With multiple Florida players set to make decisions about leaving early for the NFL Draft, first-year coach Jim McElwain and his staff are working hard to help the players gain as much information as possible.
The most likely to leave is cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III, who admitted after the SEC Championship Game that he will probably leave early and enter the NFL Draft. That’s not much of a surprise as Hargreaves is a first-round pick.
There are plenty of question marks remaining on the Florida roster. Wide receiver Demarcus Robinson and running back Kelvin Taylor will consider making the jump from the offensive side, but the defensive side is where the Gators could see a large hit.
“It’s exciting when you have players that should be considering that,” McElwain said. “You hope you have those kind of players that have that opportunity. We will assist in any way we can to help them with their decision. We’ll put in whatever we can to see what they come back grade-wise and help them.”
The list of defensive players that have to consider leaving early is long, including defensive tackle Caleb Brantley, safety Marcus Maye, defensive end Alex McCalister and safety Keanu Neal.
One name missing from that list is linebacker Jarrad Davis. The junior said after the SEC Championship Game that he felt something in the loss that he had never experienced before and his goal was to return to college and help the Gators get back to Atlanta and win the conference next season.
That was music to McElwain’s ears.
“That’s great news,” McElwain said. “I think we got the best recruit this class could ever have. He’s a special player.”
The challenge in the decisions is the information coming from different areas. Players are heading from the Florida staff plus family members and friends that could give them faulty information while making the decision. The process of giving players information began on Monday, and it will continue for as long as the players are making their decisions.
Defensive tackle Jonathan Bullard is a perfect example for players that want to come back and improve their stock. He could’ve gone last year and been drafted in the first few rounds, but he wanted to return to get his degree and boost his stock to the first round. He has been dominant at the defensive tackle position this year and now looks like he could work his way into the first round.
But ultimately, McElwain sees this as a decision that is up to each individual player. The staff will support them no matter what the decision and try to help them as much as possible.
“I’m a guy that by no means is going to talk them in or out (of leaving early),” McElwain said. “Everybody is different and has something else going on. If they’re in the first round, that’s something you’ve got to look at. The thing I think they don’t understand sometimes is the difference between early round signing bonuses and later rounds. It’s all slotted, and in some cases I think it’s better for them to come back and help their status. It’s an individual choice and we’ll do nothing but support and help whatever direction they want to go."