Since taking over Florida football, Billy Napier has brought some talented players to Gainesville via the transfer portal. Ricky Pearsall is a critical part of the wide receiver core, Montrell Johnson had a breakout year at running back, and O’Cyrus Torrence was just drafted in the second round of the NFL Draft.
This year’s transfer portal class seems to be a mixed bag, and with the Spring window about to officially open for players to sign with colleges, it’s worth wondering if Napier should be more aggressive right now.
Florida Football: Transfer Portal Madness
During this year’s Winter transfer portal window, Florida football lost a ton of players but also picked up players like Graham Mertz, Cam Jackson, Caleb Banks, and Micha Mazzccua. The jury is still out on Mertz, and Mazzccua is injured, but Jackson and Banks looked great during the Spring Game.
In terms of rankings, Florida’s transfer portal class is ranked 5th in the SEC and 19th nationally by 247 Sports.
But with the Spring window about to officially open for coaches to sign players and Napier publically stating his desire to grab another QB and safety, along with the potential need for another offensive lineman given the injuries along the line, his actions don’t fully line up with his words.
As Nick de la Torre from On3 points out, Florida has insisted that it won’t host any transfer portal candidates on campus until the window officially moves from players being able to jump into the portal to school being able to sign them. This strategy potentially cost Florida the services of offensive lineman Josh Simmons, who chose Ohio State over the Gators.
There is also a report from Swamp247 that Napier was making another unnamed transfer portal target create a self-made evaluation tape. Napier wasn’t going to recruit that player without the tape.
That player went elsewhere.
One could argue that this screams of micro-managing and that Napier is in over his head. For a team with multiple positional needs, why hasn’t Napier been more aggressive in the portal?
It’s all according to plan
Napier’s perceived lack of aggressiveness and odd approach to the Spring transfer portal is actually in line with his long-term vision for the program. He is trying to build Florida football in the same mold as Georgia and Alabama.
You know how many transfers Alabama has brought in this year?
You know how many transfers Georgia has brought in this year?
Ohio State has five, and Michigan has a lower-rated transfer portal class than Florida.
This isn’t to say Napier shouldn’t be hitting the portal, but his vision for Florida football is to build a stable foundation with predominately in-house guys that grow and build with the program and have full buy-in to the team’s culture.
The massive caveat is that Alabama, Ohio State, and Georgia frequently bring in top-five recruiting classes, and Michigan currently has the top-ranked class for 2024.
Florida and Napier don’t have the top five recruiting classes yet, and even if the 2024 class turns out to be a monster class, it will take a year or two for them to come to fruition.
But it’s not like Napier isn’t landing anyone from the portal this Spring. Just today, the Gators addressed the safety position by grabbing CJ Moten from Michigan. No word yet on a fourth QB.
The ultimate question for Gator fans is how much they want Napier to reach into the transfer portal to benefit the 2023 and 2024 squads if the long-term vision is to barely use the portal at all?
That is for each individual fan to decide, but for now, it does appear Napier is striking the correct balance.