NFL Draft Proves Gators Lacked Older Talent

Florida head coach Will Muschamp learned years ago that it's hard to judge the talent on a team during the season. The best indicator often comes in mid-to-late April when the NFL Draft rolls around. With this year's draft starting on Thursday night, it should sink in what most have known for a while—the talent in Gainesville isn't where it used to be.

"I've said it before, I'm not asking for anybody to be patient," Will Muschamp said before speaking to the Titletown Gator Club last week. "I'm asking for somebody to be realistic. We've dipped in talent, and you look at our upper classes. You've got seven seniors. We've got 14 coming up next year. Our junior class has got a bunch of good players, a bunch of really good football players.

"Our sophomore class has got some good players. This class we just signed, I think, is a bunch of good football players. The six we had mid-year (early enrollees) are all really good football players. I'm really glad they're on our football team. Again, let's be realistic on why we're 15-11 in the last two years."

There were four Gators drafted from last year's team. The Miami Dolphins selected Mike Pouncey with the 15th overall pick in the first round, while his teammate on the offensive line, Marcus Gilbert, went in the second round to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Ahmad Black's fifth round selection by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Maurice Hurt's seventh round selection by the Washington Redskins wrapped up the Gators taken last year.

Following the 2006 national championship, the Gators had nine players drafted, including two in the first round (Jarvis Moss and Reggie Nelson).

After the Gators won 13 games and the Sugar Bowl in 2009, there were nine players drafted, including three in the first round (Joe Haden, Maurkice Pouncey, Tim Tebow). Even players selected in the later rounds like Aaron Hernandez and Riley Cooper are making an impact in the NFL. Undrafted free agent David Nelson has created a role for himself with the Buffalo Bills.

It's not breaking news that those teams were loaded with talent. It's the depth of the talent that Florida is lacking in right now.

Going into this weekend's draft, Muschamp believes the Gators will "have two drafted." Chris Rainey and Jaye Howard are likely to be taken, but outside of those two, there isn't a lock to be selected. Muschamp said he hopes that Deonte Thompson gets drafted to give Florida three.

This year will likely end the five-year streak of Florida having at least one player selected in the first round of the NFL Draft.

The process of rebuilding to that level started soon after Muschamp took the job at Florida.

"It's about recruiting the right guy— the evaluation process," Muschamp said. "Don't always fall in love with the film. Let's understand that the guy's got to have the right character and the right things involved. He's got to be a guy that's going to make good choices, decisions within the program. He's got to understand that, and then you've got to develop players. You've got to develop them when you get them on campus, and that's not a one-year process.

"It's a two- or three-year process. You've got to have time to get them in the right strength program and get them developed and coach them and get them in schemes that they apply to the NFL. That's the one thing that's very attractive about our place. Other than our punt team, everything that we do is NFL-oriented as far as what we're doing. And our punt team isn't just simply the fact that we're taking advantage of the rules, and D.J. does a phenomenal job. So everything we do in our organization has a background from the NFL."

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