Recruiting has changed significantly over the past few seasons of college football. That’s thanks, in large part, to the new standard revolving around the NCAA transfer portal, along with NIL.
For the Florida Gators, head coach Billy Napier made sure to address all aspects of the recruiting cycle, which includes the addition of players via the transfer portal, something Florida has used for years and now again under Napier in his first year as the team’s head coach.
“We took on the December national signing day, the contact period there, which was really quick. And [then] what I’m calling the winter portal period, right? A little bit like free agency to some degree,” Napier explained during his first NSD press conference on Wednesday.
“And then you move the team into phase one, the offseason. And then we just tackled the January contact period in February national signing day.”
That separation of phases or different events are new wrinkles added to the recruiting cycle. Early signing day is now thought of as a December national signing day, and in between that is a period in which players from various schools opt to transfer to other universities.
Now, the team has finished that portal period and moved on to finalizing the class as a whole.
For Florida, the program brought in five transfers, including running back Montrell Johnson (ULL), defensive back Jalen Kimber (Georgia), quarterback Jack Miller III (Ohio State) and offensive linemen O’Cyrus Torrence (ULL) Kamryn Waites (ULL).
Now, those players that are brought in don’t simply supplement the team or shore up a couple of depth spots, but they act as players who are recently recruited and have plenty of miles left. That creates an entirely different approach college football teams are forced to take when deciding on their recruiting classes.
“That’s the new dynamic,” Napier said of what he’s referring to as the winter and spring portal periods. “That’s what we’ve got to kind of get our arms around as leaders in this college football dynamic that we have there. So I think that’s where the changes and adjustments probably need to be made if that makes sense.”
This was the first year that players can essentially transfer to wherever they want, whenever they want to without penalty. Each player is eligible for a one-time, risk-free transfer to any university with immediate eligibility allowed.
The rule applies for transfers within the same conference as well, which makes “free agency” a new dynamic within the college football world.
“That requires work and that requires planning,” said Napier. “I think that’s probably the newest change and the thing we need to make adjustments to, in my opinion.”
Between ESD, NSD and the winter portal period, the Gators brought in 22 different players. They are allowed a maximum of 85 scholarship players, and with the number of different ways that rosters change throughout college football nowadays, Napier doesn’t anticipate them the cap by the time the spring portal period rolls around.
“We get to the spring, we obviously are going to have additional spots remaining where we could add players. So there’s been movement on our roster. We’ve got plenty of options going forward. There’s no cap. I don’t necessarily see us hitting a cap when we get to the spring portal period if that makes sense,” Napier explained.
“But there’s a delicate balance between the number of players we add and also hit that 85 number. So a little bit of this is to be determined. It’s always a big juggling act, a big math problem. You’re adding and subtracting today . Certainly, as we approach May 1st there will be more attrition.”
It’s the transition period, and attrition of the roster is always expected. Thus far, Florida has seen seven players transfer out of the program already, which allows them to carry up to a maximum of 32 new scholarship players on the roster, given the new NCAA rules.
Obviously, the Gators are likely not to reach that limit, but it underscores just how different each recruiting period has become over the last few years. And it is only going to get better moving forward as Florida and other programs figure out other unique ways to utilize the changes.
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