Florida has been linked to Malik Zaire as a possible destination shortly after he made it public that he would be transferring from Notre Dame. The quarterback situation in Gainesville lends itself to signal callers that have proven themselves elsewhere to make the move and try to come in and make a difference at Florida.
The Gators have an issue with this however. An SEC rule has blocked any grad-transfers for Florida this year so far because Mason Halter and Anthony Harrell didn’t meet academic standards when they did as much two years ago. The prevailing right now is that the SEC will change the rule in some capacity because they are the only league that has such a thing in the NCAA.
Until that comes to pass, Florida will have to wait.
“You guys know me and the rules, just tell me what they are and we’ll play by them, whatever it is.” McElwain told a group of reporters before speaking to the Orlando crowd. “We’ll see what happens come… I guess during the (SEC spring meetings).”
The idea of grad transfers really making a difference according to Mac started when Russell Wilson made the move from NC State to Wisconsin back in 2011. Most can only hope to have the success that Wilson’s transfer produced for the Badgers.
“I think it really spans back to really Russell Wilson who made it a thing,” McElwain said. “I know it really helped us, you know how desperate we were with offensive linemen when we first got there. We were able to add Mason half way. That really got us through that season as we tried to develop our offensive line. So that was something that was really needed.”
McElwain says that the Gators field numerous inquiries about transfers every year. They have already added an undergraduate transfer from Clemson in offensive tackle Jake Fruhmorgen. Fruhmorgen will have to sit out the 2017 season because he is an undergrad.
“It’s interesting, when you’re in a place like the University of Florida, with that national brand, the inquiries start even now for next year,” he said. “Guys that are looking that when they graduate, ‘would you have a need?’. Obviously in our case, we’re constantly trying to get the roster better. So, if it’s a position of need or if we have the spot, we’ll obviously add one.”
McElwain says it really is a different process than the normal one of recruiting high school players to come to Florida.
“It’s interesting because we’re not recruiting anybody,” he said. “They’re kind of at that point where they’re looking to recruit you. So, it’s really totally different. I mean we’re not out there like we are trying to recruit the guys that are trying to come and be a part of your program at all. Those guys kind of call and hope that you have interest.”
While again not mentioning Zaire by name, he was clear that adding a quarterback is something they would entertain if given the chance and the opportunity was there.
“Absolutely… we did that a year ago with Austin,” he said about the Gators taking Purdue graduate transfer quarterback Austin Appleby. “You know when Luke went down, he was playing pretty good. We had things clicking pretty (well). And yet (Appleby) being able to come in and really the way he finished. I looked at that and talking even about the bowl game, I think the positive momentum from that really had a lot to do with Austin and his approach. So yeah, it could be anyone.”
The Gators have spent about 16 months now grooming two freshmen quarterbacks (Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask) and seem set to unveil one of them in September as the starter. That may not come to pass as Luke Del Rio returns to health in the fall and of course if Zaire were to transfer.
The staff doesn’t know how any of that is going to shake out just yet, but one thing for sure is that McElwain believes the competition is something he would welcome.
“I think the big thing is that whatever position it is, you’re always trying to get better,” he said. “If there is an opportunity to get better, you know, that’s it. You’ve heard me talk about it. Great teams have competition at every position. You can never be comfortable. We’ve got to get to that point, we’re not there yet, and yet we’ve got to get to that point at every position.”