida has been running a deficit at defensive tackle ever since Dan Mullen only recruited one across the 2018 and 2019 classes. The edge-rushing Jack linebacker position really thinned out from portal entrants too, leaving a need for contributors behind Antwaun Powell-Ryland.
The offensive line is losing at least three starters between O’Cyrus Torrence and Richard Gouraige going pro and Tarquin heading west. White will make four if he doesn’t return. Austin Barber played well at tackle, and Richie Leonard is a solid option at guard. Beyond them, however, there isn’t a lot of experience to bring up to the top of the depth chart. Bringing in a starter-caliber player or two would go a long way for the ’23 team.
The running back room is talented but only has three players, which is low considering the inherent risk of injury at the position. UF would need to find someone willing to sit behind the entrenched Montrell Johnson and Trevor Etienne, or else find an all-purpose type who will do different things.
Mitchell was a nice pickup for inside linebacker, but the Gators could use another guy there for depth. A real playmaker at receiver would be good to take pressure off of the three 2023 signees from having to be heroes from the start. The defensive backfield could use a body or two after some portal exits and Rashad Torrence’s unexpected NFL declaration.
Florida is working the portal now, is trying to find quality players for the February signing day, and has the May 1-15 portal window to look forward to as well. Roster management is a full-offseason activity now, and we’re still in the early days of the cycle. I hope you have a good understanding of where UF is at present and what it is looking to do over the coming months.