Redshirt junior-to-be Antonneous Clayton was once supposed to be the next great edge rusher for the Florida Gators, way back when he committed as a borderline five-star prospect in 2016.
With Clayton announcing a long-anticipated transfer on Monday via the ever-popular tweeted screenshot of some sentences written in the iPhone’s Notes app, it seems clear he will leave Gainesville having had nothing near that potential career.
It’s telling, perhaps, that Clayton mentions three coaches — Jim McElwain, Geoff Collins, and Chris Rumph, Florida’s head coach, defensive coordinator, and defensive line coach at the time of his recruitment — who are no longer at Florida. (McElwain and Florida parted ways in 2017, and the former Gators head man is now head coach at Central Michigan after a one-season pit stop as Michigan’s wide receivers coach; Collins is now Georgia Tech’s head coach, having left Florida to take over at Temple following the 2016 season; Rumph, who remained with Florida through the end of McElwain’s tenure in 2017, is now Tennessee’s co-defensive coordinator.) Clayton was recruited by that triumvirate, and his commitment was hailed as a good one that would later turn into something of a coup, as his reflexes and quickness made him a late riser in the 2016 recruiting rankings after a dominant performance in all-star settings.
It is also maybe telling just how casual Clayton seems to be about announcing this transfer. “Ever since this thing started to kick off” is an amusing way of referring to one’s own life; “I’ve given the University of Florida everything I’ve gotten on and off the field” is just confusing. Clayton does reel things back a bit by pleading with readers to “Please understand this decision is harder than it sounds,” but this seems more like a paragraph written in 15 minutes than one that took an hour.
And, frankly, if that’s true, it’s probably just as well that Clayton didn’t labor more on his farewell, as Florida fans don’t have many memories of him on the field to speak of. Through three years, Clayton played in 10 games, recording 11 tackles and a sack. And in 2018, under Dan Mullen and Todd Grantham, Clayton played in just two games and tallied a single tackle — this, while edge rusher Jachai Polite turned into one of college football’s finest pass rushers.
Clayton had two regimes to impress in Gainesville, and didn’t pass muster with either, leaving him — and fans — wondering why he was still around at the end of last year. And a change of scenery is probably going to be good for him, especially if he rediscovers the form that made him a coveted recruit in the first place.
But it’s also probably a good thing for Florida, which will now have a space for a player with a better shot of making a contribution for the Gators than Clayton had.