We’re dealing with a depth misperception right now.
When talking football, we respect the issue. Kind of. But not enough. Name any problem related to Florida’s Oh-For October. I bet you find depth at its root.
Turnovers? Penalties? Pocket problems? Piss-poor pass coverage? Those are all signs of undisciplined players. And the fact that those same players take the field week after week, making the same bone-headed mistakes proves just how thin Florida is.
Will Muschamp can’t effectively punish players for making mistakes because he doesn’t have a choice. The Gators only have 61 players left from their last four signing classes. On average, the four teams that beat Florida last month had 72 players remaining from those classes.
Muschamp has talked all season about the team’s lack of depth, and of course Florida would lose a lot of players as it transitioned from the Urban era. Players who were recruited by one coaching staff just don’t like the new guys, so they bolt.
But that’s not the problem.
Looking at the 2008-11 signing classes, the Gators have lost 23 players before they exhausted all four years of eligibility. If that number seems high, it’s not. Those four teams that beat Florida in October, (those deeper teams) lost more athletes in the last four years than the Gators did.
Alabama, LSU, Auburn and Georgia have lost an average of 30.5 players early.
They oversigned, stockpiling recruits knowing full well those wild and crazy kids wouldn’t all cut it. Some transferred when they wanted more playing time. Some suffered career-ending injuries. Some decided to skip class or play baseball or simply quit.
Each season, teams can give out 85 scholarships. Theoretically, these teams that oversign would have to strip players of scholarships to make room for the new recruits. (Scholarships are one-year contracts, though the NCAA has recently proposed expanding them to four years.)
Taking away scholarships is rare, however, because so many players leave school when they aren’t getting playing time — “free” education be damned.
Florida, however, has not oversigned as part of a policy coming from University President Bernie Machen and Athletic Director Jeremy Foley, a team spokesman said Tuesday. In their last four signing classes, the Gators have hauled in 84 recruits — one shy of the limit.
“These schools play roulette with the lives of talented young people,” Machen wrote in an op-ed for Sports Illustrated on Feb. 1, not coincidentally the eve of National Signing Day. “If (schools) run out of scholarships, too bad. … Technically, it’s legal to do this. Morally, it is reprehensible.”
Machen’s policy leaves Muschamp handcuffed, especially this year. But at least Florida can hang its hat on something, and the Gators will be better prepared for recruiting going forward.
The Southeastern Conference will restrict every team to 25 scholarships next year. Florida has signed one class with a higher number than that; the other four teams have signed nine. Those teams will fall back soon.
Asked Monday how he punishes players who commit penalties, Muschamp said, “We’re a little bit thin, quite frankly. We’re doing the best we can do.”
Muschamp has to keep playing them; he doesn’t have a choice. Soon, he won’t be alone.
Contact Tyler Jett at email@example.com.