The immediate impact of Will Muschamp’s firing a week ago was felt mostly among the people that worked most closely with him. There was a sadness that filled the room during Muschamp’s press conference and University of Florida President Bernie Machen said he literally treasured the time he spent with Muschamp the past four seasons.
The impact was also felt among the player who Muschamp said were unfocused during the week before he met with them on Thursday to share a story about how he was angry when his position coach and coordinator was fired during his junior season. The team responded with a sharp practice on Thursday before a dominating win on Saturday.
They’ll try to rally around their coach one more time this week in Tallahassee before D.J. Durkin takes over as the interim head coach for the bowl game.
An immediate reaction to Muschamp’s departure was junior defensive lineman Dante Fowler declaring for the NFL Draft. Fowler was unlikely to return to Florida, as many project him to be a first round selection this year. Muschamp always tells players who are projected in the first round to leave school early but still, Fowler’s announcement last week made it official.
There are 11 juniors, 11 redshirt sophomores and six redshirt juniors that will all be eligible for the draft this season. Of those 28 players, there are five that stick out as having a tough decision to make and Fowler, who has already made up his mind
– Defensive lineman Jon Bullard –
Bullard is currently eighth on the team in tackles (40), fourth in tackles for a loss (4.5), second in quarterback hurries (11) and has notched 1.5 sacks on the season.
He reluctantly moved to defensive tackle from his more natural end spot last season and continues to play both positions at a high level for the Gators. While Bullard didn’t want to make the switch initially it has given NFL scouts tape of him being disruptive at multiple positions and shows that he can be scheme versatile at the next level.
Bullard was extremely close to Will Muschamp and showed that support on his eye black for the EKU game.
He will sit down with Muschamp and his family after the season to make a decision. Bullard likely won’t be a first round selection this year and Muschamp’s stance is that if you’re not a first round pick you should go back to school. Still, there are extenuating factors that could lead Bullard to go, namely, not wanting to wait around to find out who his next coach would be.
In the end, Bullard is very close with his family and I believe that he will listen to what his mother — Monica Bullard — advises him to do.
Momma always knows best.
– Offensive tackle D.J. Humphries –
Humphries has battled injuries for two-consecutive seasons and his productivity has dropped as well.
Still, scouts will see prototypical size and Humphries plays a premier position in the NFL. The NFL is comprised of two teams — those who have a franchise quarterback and those who are looking for one. Everything is centered on that, meaning guys who can rush the passer and protect the passer — like Humphries — are of high value.
Humphries would benefit from coming back another season and showing teams that he can stay healthy but the fear that he won’t be able to do that could help him make his final decision.
– Running back Matt Jones –
This is where things get tricky with Muschamp’s philosophy. Jones plays a position that is no longer coveted by NFL teams. The past two years have set a record for the latest that a running back was taken in the draft and coming back to school likely won’t make Jones a first round pick.
He also has a young daughter to think about.
Should Matt Jones come back and complete his degree? Probably, but there isn’t much that he can do while sharing carries with Kelvin Taylor and Brandon Powell to improve his draft stock next season.
– Linebacker Antonio Morrison –
Like Jones, Morrison’s middle linebacker position isn’t coveted by NFL teams. Five linebackers were taken in the first round last year, but all were 3-4, pas rushing outside linebackers, not run-stuffers like Morrison.
Morrison has a very good family back home and unlike Jones he doesn’t have children to think about when making this decision. However, like Jones, Morrison would need to have an incredible senior season to improve his draft stock considerably and even then it is highly unlikely that he would be a first round pick.
With the new NFL rookie wage scale it is less important to get a big first contract and more important to get to your second, more lucrative contract.
– Cornerback Brian Poole –
Poole could be persuaded to leave school early like his friends and former teammates Marcus Roberson and Loucheiz Purifoy did a year ago. Neither Purifoy nor Roberson were drafted but they have caught on with teams and are contributing as rookies.
Poole has a very supportive father and family and they will tell him what he needs to hear. He should come back for his senior season. He plays a position that is coveted greatly by NFL teams and a better senior campaign would help his draft stock.
– Quarterback Jeff Driskel –
Driskel won’t get drafted in the NFL Draft but the Boston Red Sox selected him in the Rule 5 Amateur Draft last year. Driskel signed paperwork with the Red Sox so they own his rights.
Driskel has endured an incredibly difficult and frustrating season this year and while he may not declare for the draft he may chose to transfer or play baseball rather than return to Florida with a new coach and in a three-way battle for the starting quarterback position.