Does Florida Have An Attrition Problem Under Will Muschamp?

We know for a fact now that Florida will be losing several players to transfer, and backup QB’s Tyler Murphy, Max Staver and (likely) Skylar Mornhinweg are among them. That makes eight players to transfer, and would mean that under Will Muschamp, nineteen players have transferred.

Normally, I’d brush this off the same way that I see a lot of Gator fans are. I’d just throw out one of the popular goodbye-don’t-let-the-door-hit-you-on-the-way-out cliches my fellow Gator fans are using, such as “Good, that frees up a scholarship”, “Let’s replace him with a younger, better guy who actually wants to be a Gator”, “Muschamp’s weeding out the weaklings”, and everybody’s favorite, “If you ain’t a Gator, you’re Gatorbait”.

But after seeing this group of players leave, I’m beginning to wonder if there’s a long term problem here. I’ve already publicly stated on CBS Tampa radio, (twice, actually) that Muschamp should have been shown the door already. However, in those radio interviews, I pointed out two of the positives of having him as a head coach:  his ability to build a defense and his ability to recruit.

Now, though, I can’t help but think that maybe Muschamp can’t even do those things right. His vaunted (yet admittedly injury prone) defense was shredded by a Georgia Southern offense that half of GSU’s opponents did a better job stopping than Florida (yardage wise), and now these prized recruits that everybody is so giddy about in February are leaving in bunches in December.

I know, none of the guys who are leaving except for Ian Silberman and Murphy made valuable contributions to the Florida Gators. But in any case, the overall quantity of players who have left the program is alarming. I’m sure many people have forgotten at least some of the players who have transferred, because once a player leaves, fans usually make a note to get them out of their head. But I haven’t forgotten. Consider the following list of players who have signed with Florida since 2011 (Muschamp’s first year) who have transferred:

Player Year Pos. Rank New School
Ja’Juan Story 2011 #6 WR TCU
AC Leonard 2011 #7 ATH Tenn. State
Mike Blakely 2011 #7 RB Auburn
De’Ante Saunders 2011 #10 ATH Tenn. State
Javares McRoy 2011 #28 WR Texas Tech
Jacoby Brissett 2011 #25 QB NC State
Chris Johnson 2011 #56 S ?
Graham Stewart 2011 #53 OLB UConn
Jessamen Dunker 2012 #4 OG Tenn. State
Kent Taylor 2012 #4 TE ?
Rhaheim Ledbetter 2012 #9 S ?
Skylar Mornhinweg* 2012 #19 QB ?
Quinteze Williams 2012 #22 DT ?
Jafar Mann 2012 #30 DT ?
Willie Bailey 2012 #24 CB Louisville
Trevan Young 2013 #138 OT ?

(Note: * means the transfer news has not been confirmed by the school)

That list was sort of meant to mock ESPN and their rankings, to show that they don’t mean anything. But more importantly, it shows just how much raw talent Florida lost under Will Muschamp, who is supposed to be one of the best at getting raw talent- and then developing them. This list doesn’t even include Janoris Jenkins, Dee Finley, Ian Silberman, Chris Dunkley or Tyler Murphy, who signed before Muschamp became the head coach. But throw those five in, and you’ve got enough pure talent (according to ESPN) to land a top 5 class. And I say that with a complete straight face.

The other way to look at this situation (the Muschamp apologists’ position) is that when you’re recruiting in college football, you’re going to swing and miss at some guys for various reasons. That’s just a given, because you’re recruiting 16-18 year old players and then coaching 18-21 year old players. Maybe the player gets injured, maybe he looked good against poor high school competition and is overwhelmed by the increase of talent around him, or maybe the player didn’t have the attitude that Muschamp wanted to see when he signed him. Maybe the player didn’t like being buried on the depth chart, or maybe the player just didn’t like Muschamp. Maybe he got in trouble and Muschamp gave him no choice but to transfer (which I’m not totally faulting him for). All of that’s fine… in a vacuum.

The bottom line is, it’s totally acceptable from a program standpoint to see some guys leave. No coach is perfect at keeping all his players. So I’m not blaming Muschamp for the departure of Mike Blakely or Jessamen Dunker, per se: I’m blaming him for the entire list of guys above who transferred. Why are so many guys leaving a place like Florida, with three national championships, one of the nation’s best stadiums and a chance to play in the SEC? To be honest, I don’t know exactly, and it troubles me. The fact that Will Muschamp recruits so many kids who either get in trouble or don’t pan out for other reasons is not something I can easily brush off, like some other Gator fans.

