Florida Gators Mailbag: Why Florida needs roster attrition, and Andre Debose, possible transfer

Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

A wide-ranging Mailbag tackles attrition, possible Florida transfer candidates, a little recruiting talk, and Florida basketball's chances of going 12-0.

Would you mind explaining attrition? (@MackTouchton)

I don't mind at all.

...

...okay, so, in the interest of not just snarkily providing that non-answer that is technically an answer to that question, let's explain attrition and work from the basics. The word means "a decrease in numbers, size, or strength" and comes from the lexicon of warfare; this is why there are "wars of attrition," both literal and figurative, and why running games like the pounding one Florida rolled out against Florida State are often said to win football games "by attrition."

Attrition, in terms of roster management, means "players leaving a roster because of various reasons." We last saw large-scale attrition in 2011, when 10 players (Chris Dunkley, Javares McRoy, Mike Blakely, Michael McFarland, Chris Martin, Dee Finley, Gerald Christian, Robert Clark, Joshua Shaw, and Lynden Trail) transferred of their own volition (some more of it than others), and Janoris Jenkins was kicked off the team. That attrition left Florida with less talent than it should have had, and less depth than virtually every other FBS team in 2011.

But it's a different situation Florida finds itself in now: Then, attrition was only good for the Gators in that it weeded out troublemakers; now, attrition is going to be a necessary part of how Florida goes about its business.

Do we have many spots open for new recruits? (@robdenson5123)

Now, the attrition isn't about Florida losing players who didn't want to or couldn't play for Will Muschamp and the Gators being hamstrung by a smaller roster: It's about Florida staying under the NCAA's scholarship limit. The NCAA limits FBS football teams to 85 scholarships, and Florida is close to that limit in 2012, with 81 players on scholarship. (You can get a sense of the scholarship roster here, though that list has the already-transferred Jafar Mann on it.) Florida has 14 seniors and redshirt seniors who will have exhausted their eligibility after the Sugar Bowl, and three underclassmen on scholarship (Cole Gilliam, Drew Ferris, and Tim Clark) who are not assured of renewal, because walk-on scholarships aren't like scholarships granted to incoming players.

That leaves Florida with 64 scholarships committed and 21 scholarships available before factoring in the attrition that will come from a variety of sources. And Florida has 25 committed recruits, meaning both that it will need four more scholarships to come open via attrition — and, importantly, that it expects them to come free.

The obvious and happy way for that to happen is through players leaving early for the NFL Draft. Sharrif Floyd is as good as gone, having spent time at IMG to investigate his NFL future (and train), and there are a bunch of other players who could go pro, as discussed in a previous Mailbag, from Matt Elam on down to Jelani Jenkins. Being conservative and guessing that Florida will have one more NFL Draft entrant in addition to Floyd (for contrast, Robbie Andreu of the Gainesville Sun puts the chance of four different early entry candidates at 75 percent or better) gets Florida to 23 scholarships available for 2013, still short of the number necessary. That means we're probably going to see attrition through players leaving Florida or leaving the game of football entirely.

To explain that...

Any idea on who may leave? (@UFFitz)

...let's answer this next question. It's an icky business, trying to figure out what players should transfer or leave, and it should be noted here at the top that I'm a) very much aware of the difficulties of transferring from one school to another and b) strongly in favor of players who fulfill the terms of their scholarships sucking those scholarships for every bit of the marrow in them.

The guys most likely to leave of their own volition and with a University of Florida degree are Matt Patchan, Jeremy Brown, and Kedric Johnson.

All three are currently redshirt juniors, with just one season of eligibility left, and none has made much of an impact at Florida, with injuries derailing all three players, most significantly Patchan and Brown. It is especially unlikely that Patchan and Brown will be in the mix to play in 2013, with UF's depth and offensive line and in the secondary swelling, and, frankly, the idea of putting a body already betrayed by injury through football practice for a sixth time for only morsels of playing time seems almost tragically Sisyphean to me. No one would call either a quitter for hanging up his cleats; no one would blame them for doing so.

Johnson, on the other hand, has a better chance of getting into the defensive line rotation in 2013, and hasn't had five years of frustration, just four. I expect him to come back, but I'm far less sure about Patchan and Brown.

Then there are the Gators who may have to transfer because they have exhausted their coaches' patience. That would seem to be a two-person list consisting of Andre Debose and De'Ante "Pop" Saunders, rumored and reported to be transfer candidates for months.

Debose has plummeted down the depth chart after leading Florida in receiving yards, yards per catch, and touchdowns in 2011; Saunders has been very good when on the field, but has missed multiple games in 2012 due to injuries that may or may not be actual injuries. I believe that Florida would like to keep Saunders, and that Debose's talent would be welcome if his head were screwed on straight, but both have to be considered transfer candidates.

