Florida ruins offensive players. That’s just what it does, with a few notable exceptions.
One is Antonio Callaway, who came to Florida in 2015 as a three-star recruit and exceeded expectations quickly. Another is Tyrie Cleveland, who was rated the second-best receiver in the class of 2016 and has played like it.
So them and a few others aside, why would any skilled offensive player want to pledge to Florida?
Just look at the quarterbacks since Tim Tebow alone. And brace yourself, because it’s a long list.
John Brantley went from five-star protege to bust. Tyler Murphy was a three-star passer who failed at Florida and transferred to Boston College. Jeff Driskel went from five-star savior to bust before leaving Florida, excelling at Louisiana Tech and getting selected in the sixth round of the NFL Draft. Jacoby Brissett was a four-star stud in the same class as Driskel who was passed over in favor of Driskel, opted to transfer — noticing a pattern here? — and excelled at N.C. State. He started Sunday’s game for the Indianapolis Colts and led them to a win over San Francisco.
But there’s more: Three-star passer Skyler Mornhinweg went 0-3 as a starter at Florida and transferred to Columbia. Three-star Max Staver never saw the field and transferred.
Still more: Four-star Will Grier had a nice run before he was suspended one calendar year for using banned substances and transferred. He’s now starting for West Virginia. Treon Harris was an enigmatic mixture of success and failure and decided to transfer to Tennessee State, where he’s now the starter.
Then there are the quarterbacks who transferred to Gainesville: Luke Del Rio and Malik Zaire. Del Rio came from Oregon State and sat out for a year before becoming the starter. He suffered a season-ending injury halfway through the year. This season, he suffered another season-ending injury in his first start of the year. And Zaire played less than one half against Michigan where he got battered, bruised and never took the lead.
That leaves Feleipe Franks, Kyle Trask and Jake Allen. Trask is injured and lost standing in the offseason. Allen is still a true freshman. And Franks, a redshirt freshman, has been less than spectacular in his first five games in a Florida uniform.
His 133 passing yards per game rank last among starters in the SEC and don’t even register in the top 100 nationally. His three touchdown passes are also last in the conference. His QB rating of 144 is seventh, however, which means he’s just not throwing very much.
I’m not saying that’s his fault. I’m saying Florida is cursed. Or at least it seems to be since Tebow left.
Yet, if you peek at the recruits currently pledged to Florida, six out of the top seven in this year’s class play offense. That includes UF’s top commit, Matt Corral, who’s rated the third-best pro-style quarterback in the class.
I don’t get that. At all.
I suppose there’s the allure of wanting to be the savior. The messiah. The second coming of Tebow. But with how awful the offense has been since Tebow, again, it feels like walking into a curse.
When Tebow last roamed the sidelines in 2009, the Gators ranked No. 6 nationally in total offense. Since then, they haven’t been better than 83rd. And under McElwain, they haven’t surpassed No. 103. That’s this year, and it’s out of 130 teams.
After the loss to LSU Saturday, former UF defensive lineman Bryan Cox tweeted: “Time is running out on Florida’s predictable high school offense....trash” and “Tired of it...can’t even tell you how many talented offensive players I have seen come through UF during my time...not a personnel issue.”
My thoughts exactly. With the number of highly rated quarterbacks who have played for Florida since Tebow, the problem doesn’t seem to be with them. Or the other offensive players who came in touted and inexplicably underperformed.
Why would any high school player seeking fame, glory and eventual riches in the NFL want to be a part of that?
Ethan Bauer is a sports writer. Keep and eye out for his next column by following him on Twitter @ebaueri. Contact him at [email protected].