The weather has been anything but sunny in the Sunshine State lately. Well, at least for one fanbase. Florida ended the season on a seven-game losing streak, missing a bowl game for the first time since 1990. In the process, Will Muschamp and company posted 4-8 record that marked the worst season in Gainesville since 1979.
And even though the football schedule ended on Nov. 30, the Gators still haven’t stopped losing. The historic on-field losses have translated to coach firings and player transfers in recent weeks.
But despite the departures of two offensive coaches and seven offensive players, Florida is somehow still building an impressive 2014 recruiting class. The Gators managed to land a commitment from the No. 2-ranked offensive tackle in the country, David Sharpe on Dec. 12. In addition to Sharpe, Florida received more good news when ESPN 300 wide receiver Moral Stephens Jr. gave his verbal commitment later that same day.
They join Florida’s top recruit Will Grier, ESPN’s No. 2 QB prospect, on the No. 9-ranked recruiting class in the country. It now boasts 18 verbal commitments that include 11 from players ranked in the ESPN 300.
Perhaps this recruiting success validates UF athletics director Jeremy Foley’s support of Muschamp, who was heavily criticized as the team sunk lower and lower. Foley said Muschamp was the right guy to “fix things” in Gainesville, and given the upward trend of the Gators’ recruiting class ranking, he may be right.
These future additions represent a singular bright spot in an otherwise dark 2013 Florida football season and beyond, characterized by embarrassing performances on the field and discomforting departures off it. Offensive coordinator Brent Pease and offensive line coach Tim Davis were fired shortly after the disappointing season. Since their exits, a number of players have chosen to leave the program.
The university confirmed Sunday that junior quarterback Tyler Murphy, who started six games for the Gators this season, intends to transfer. Murphy is just the latest Florida player to choose to leave the program. Last Thursday, the school announced six other players, all on the offensive side, had decided to transfer: quarterback Max Staver, tight end Kent Taylor, fullback Rhaheim Ledbetter and offensive linemen Quinteze Williams, Trevon Young and Ian Silberman.
Perhaps these guys were concerned about how they would fit into the offensive scheme after Pease’s firing. Maybe they don’t want to play for Muschamp any longer. It’s not a stretch to think they just want to dissociate themselves from an offense known for such lowly accomplishments as two players blocking each other.
Regardless, this rash of transfers leaves the Gators’ patchwork offensive unit even more depleted. With the transfers and three seniors leaving, Florida has just nine offensive linemen returning in 2014 and just two scholarship QBs on the roster.
Fortunately, the Gators’ recruiting gains appear to be keeping pace with their mounting losses. But, Florida’s recruiting trajectory will likely change once it hires an offensive coordinator. Whether that’s good or bad news remains to be seen.