Florida dismissed fifth-year junior defensive end Brenton Cox on Monday, with news of the impending move breaking via a report from Zach Abolverdi at On3 Sports just before Billy Napier confirmed it in his scheduled Monday press conference.
The Gators’ release on the decision does not reveal much more than Napier did in his comments — which is to say, not much at all.
“Sometimes you have to make decisions in the best interest of the team,” Napier said. “Being a football player at the University of Florida is a privilege. There are certainly expectations that come with that. We decided to move on.”
Napier said Cox’s exit was not a result of a specific incident. Napier said he preferred to keep details in-house when pressed to provide specifics.
“It’s a cumulative effect,” Napier said. “We want to help Brenton going forward. But it’s healthy for our team.”
Speculation will now run rampant about what Cox might have done to earn an early and involuntary departure from Napier’s program — which, as Scott Carter notes in Florida’s post announcing the move, put Cox behind a podium last week to discuss Florida’s matchup with his previous school, Georgia.
And given that a) when Cox came to Florida from Georgia, there was plenty of similar speculation about how he might have worked his way out of Kirby Smart’s good graces, and b) Cox has built a reputation among fans for flashy but often fundamentally unsound play on Saturdays for Florida with his brilliant and baffling plays often close to equal and doubled down on it via social media with grousing about disrespect, most of these guesses will be of the unkind variety.
I don’t know enough to make an educated guess as to the specifics at play here regarding Cox’s dismissal, so I won’t; instead, I’m going to hope that Napier is being sincere about wanting to help Cox, and that there’s an eventual reunion that aids Cox in his efforts to make the NFL even if he doesn’t play another snap for Florida.
But I do think I know enough to say that Cox was still, flawed though he was, one of Florida’s better players and best defenders, and that replacing the threat he represented off the edge might be difficult.
Getting more sound play from whomever assumes his snaps could happen, sure, but Florida’s trade is liable to lower the ceiling of what it — and opponents — can expect at that end/linebacker/edge rusher spot, as probable replacements Antwuan Powell-Ryland and Justus Boone have not exactly been game-wreckers in their limited snaps. And while Cox’s errors could be massive and maddening, Powell-Ryland and Boone have put a handful of their own on-field discipline problems on tape this year — it’s seemingly not as if Cox is going to be replaced here by the next T.J. Watt or Von Miller.
So, most likely, this is essentially Napier making the calculation new college football coaches have long made: Cutting ties with significant players within a program while revamping its structure and culture is more beneficial to that culture than removing that player from the field is detrimental to its capacities as a team.
We’ll see how that works out. At least, for Napier, this gives fans something other than Florida’s 4-4 record and loss to Georgia to talk about.