Things were looking up for the Florida Gators football team at the start of spring.
Head coach Dan Mullen had just raked in what looked to be a very promising class. With 17 four-star recruits, it earned a No. 9 ranking from 247Sports and included the highest-rated UF recruit since 2016 in California native Chris Steele.
“I’d think we did a poor job recruiting if guys were coming in and then immediately walking out the door because it was something different than what they thought it would be,” Mullen said in March.
Two months later, his highly-ranked class began to waver.
The first hit came from Jalon Jones, a freshman quarterback who was battling with redshirt junior Kyle Trask for the third string spot. Jones mysteriously entered the transfer portal in late April, but the reason soon became clear: he had been accused of sexual assault by two UF students.
Florida’s capstone fell soon after. Steele announced he was entering the transfer portal on May 9, reportedly due to his frustration with his roommate in Jones and the UF staff’s refusal to move him until summer.
It didn’t stop there. Three four-star UF recruits for 2021 – wide receiver Trevonte Rucker, athlete Dink Jackson and defensive end Bryce Langston – all decommitted during and in the aftermath of Steele’s transfer.
So what does this all mean for Mullen’s future?
For 2019, it won’t mean much.
While Steele was taking first team reps in the spring, the Gators still have considerable depth at the cornerback position.
The DB corps is spearheaded by junior CJ Henderson, who made Coaches’ Second Team All-SEC Honors and had a team-high seven pass breakups and two forced fumbles. This year is also likely to see the return of cornerback Marco Wilson, who played two games before tearing his ACL. Rounding out the depth at corner is sophomore Trey Dean III, who earned a Coaches’ Freshman All-SEC nod and ranked second on the team in pass breakups with six.
In 2021, though, Florida could feel an impact from its recent decomits.
The Gators currently have a very young defensive line, with only two underclassmen among its current members. Many of UF’s playmakers – such as Jabari Zuniga – won’t be with the team much longer, and losing out on a four-star recruit like Langston will leave Florida still searching for young talent on the defensive line when 2021 rolls around.
The team faces a similar situation with its wideouts. Only one Florida receiver, redshirt freshman Jacob Copeland, is an underclassman, and playmakers in the passing game such as senior Tyrie Cleveland and redshirt senior Van Jefferson will graduate without Rucker to replace them like Florida hoped.
Dan Mullen’s team may not feel the effects of the past week right now, but the future is very much in doubt as the building blocks to his long term plan have slipped.
Follow River Wells on Twitter @riverhwells and contact him at [email protected].