This long-overdue 23rd edition of the Weekly Open Thread is all about comings and goings, the transitional and the transitory.
The comings have been interesting for Florida of late. Since we last open threaded, linebacker James Houston and running back Adarius Lemons have committed, giving Florida the appearance of momentum on the recruiting trail. And while the Gators missed out on wide receiver Jerry Jeudy last week — as expected, he committed to Alabama — it is seemingly possible that, when August is over, Florida will have a top-10 recruiting class.
That would probably have to start on this Monday night, if American Heritage cornerback Marco Wilson picks the Gators — like his brother Quincy did — during his commitment on his father Chad's radio show. But Wilson isn't the only Gators target announcing in August: Louisiana defensive back Brad Stewart has an August 17 commitment lined up, and South Florida defensive back Shawn Davis and New Jersey defensive tackle Fred Hansard are each expected to announce at some point this month. And there seem to be outside chances that off-the-radar prospects like Miami commit C.J. Henderson, another defensive back, and California linebacker and Enzo Amore quoter Rahyme Johnson might be in play for the Gators, too.
Any of these individual commitments would be worth being excited about, really, but the best part of a flurry of commitments — for my part, anyway — is that it calms the restless. Those fans who bray on message boards and in comment sections about how coaches they have never met are "not getting it done" without being specific about what it is, or how it ought to be done? They tend to be quieted quickly by commitments.
What that momentum would mean for the Gators in a reality that doesn't always mirror message boards is less clear. The actual value of a commitment is closer to just what that player's labor can do for the school, I think, plus any marginal value of denying a rival a player's services. And while a commitment in August may feel better to fans, it doesn't likely have a value to Florida itself that is substantially different from one in November or on National Signing Day.
The thing to remember and look forward to is that Florida may score a few of those commitments in the near future.
Florida also got maybe its biggest possible commitment late last week, when it announced Steve Spurrier's return to the program as an ambassador and consultant.
This just makes sense on every level. Spurrier's ties to and accomplishments with South Carolina, while substantial, don't hold a candle to his with Florida, and no person could be a more effective fundraiser for the University Athletic Association than Spurrier, even if his fundraising is limited to a few appearances. No matter what Florida will pay him in a role like this, it will make its investment back.
Retaining Spurrier also probably means that we won't see as much of him in broadcasting as we might like, which may be a bummer for some — but Gators fans should realize that any appearances Spurrier does make from now until the end of his time with the program will be as an official emissary of Gator Nation, which should forestall some sighs.
Steve Spurrier has always been a Gator for life. The difference now is that it's probably official and final. That's a really good thing for a program that loves him like no other figure in its history.
The going of Treon Harris, announced last week, only surprised in its tardiness.
Harris's struggles in the fall made it difficult to countenance him even factoring into Jim McElwain's quarterback picture in 2016 and beyond, and the McElwain-Doug Nussmeier brain trust largely keeping their offense in place rather than straining to maximize Harris was the first strong hint at that. Harris compounded his own issues by getting suspended along with Antonio Callaway, and the reporting on Callaway that largely excluded Harris — along with Callaway, not Harris, being vociferously defended — made it clear which player was more important to the program.
That's a shame, in a sense, because Harris largely did what was asked of him on the field in thankless roles: The backup QB to a sputtering starter is the most popular person on a football team until he's not, and the backup to a beloved starter has little hope of earning the love garnered by the first-stringer — even if the first-stringer's error was his own and a colossal one, we learned last fall.
But Harris also got accused of sexual assault, got pulled over for driving without a license in a car with weed in it just months after that accusation was withdrawn, got suspended prior to a game in which he was still plausibly going to get snaps at quarterback, and got suspended again this spring semester. He made it very difficult for me to root for him, and his level of play led far more people to be far less charitable and fair than I tried to be, most notably in the embarrassing response to Harris smiling while visiting with friends and Florida State coaches after FSU's win over Florida last fall.
I'm not sad to see Harris go, and I think him being away from the program is a net positive both for him and Florida, because it's a fresh start for him and a headache alleviated for the Gators. But I do hope that he can find success and stability somewhere — and I think it's incumbent on him to make his best choice now.
It's also telling, I think, that I'm not writing about the goings of Callaway, Tyrie Cleveland, and Rick Wells, all of whom seem to be both in one limbo or another with Florida and ultimately expected to make full returns to the program.
The fates of Callaway and Cleveland, who could both start for Florida this fall, were most fans' primary worries, and we've gotten almost exclusively hints that both will return since their initial suspensions. Callaway has been reinstated as a student, and he was at Friday Night Lights two weekends ago.
Cleveland and Wells, meanwhile, are being represented by Huntley Johnson — just as Callaway is in his alleged violation of Florida's student code of conduct. That is as good an indication of a troubled player's eventual return to good standing with the Gators as anything has been for the last 20-plus years, and while I think Cleveland and Wells are more likely to return than Callaway — because Johnson knows the legal system better than the increasingly byzantine apparatus of higher education — I do fully expect all three to be back eventually.
A return, though, shouldn't be without punishment for the errors in judgment that got all three players into their messes. I think suspensions would be merited in all three cases, and I'm leery of the revocation of meaningless privileges being the height of discipline.
If Jim McElwain wants to use "Do what's right" as a mantra, he ought to be vocal and honest about what that means — because his "right" isn't necessarily correct by fiat alone.
Finally, there are somewhat important comings and goings to announce in regards to Alligator Army itself. The going is mine: I've moved away from Gainesville, back to my native Brevard County, after nine years in town. I have several reasons for this, and I'm keeping them private, but I think it's important for you all to know about the move itself because it also means what I'm able to do for Alligator Army is changing.
I've never been eager to trade the relative purity of my perspective as a fan — something I think is crucial to SB Nation's mission — for the access of the press box and locker room, so I haven't used my proximity to Florida as aggressively as I could (or maybe should) have over my time with this site. I'm okay with that, and I think most of you have been okay with it, too.
But I also think that the path to Alligator Army growing and improving is best walked by a balanced group of people who do want to provide that sort of access and coverage, and people more like me, who remain at a remove. I want to capture the most holistic perspective of being a Florida fan as I can here, and I am obviously limited largely to providing my own.
I'm not leaving Alligator Army, and may in fact be around more once I get settled in over here. We have a variety of talented people in the Alligator Army family, too, from leli to Ashley to Eric to Trevor, and I'm both proud of that pack and excited about potentially adding more contributors in the fall. (The AlligatorArmy@gmail.com address is forever open to potential contributors of all kinds, especially ones who have specific ideas they want to make realities.)
I want to add someone else to the mix, though, and I've gotten clearance from my higher-ups to do that.
Later this Next week, we'll be posting an opening for what amounts to a paid senior editor/writer position here at Alligator Army, and soliciting any and all applicants. I'll link it regularly, because I want to cast the widest net possible, and I'm going to attack the process of bringing someone on with as much vigor and care as I can; I think this is an inflection point for the site, and I want to find the right fit.
If you're that fit? Let me know. If you know someone who is, or could be? Do the same.
I want to make this site that you enjoy on a daily basis as good as it can possibly be for now and forever. Please, if you are so inclined, help me in that quest.