And then there are the simplest transfers of all: Guys who just want to go somewhere and play. Jacoby Brissett and Tyler Murphy, who each have no chance of getting playing time at quarterback barring injury to Jeff Driskel, would be the most logical candidates here, but names abound up and down the roster. A quick list:

  • Mack Brown: Passed up by Matt Jones thanks to injury, and likely to be no better than a second option at running back in 2013.
  • Stephen Alli: Quiet Canadian who cares about education but will be no better than a special teams standout.
  • Tevin Westbrook: Former defensive end playing out of position at tight end, and lower on the depth chart than the very similar Clay Burton with no brother in Gainesville and on the roster to keep him in town.
  • Tommy Jordan: Connecticut native likely to be buried behind more talented offensive linemen.
  • Jabari Gorman, Valdez Showers: Similar safeties who have played sparingly in two years at Florida and face tons of competition.
  • Willie Bailey: Little-mentioned freshman who will redshirt in 2012 and is likely to be waiting until 2014 at the least to contribute.
  • Again, I'm not saying that I think any of these players should transfer, much less all of them. (If there's one player I think really should find another school, it's Brissett, who is too good a quarterback to spend four years as someone's backup ... and I wouldn't even advise him to leave if he says he likes Florida, which I think he does, because there's no other Florida school besides Florida Atlantic and Florida International that currently needs a quarterback and isn't pre-NCAA sanctions decimation Miami.) But Muschamp has exit interviews with players, and can certainly sit down and be frank with them about their futures at Florida, and he'll find a way to get to or under 85 scholarships.

    We may not like the way he does it, but he'll get there.

    You don't think that with Hines and Hammond leaving that Debose will earn some more time in 2013? (@MitchellMason96)

    No. I don't. Earn is the key word there, and Debose hasn't shown in 2012 that he can earn any playing time at all.

    Remember Brent Pease talked about not wanting "Terrell Owens types" and everyone seemed to get that he was talking about Debose? Remember how the Pease offense found ways to move the ball against good teams without its most talented player (and Debose is that player, let's be clear), ways that Charlie Weis couldn't?

    Muschamp believes in players earning things. Muschamp hired Pease in part because Pease believes in players earning things. Debose earned less playing time in 2012 than Michael McNeely, whose contributions to Florida on the field in game action were nigh invisible to the untrained eye. (McNeely's an able blocker and a good special teams player.)

    So, no, I'm not of the mind that Debose will have an epiphany and start doing the work to earn things.

    What are the chances of getting (Jason) Hatcher and (Jalen) Ramsey to flip from Southern Cal? Possibility of getting (Mackensie) Alexander as well? (@BrianStark16)

    Hatcher, a good defensive end who Florida would take as a BUCK player, and Ramsey, a physical cornerback among the nation's best as his position, have both been USC commits for some time now, and Florida's been playing catch-up with both, despite Ramsey being Florida commit Max Staver's high school teammate. I don't think Florida's chance at either player is great, but Muschamp et al. are great recruiters and Florida's momentum on the field may help change minds.

    Meanwhile, Florida's hiring of Joker Phillips seems to have made top-flight cornerback Mackensie Alexander take a second look at the Gators. Alexander told 247Sports' GigEm247, a Texas A&M site, that "Florida is back in the mix," and being in the mix for the quiet Alexander is plenty. If Florida can get him on campus for a visit, the Gators might just be able to seal the deal and make an already tremendous secondary class one of the finest groups of defensive backs in one recruiting class in college football history.

    But any if is a big if in recruiting.

    Think men's basketball has a good chance of starting 12-0? (@MitchellMason96)

    Speaking of big ifs: Florida's path to an undefeated run in non-conference play looked really rocky entering the 2012-13 season, because the Gators had to deal with Georgetown, Wisconsin, Marquette, Florida State, and Arizona to get there. Now, of those five brand name foes, only Arizona remains, and the Gators will meet the Wildcats as hot as they have been in years.

    So, yes, there's a chance, and it's a really good one.

    Michael Rogner of Run the Floor ran an analysis of college basketball teams' chances of going undefeated through the regular season based on Kenpom predicted scores, and Florida came out on top with a 6.4 percent chance of going blemish-free until the SEC Tournament. (Obviously, an analysis can't include games not yet on the schedule.)

    But it's even easier to figure out the chance of Florida going 12-0 according to Kenpom: We simply multiply the chances of winning Florida's next five games (at Arizona, vs. Southeast Louisiana, against Kansas State in Kansas City, vs. Air Force in South Florida, and vs. Yale), the ones that finish the non-conference slate, and come up with ... a 47.8 percent chance that Florida ends up 12-0.

    I don't have a model nearly as good as Ken Pomeroy's, and I think that there's a lot more to worry about from Arizona than stats currently show and that Florida playing Kansas State near Kansas State is really rough, but I can't say I disagree with that number all that much. If Florida beats Arizona, Kenpom suggests, its chances of going undefeated are a stellar 75.8 percent, and that's before factoring in whatever bumps Florida might get from beating the No. 13 Kenpom team in the country.

    I think that if Florida beats Arizona, it will get to 12-0. It's nice to have more reasoned analysis back up that gut feeling.

    Have a question you would like answered about the Gators, UF, or life? Tweet to @AlligatorArmy, use the #AAMailbag hashtag, or drop a question off on Facebook, and I'll get it answered.

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