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Weekend Roundup: Florida loses Charlton Warren to Georgia, Keith Stone to torn ACL

The Gators suffered significant losses from their football coaching staff and men’s basketball roster this weekend.

NCAA Basketball: Florida at Georgia Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

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Florida corners coach Charlton Warren heads to Georgia

Last weekend, the news was that Florida cornerbacks coach Charlton Warren would not be taking a defensive backs coach job at Georgia.

This weekend, the news was that he did.

Georgia announced its hiring of Warren on Saturday, with the move coming out of the blue and after initial reporting of Warren being a candidate at Georgia led to swift denials issued to multiple media members and reports suggesting Georgia did not interview Warren.

Given the way at least one media member openly suggested that Warren lied to him... seems likely that the story on Warren’s departure was one of initial interest swiftly denied and an offer from Georgia that was too appealing to pass on.

Whether that appeal was based in a significant raise over his Florida salary — as would seem likely — or a bump in responsibilities from cornerbacks coach to defensive backs coach or some combination of those professional perks and being able to be closer to family for the Atlanta native, it was enough to get Warren to defect from one SEC East school to another for a second consecutive offseason. (Warren coached at Tennessee in 2017 prior to landing at Florida.)

And while it puts a number of people in awkward positions — Warren, for example, now has to recruit players like 2019 recruit Kaiir Elam, who officially visited Georgia this weekend, after having spent months recruiting them to Florida — it was a move in keeping with the mercenary and peripatetic nature of college football’s coaches, who get to rake in hundreds of thousands (or millions) of dollars thanks to a fixed market for their players’ labor, yet have freedom of mobility and negotiating power that players do not have and would be banned by the NCAA for exercising, respectively.

I do not blame Florida’s players for being salty about Warren abandoning them.

Florida will likely want to move quickly to hire a replacement for Warren — who was by all accounts a good coach and recruiter, if not an irreplaceable one — with Elam still deciding on his future and National Signing Day looming. But while there are logical candidates for the role — former Florida safety Marquand Manuel is newly unemployed after being let go by the Atlanta Falcons, and former Florida State defensive back Terrell Buckley worked under Dan Mullen at Mississippi State, for starters — available, Mullen now has more flexibility than he had prior to Saturday when reconstituting his defensive staff, and could theoretically do any number of things to give Todd Grantham his full complement of lieutenants.

And while defensive line coach Sal Sunseri and Warren departing in the span of a few days gives Florida holes to fill on its defensive staff, the single greatest priority for that staff is probably finding a way to give linebackers coach Christian Robinson, a rising star who has been superb on the recruiting trail, a substantial raise and extension. Robinson is making just $90,000 for the 2018-19 year, per contracts released to media last May, which is a tiny number even before considering how well he has performed.

Whatever Florida does in the near term, I expect Robinson — a Grantham protege — to be involved as a defensive assistant.

Florida forward Keith Stone suffers season-ending torn ACL

Prior to Warren’s sudden departure on Saturday, the Gators had just scored a win over Georgia, withstanding a spate of hot shooting by the Dawgs to take a 62-52 victory in Athens early Saturday afternoon.

But in that win was a loss, as redshirt junior forward Keith Stone suffered a serious injury early in the second half and needed to be helped off the court.

On Sunday, we got confirmation of the worst news possible for Stone: The injury is a torn ACL in his left knee, which will end his 2018-19 season.

Stone had not been having a strong season entering Saturday, but showed out in possibly the best half of his entire year against Georgia, scoring eight points and flashing both his athleticism (on a stunning drive to a dunk) and his feathery shooting touch (on a contested three) in the first period. He would finish with just that output for the game, though, going down a mere 13 seconds after checking in after halftime — and now a season that featured eight games with eight or more points and nine without is over.

Florida will mostly be able to survive losing Stone’s scoring punch and decent post defense off the bench, as we saw on Saturday, but it is now incredibly thin up front, where its only other reliable true forward is Kevarrius Hayes.

Forward Chase Johnson transferred from Florida in late December. Tweeners Dontay Bassett and Keyontae Johnson — who is 6’5”, but phenomenally athletic — helped fill in for Stone against Georgia, but Bassett is still learning how to defend and Johnson simply isn’t big enough to routinely be matched against genuine big men. And Isaiah Stokes, Florida’s biggest healthy big, seems to be deep in Mike White’s doghouse: He has not played since Florida’s loss to South Carolina, and broadcasters have suggested that White has insinuated to them that Stokes has work to do to earn his minutes.

And while Florida could really use the lanky Gorjok Gak right now, it appears that he, too, is out for the season: The South Sudanese player posted a picture to Instagram captioned “Till Next Year..” on Sunday, strongly implying a redshirt is in his future.

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Till Next Year.. #GodsTiming

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White is now faced with the prospect of getting through two more months of what has been a grinding season with just three true bigs — or perhaps two, if Stokes is also headed for a redshirt, as Florida staff writer Chris Harry hinted at in a piece published Sunday — and even less of an inside game than his offense previously had.

Florida has dealt with significant injuries to bigs under White before — the Gators did make the Elite Eight in 2017 and the NCAA Tournament in 2018 after losing John Egbunu to an ACL tear. But this latest bit of terrible luck for a big man under White probably means a snakebit Gators team has to lean even more into the pressing defense and three-reliant offense that has produced mixed results on the court and a fair bit of fan antipathy off it — and that may make these next two months painful ones for Florida and its fans.