Look at Dunker, for example. He got caught playing grand theft scooter. Only problem was, it was real life, and he got arrested for it. Then there’s Chris Johnson, who threw a punch at a Louisville player in last year’s Sugar Bowl and was ejected for it, and Muschamp basically booted him from the team because of it (remember the stupid penalty and turnover problems I’ve been harping on all year? See, it even happened last year). The most embarrassing such transfer case, however, belongs to AC Leonard, who was arrested after assaulting his girlfriend. Muschamp later suspended him and then forced him out.

Why are all these guys getting into legal trouble? Forget the fact that you shouldn’t break the law, period, football player or not. Do the kids recruited and signed by Muschamp not respect the University of Florida football program enough to know that they have responsibilities to follow the law, and if they don’t, it looks bad on the program, not to mention themselves? That’s a question only they can answer, and whatever they say in response to that question promises to be unsettling at best.

Let’s shift gears and look at a different type of transfer story (pun intended). There was Ja’Juan Story, the 6th ranked receiver in the country. He left for TCU because he didn’t like the way coaches dealt with him, and because the coaches felt he wasn’t putting in enough work, according to an assistant coach from his high school. Another similar such instance was in the case of Mike Blakely, a prized running back recruit from the same 2011 recruiting class as Story. He essentially just changed his mind, and was so unhappy he decided to transfer before taking a single rep with the Gators in practice. (For the record, he would later leave Auburn for similar reasons.)

Now, why is that happening? Why are there so many kids who signed to play for Muschamp doing an about face and bolting for less prestigious programs? If Story and Blakely were the only two examples, I wouldn’t mention it. But Javares McRoy, Willie Bailey and Pop Saunders left for essentially the same reasons, and Saunders in particular was a big loss.

I can’t really bring myself to care about losing guys like Tyler Murphy, who leave because they want to play. That’s not the coaching staff’s fault, and I have nothing but good wishes for Murphy. But again, why are there so many instances of Muschamp’s players getting in trouble? Why are so many of his highly touted recruits not putting in the work, or just don’t like the coaching staff?

The most disturbing part of this whole thing is, again, I don’t really know. I’m not in the locker room, I don’t know who Muschamp calls in for private meetings, I don’t know who reacts poorly in these meetings, I don’t know who has attitude problems in practices or on the sidelines during games, etc. All I know are the facts, and the fact that 19 players have transferred since Muschamp signed on as the head coach is extremely nauseating. The fact that most of the 19 players who have chosen to transfer in three years decided that they don’t want to play for Florida enough to work as hard as they possibly can, or even enough to respect the law, is even more nauseating.

But yet, that’s exactly what’s happened. Florida is currently hemorrhaging top ranked players under Muschamp, mainly because of attitude or legal reasons, both of which are completely unacceptable. And it needs to stop now, before Matt Jones becomes a star running back for Miami. Or something of that level. You can say I’m being a little dramatic, but I’ll just remind you of what happened with Cam Newton (yes, Urban Meyer had a similar problem. But he also won lots of games, which, fair or not, essentially hid everything negative). Even if Muschamp pulls in a top 10 recruiting class this year, who’s to say these kids will all stay?

The worst part is, I’m not sure Muschamp can fix it. Going 4-8 doesn’t really help matters, and I assume it’s possible that the most recent transfers left at least in part because of their inability to participate in a bowl game. Sure, they’ll never say that, but you have to think that they at least thought about that when compiling the pros and cons. With FSU, Alabama, LSU, Missouri, South Carolina and Georgia all on Florida’s schedule, I can easily see six losses. That’s definitely going to get Muschamp fired, which will bring in a new coach, but will also certainly cause one more batch of his players to transfer. Unless Florida miraculously goes 10-2 and wins the SEC East, this is a problem that’s going to get worse before it gets better.

(Sigh) In all kinds of weather, though….

10 thoughts on “Does Florida Have An Attrition Problem Under Will Muschamp?

  1. Interesting take. I think this is the least of Florida’s worries, though, because the players that Muschamp is keeping are good enough to play for Florida yet they’re underperforming. This is certainly something to put on a list of reasons why Muschamp should be fired, but it’s way down on that list.

