Florida football: Billy Napier looking to solve math problem in the transfer portal

Kevin Brockway
Gator Sports
Florida Gators head coach Billy Napier fist bumps during Gator Walk at Steve Spurrier Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL on Saturday, November 12, 2022. [Matt Pendleton/Gainesville Sun]

Florida football suffered significant attrition in the NCAA transfer portal during and after the 2022 season.

According to social media posts and other sources, 17 Florida players have entered the transfer portal. Three more players have declared for the NFL Draft and three players were dismissed from the team either during or after the season.

The turnover didn't come as a surprise to first-year Florida coach Billy Napier or his staff. Napier expected it when asked about the potential for roster turnover during an SEC Teleconference appearance last month. The Gators went 6-6 in Napier's first year, with back-to-back losses to Vanderbilt and Florida State to close the regular season.

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"We all have different situations at positions, offensively, defensively and as a team and I think each individual player has his own set of circumstances," Napier said. "We have a big math problem here that we try to do the best we can each year to put the team in position to have success.

"I do believe when you are taking over a team at the University of Florida or anywhere there’s expected to be more attrition at the beginning of your tenure, and you like to stabilize as you go and build your team from the ground up. So, I think all of that is very much to be determined.”

The fact that some of the transfer announcements came before the end of the season didn't sit well with Napier. More announcements have come leading up to the Dec. 17 Las Vegas Bowl, with the portal officially opening this week.

"We all understand it’s happening everywhere," Napier said. "To some degree, it is what is it. We’ll stay focused on what’s next. If it was up to me, I don’t think I would allow it before the season’s over. I think there’s respect for the game to some degree to finish what I started; we have some players who are doing that. But we have no control over that.”

A chance to reload

The good news is there will be opportunities for Florida to replace the lost scholarships with proven Power Five talent. According to On3Sports, more than 1,000 players had entered the transfer portal as of Tuesday afternoon.

The most pressing concern for Florida entering 2023 is at quarterback after starter Anthony Richardson declared for the NFL Draft on Monday and backup Jalen Kitna was kicked off the team after being arrested last week on five counts of child pornography.

The wish list for Florida at the quarterback position includes Wake Forest's Sam Hartman, Tulane's Michael Pratt and Western Kentucky's Austin Reed, who entered the portal on Monday. The nation's No. 2 passer, Reed has passed for 4,247 yards and 36 TDs at a WKU program that has produced NFL quarterbacks Mike White (New York Jets) and Bailey Zappe (New England Patriots).

For the offensive line, Napier offered a scholarship to Rhode Island's Ajani Cornelius, a 6-foot-5, 315-pound tackle who has offers from several Power Five programs, including Penn State, Oregon, Auburn, South Carolina and Missouri.

Napier has been on the road this week to secure a top 10 rated 2023 recruiting class, that could be bolstered by several transfers, given Florida's current roster attrition.