An early look at Florida football’s talent level

Last week I broke down how Dan Mullen has done with the challenge of achieving roster balance. Today, I am going back to the roster to analyze it by talent ratings, specifically those of the industry-generated 247 Sports Composite.

Every caveat about recruiting ratings applies, of course. They can be wildly off in individual cases, but they acquit themselves well in the aggregate. By incorporating the opinions of each of the major services, the Composite helps here some. Groupthink even among competing organizations is still a real phenomenon, though, so apply grains of salt as you see fit.

I am looking at everyone who is officially on the team as of right now, and yesterday showed why. Florida had a pair of unsigned commits, but a day ago one of them, safety Marc Britt, signed with Ole Miss. There is no guarantee that the other, receiver Leonard Manuel, will end up in Gainesville either. I’m not including him for that reason — and fear not, the class’s status as a top ten haul is not in jeopardy if Manuel goes elsewhere.

Big Picture

There are 84 recruited scholarship players on Florida’s roster at present. They bear an average of 3.6 recruiting stars and an average rating of 0.9025.

The rating threshold between 3-star and 4-star in the Composite is 0.8900. The team’s average rating being in the 4-star range despite the average star rating being 3.6 tells you that Florida’s 3-star players skew towards the high end of the range. In fact, one in five of the Gators’ 3-star non-specialists is within 0.0100 of getting a fourth star.

UF has four 5-stars, up from functionally zero last year. The program didn’t officially go a season without one following the post-2018 graduations of Martez Ivey and Cece Jefferson, but it might as well have. The incoming transfer of Brenton Cox kept Florida on its streak of however long it is of always having at least one 5-star, but he had to sit out the season due to transfer rules.

Florida also has 47 4-star players, giving them a combined 51 blue chip 4 or 5-star players. That means 60.7% of the 84 recruited scholarship players are blue chip guys. If you eliminate the specialists, which is reasonable since punters and kickers never get above 3-star ratings, it edges up to 62.2% of 82 recruited scholarship players. UF also has 31 3-star players and two 2-star players.

These rates are up from last year. By the time the FSU game kicked off, Florida had 74 recruited scholarship players. Taking 247’s post-transfer rerank that bumped Jonathan Greenard up from a 3-star out of high school to a 4-star out of Louisville, the average star rating was 3.5 and the average numerical rating was 0.8976. The ineligible Cox was again the only 5-star, and 39 players were 4-stars. Those figures gave the roster a 54.1% composition of blue chip players (55.6% without specialists).

To be sure, the 2019 numbers are something of liars when it comes to actual team quality. They put the team’s leading passer, rusher, and tackler in the 3-star bucket while putting some true freshmen who redshirted in the 4-star bucket. These sorts of things happen every year, though not always to the extent they did last fall. A single roster isn’t that big compared to the entire set of players who get ratings each year, so small sample size effects are in play.

By Years in College

Like I did last week, I went through not just by class but by the number of years in college. The latter is perhaps more instructive, so let’s look at those figures now.

Years In College Avg. Stars Avg. Rating
5 3.2 0.8605
4 3.4 0.8917
3 4.0 0.9258
2 3.6 0.9058
1 3.7 0.9080

The first through third-year players are ones that came in under Mullen’s watch. Only one guy from the older groups, new fourth-year transfer Jordan Pouncey, also did so.

I mentioned last week that the third-year group is down in numbers from what you’d expect to see. It also happens to be the most talented grouping by high school recruiting rankings.

Yes, some of that has to do with all three 5-star transfers (Cox, Lorenzo Lingard, and Justin Shorter) having originally been 2018 recruits. Even if you take them out, the third-year group still leads the team with averages of 3.8 stars and 0.9110 in ratings.

Why? Well, Mullen’s transitional class was small at 20 players. It has since lost seven of them for a variety of reasons spelled out last week. The original mix had 13 4-stars and seven 3-stars. Among those who are gone, three were 4-stars but four were 3-stars. That leaves the group with ten 4-stars and just three 3-stars. It’s less that its a fabulously talented group and more that it just doesn’t have many 3-stars left.