    1. Actually, Kyle, I think it’s something that needs to be near the top of the list. It’s difficult to peer down and identify 1 player that has actually progressed under Muschamp’s tutelege. We certainly haven’t seen any offensive players progress under him, as Mike Gillislee was basically a finished product for Will, the WRs stunk, & the QB play was atrocious. Then, this year, the running game continues it’s downward progression and all offensive progression can be directly correlated to Joker’s addition to our staff and Tyler Murphy providing consistency, which stemmed from a relationship with Pease. Even the success of the defense can be be attributed to Dan Quinn’ssuccess.

      1. I agree with superg8r. Sorry Kyle, but this is a major issue. If half the guys that transferred maximized their ESPN potential, Florida would be a lot better than 4-8. Muschamp sees enough in a player to want to sign a contract with him to come play four years for him with only so many roster spots available, he better pan out nine times out of ten. Yet that’s not at all what’s happening. Superg8r mentioned Gillislee, but he didn’t mention the world of defensive talent Muschamp inherited from Meyer, such as Matt Elam, Jon Bostic, Dominique Easley, and Jelani Jenkins. Name me one top ESPN defensive recruit that Muschamp has recruited, signed and developed.

        Of course, ESPN’s rankings are a joke anyway, but still.

  2. Yep. These questions need to be asked. After a 4-8 season, and the debacle of Ga Southern, a bit more interaction and communication by the HC wouldn’t be a bad thing. We can certainly table this conversation until after the school rankings are finalized.

  3. Good read. I, like you, thought Muschamp should have been fired after the Vanderbilt game. This is another reason why he should be fired. He may be able to recruit OK, but what good does that do you if you can’t hold onto the kids after you sign them and their potential is never actually recognized?

    Fire this clown IMMEDIATELY. To quote the Shawshank Redemption, not after breakfast, not after a 3-3 start in 2014, not after a 4th straight loss to Georgia, NOW.

    1. Love the Shawshank reference!

      But I don’t think Florida should fire Muschamp now, if only because National Signing Day is just a couple months away. I don’t think he’s the answer, either, and he should have been pink-slipped after the Vanderbilt loss, but you can’t fire him now. I know, that goes directly against everything I just said about Muschamp, but if you do can him today, the hemorrhaging would be much worse than it would be if you waited until right after next season.

    1. Wow, bone, you must have psychic powers or something. I was literally JUST about to bring that old article up.

      I didn’t really buy it at the time, but ever since I saw the signs of the 2013 debacle I jumped onboard. I even went on radio SCREAMING at Foley to get him before he was too late. Sure enough, Baylor extended him and I saw red.

      But you’re right about another thing, too. Briles is kind of old, and right now, Florida is a mess. It’s not an easy fix for anybody, and I’m not sure he’s willing to stay for the long haul and build a program up to prominence from the ground up. He just turned 58. I think now he’s too old for that. Had Jeremy Foley hired him three years ago, Florida would be in a much better position right now, OBVIOUSLY. But, woulda shoulda coulda…

      1. Yeah.

        Right now, out there, there’s another Briles, another Malzahn.

        IE another Coach Taylor. Someone who has worked his way up the ranks, kicking ass at every stop along the way. There might even be one in the state of Florida who would love to “stay home”

        Someone just needs to get him free of Buddy Garrity’s clutches, get him to the big time.

        Since Paul Lassiter is being given one more year, here would be some possible ideal choices next year.

        Todd Monken might be a good one. He’s not a Floridian and we need to wait to see what he ultimately does with the mess left by EJ, but he might be a good choice, if he can show some real administrative prowess.

        Matt Campbell is another.

        Sonny Dykes. I don’t care how shitty Cal did this year. It was to be expected as they are now the 4th best game in town. The guy has proven he can coach and he has a hell of a lineage. Possibility one of the better lineages out there.

        Mark Hudspeth. This could be one of those Malzahn/Briles types. He is from Miss. Knows the SEC (served with Mullen at MSU). 92–33 college, 25–1 high school. Runs a spread.

        Darrell Hazell is a good one but he runs more of a B1G offense. This is Florida – use the athletes.

        And last, but not least, now might be the time to get Petrino. Yeah, I know. But this is his last shot. Surely he knows one more f*ckup and it’s curtains for him. Now might be the time for Florida to go after him because he is surely not going to job hop or be a jerk and will be 100% focused on the program.

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