VETTEL: How Do They All Fit In?

The recruiting success Urban Meyer and his staff are enjoying is truly remarkable. It seems you can't check a web site or read a paper without another commitment of a highly touted prep star being reported. Florida now has an astounding 26 commitments for this recruiting class… and it's not even Christmas. I know it seems like a month of Christmas morning for the Gators, but the actual day (Dec. 25) is still in the future as I write this.

It's not as if the number 26 is the likely final number. Florida is still pursuing several student-athletes and needs to add a running back, two offensive linemen and two linebackers to get the roster balanced. Trouble is, the NCAA only allows 25 a year. Since the Gators only enrolled 17 newcomers last fall; they can count up to eight guys on that total if they are enrolled in January.

Overall Limit a Bigger Problem

Counting a few guys back to last year is not nearly as tricky as making the overall roster fit under the 85-man NCAA limit. By my count, Florida has 64 players who could potentially return to the team for the 2006 campaign. That number does not include Josh Portis or Skyler Thornton. It does include Markell Thompson who most likely will not be a fifth-year senior and Dallas Baker who has work to do to earn eligibility for 2006. It includes all the players who are considering their NFL options as well.

So let's start doing the math, starting with the maximum number of players whom might be in the picture UF the day after players sign in February. We'll start with 64, add in five guys counting back and a full class of 25 for next fall. That gives UF a maximum of 94 guys in position to be part of Urban Meyer's second squad. Nine will have to go, through the process of attrition.

Several Kinds of Attrition

Attrition, the process by which players with eligibility remaining do not return to a team comes in several forms. As you try and figure out who might be moving on to make room, think about the 64 potential returning players who might fit one of these six categories.

  1. The Malcontents: This is the group of players unhappy about playing time or the demands being made of them on and off the field. Thornton and Portis certainly belong here. To find the next guy in this category, look for the most highly touted prospects yet to see significant playing time for the best bets to join the list.
  2. The Realists: For every malcontent who leaves thinking UF is keeping him from his NFL destiny, there's a player who simply acknowledges he is not good enough for this level and moves on, looking for a 1-AA or Division-II program to give him a shot. This is generally where you find second and third year guys who have already been redshirted.
  3. The Graduates: Potential fifth-year seniors who either voluntarily or with a nudge from the coaching staff go ahead and finish their playing days and classroom work simultaneously.
  4. The Walking Wounded: Players who have battled injuries will often seize the opportunity to be declared "permanently injured". P.I. status means you can stay on scholarship but not count against the 85 limit. You also can not play or practice ever again.
  5. The Early Departures: NFL bound student-athletes who begin earning money and leave school
  6. The Non-Qualifiers: Those who do not meet the minimum academic standards and end up instead at a prep school or junior college.

Where Florida's 9 Will Come From

At the current time it's safe to assume there are two guys committed to UF who will not qualify for school. I also suspect two Gators will make themselves available for the NFL draft and leave school.

So that's four down and five to go. I don't see a "walking wounded" candidate except Markell Thompson who could get a redshirt year for 2005. So let's assume he's not back, dropping the number of needed departures to just four.

Florida has a dozen commitments in the WR/DB category, and five more from defensive linemen. Thus, I would bet the last four not to come back would likely come from those positions. I think there's one more malcontent to leave and the others will either be graduates or realists.

I could name names here, but I don't think it's fair to do since I have not discussed the possibility with any of them. I do however believe Florida is going to be able to get to the 85 limit without a great deal of consternation. That is unless everyone qualifies and nobody turns pro, in which case finding eight more early departures will get very testy.

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