Just two of nine fifth-year players are blue chips, which is why that group is showing up as the least talented. Kyle “Boat Anchor” Trask and his barely-a-3-star rating of 0.7984 alone tugs the average star rating down a tenth of a point and the average rating down by 0.0078. Again, on-field results may differ from high school ratings.

Meanwhile you can see the immediate recruiting impact of Mullen — and the impact of the high-end attrition that hit the second-year ranks. All six of the 2019 signees who were gone by fall camp were 4-star recruits. If the 2018 class attrition skewed a little towards the lower end of the talent ratings, the 2019 class attrition strongly did the opposite.

By Position

Keep in mind the number of players we’re talking here. Quarterback has all of three guys; running back and tight end each have five. Offensive line and linebacker have 15 apiece; defensive back has 17. A single player’s rating will matter more in averages of the small groups.

Position Average Stars Average Rating
QB 3.7 0.8926
RB 4.0 0.9171
WR 3.5 0.9157
TE 3.6 0.9030
OL 3.5 0.8887
DL 3.9 0.9104
LB 3.7 0.9131
DB 3.6 0.8993

Quarterback and offensive line are the only groups that are a nontrivial amount below the nice, round number of .9000. The former has a borderline 2/3-star who’s a strong contender for preseason first team All-SEC dragging its averages down, while the latter is affected by Mullen and John Hevesy’s faith in their own ability to sign and develop linemen that the recruiting services don’t think too highly of. The early returns on Ethan White, the lowest-rated recruit from 2019, suggest they do know what they’re doing.

I’ve never been sure how much to take away from this part in the years I’ve been doing these analyses. There are 17 defensive backs represented in the final row of the table. Often just five but sometimes only four will be on the field at once, and a large chunk of the seven true freshmen probably will redshirt. But, I know some folks are curious, so I give the information anyway.

The numbers are mostly up from last year. You can see some figures from over the summer of 2019 here when I did a top-to-bottom roster comparison with Miami.

Comparisons are instructive because these kinds of numbers in isolation are quite limited in what they can tell us. I will do some such comparisons later in the offseason.

They also show the small sample size issue, as well as how much coaching and development makes a difference. When I analyzed two-deeps last summer, UF’s starters were actually a bit behind Miami and Tennessee in rated talent. That difference didn’t bear out on the field. The Gators were well behind Georgia and LSU, though, and that did. Of course they were well behind FSU too, and you all saw that game.

Regardless, the trend lines are clear in this as well as the other talent evaluation pieces I’ve done recently. There is no sudden, revolutionary upward change in the Mullen era. Instead, the talent level is improving a little each year as the staff builds relationships and wins interest and trust from recruits with the results on the field.

What this piece adds is that it’s happening everywhere on the field. There don’t appear to be standout weak positions like what happened with offensive line and receiver under Will Muschamp or linebacker under Jim McElwain. Offensive line is the only potential one I see with the roster having four 4-stars and six 3-stars who signed with Mullen. However, White looked good as a true freshman despite his mid 3-star rating, and three of the top five highest-rated linemen on the roster are Mullen guys (2019 starter Richard Gouraige and 2020 signees Issiah Walker and Joshua Braun). It takes time for most offensive linemen to adjust to the college level, so we’ll know more in the coming years.

Florida is not yet recruiting on the level of teams like Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, and Ohio State that have played in recent national championship games or otherwise routinely make the College Football Playoff semifinals. The program almost certainly won’t until it does those things, but there is a line of good enough above which a team can challenge for championships without signing blowout classes every year. Are the Gators there yet? We’ll find out this fall.

David Wunderlich
David Wunderlich is a born-and-raised Gator and a proud Florida alum. He has been writing about Florida and SEC football since 2006. He currently lives in Naples Italy, at least until the Navy stations his wife elsewhere. You can follow him on Twitter @Year2