With kickoff mere days away, it’s worth one last look at where Florida’s roster stands heading into the 2019 season.
The numbers took another hit late last week with the news that 2019 signee Arjei Henderson failed to qualify. That makes three guys from that class — Henderson, Diwun Black, and Deyavie Hammond — who didn’t make it in due to academics.
That is a big departure from normal at Florida. I went through UF’s recruiting classes across the span, and I believe since Reggie Nelson failed to qualify in the 2003 class, only one player (D’Anfernee McGriff in 2015) didn’t qualify before the 2019 class. Add those to Chris Steele and Jalon Jones, and five players from the ’19 signing group are already gone.
A sixth, Bahamas native Wardrick Wilson, is fine academically but can’t enroll until the federal government straightens something out with his visa. That’s a highly unusual situation (e.g. Haiti native Wondy Pierre-Louis faced no such trouble), but one would think he’ll eventually make it to UF. He’s missed so much time that he’s guaranteed to redshirt by this point.
Anyway, with Henderson out but still counting Wilson, Florida is down to 77 recruited scholarship players. This includes transfers who didn’t sign at UF like Jonathan Greenard and Tommy Townsend but not former walk-on Tanner Rowell, who just got put on scholarship.
That count includes UGA transfer Brenton Cox, whose waiver to play this year is pending. I don’t anticipate him getting one. There has been a lot of smoke about LSU transfer Kelvin Joseph enrolling at UF once he finishes up a class in Baton Rouge, but I don’t think he’ll get to play wherever he goes this year either. Eliminating Wilson for his visa issue and Cox because he most likely will sit out this fall puts the count down to 75 eligible recruited scholarship players.
The count actually goes down from there thanks to a pair of injuries. Both the younger David Reese and CJ McWilliams will miss the season with Achilles injuries. That puts the count down to 73, which is like having a significant NCAA scholarship reduction penalty applied to the team.
Then, some number of true freshmen will redshirt because of depth at their position, them needing some time to adjust to college, and/or other considerations. All three freshmen wide receivers Ja’Markis Weston, Dionte Marks, and Trent Whittemore figure to go in that bucket unless they end up contributing on special teams. Of the three of them, Whittemore had the most positive reviews of his play in fall camp.
At least two of the remaining freshman offensive linemen are likely to redshirt as well. More fall camp reports have Ethan White and Michael Tarquin far enough along to potentially earn a spot in John Hevesy’s top eight. With Noah Banks medically retired and no real camp buzz about Griffin McDowell (who missed spring ball to injury), the first guys off the bench are going to be Richard Gouriage and some mix of White, Tarquin, and T.J. Moore.
That leaves Kingsley Eguakun, Will Harrod, and Riley Simonds as likely redshirt candidates. Eguakun earned praise in the spring as maybe the most college-ready of the early enrollees, but there have been no such reports from fall.
Setting aside Eguakun, Harrod, Simonds, Weston, and Marks as redshirts puts the number down to 68 recruited scholarship players with a real chance of playing any amount of meaningful time this fall. It goes down to 67 if Whittemore also redshirts. We’ll also have to see about tight end Keon Zipperer, considering there are four older players at that position.
But wait, there’s more. Jaelin Humphries missed fall camp to a knee injury, with Dan Mullen stating back on August 12 that he hoped Humphries would be back “in the next couple weeks”. With Florida having depth on the defensive line and him missing that much time, it shouldn’t shock anyone if he redshirts.
The Gators also signed five linebackers who made it into school. Reportedly the staff is pretty high on Khris Bogle and Mohamoud Diabate among them, but if some or all of Tyron Hopper, Lloyd Summerall, and Jesiah Pierre redshirt, that also shouldn’t be a surprise. That could be up to four more guys (Humprhies and the three LBs) who aren’t real options unless someone in front of them goes down.
So, the actual number of scholarship players who are healthy, eligible, and not redshirting could be as low as 63. Coincidentally, that’s the same as the scholarship limit at the FCS level. I say “as low as” because guys like Whittemore and at least one of those linebackers probably will play on special teams this year. Mullen likes to put his best players on special teams, but it’s still a place for young guys who are physically ready to go to get some experience with real college speed.
That said, this also isn’t counting things like Jean Delance reportedly being on crutches last week, making his appearance against Miami questionable, and the inevitable Game 1 suspensions that Florida has had since time immemorial. They could be in the high 50s against the Hurricanes.
Delance aside, none of the attrition has touched the starters. The team’s 2019 ceiling is still within reach, especially if they can weather it with Gouraige if Delance misses time.
The story of Florida’s 2019 offseason has been the margin of error melting away and potential future roster issues cropping up. Henderson was almost certainly going to redshirt this year but would be important from 2020 on, so him not qualifying fits right into the overall story. The 2019 team can be just fine if the starters remain healthy overall, but it won’t take too many hits to just the right places for things to unravel fast.