As of Tuesday, four of the nine Florida Gators football members who were indefinitely suspended prior to the 2017 season have rejoined the program. The breaking news was first reported from Gatorsports.com writer Robbie Andreu.
The Gainesville Sun has learned that four of the Florida players suspended indefinitely for credit card fraud — Jordan Scarlett, Rick Wells, James Houston and Ventrell Miller — have rejoined team activities and will begin offseason workouts on Wednesday.
— Robbie Andreu (@RobbieAndreu) January 23, 2018
The reinstated players are running back Jordan Scarlett, wide receiver Rick Wells and linebackers Ventrell Miller and James Houston. Each of these players sat out the duration of the 2017 season due to a credit card fraud scandal. As of Tuesday, Jan. 23, these players were able to rejoin the Gators for all team related activities.
Below, Armchair examines how the team additions may or may not affect Florida’s recruiting strategy in the three weeks leading to National Signing Day.
The depth at linebacker in recent years for Florida has been fragile, thanks to recurring injuries (and suspensions). Despite the 2017 cycle bringing in four linebackers, none of them had the opportunity to see the field, forcing the starters to play the majority of the snaps with little rest. Two position players being reinstated in Miller and Houston adds bodies to a thin group.
The Gators currently have one linebacker committed n the 2018 class, David Reese II. This is the lowest number of linebackers committed since Florida reeled in a whopping zero in 2014 and only one in the 2015 class.
Before the reinstatement of Miller and Houston, Florida was desperately searching for two more linebackers to fill this position of need. But in a transition class it has been hard to target blue-chip prospects late and secure commitments in a limited period of time.
Now, I believe Mullen and his staff will be fine bringing in only one more linebacker this cycle. Reports have spread that 4-star linebacker Xavier Peters has academic issues and probably won’t qualify for Florida. This leaves 3-star prospect Caleb Tannor as the remaining option to add to the group.
Tannor is fresh off an official visit to Gainesville and would mold well into the new 3-4 scheme. While listed as a defensive end, at 6-foot-3 and only 225-pounds, Tannor could develop and transition smoothly into an outside linebacker role.
Florida returns all three of its starting linebackers from a season ago, but the question remains — which player off the bench can contribute a high volume of quality snaps?
Florida currently has two running backs in their 2018 class, and that won’t change, as both have signed their letter of intent. The running back position has been filled for quite some time this cycle and the staff hasn’t been pursuing any other prospects.
The addition of Scarlett in the backfield only solidifies the tremendous depth the Gators will possess at this position in 2018. Florida returns their top two rushers from a season ago, combining for 1,088 yards and 10 touchdowns on 215 carries. In 2016 (Scarlett’s previous year on the field), he produced 889 yards on 179 carries, punching in six scores. The only concern for Mullen and his offensive staff is how will they be able to distribute touches for all these backs.
Despite Wells being reinstated, the blueprint of prospects this staff is considering shouldn’t change. In two years at Florida, Wells redshirted one season (2016) and was suspended for the next (2017). The receiver position hasn’t produced much recently, and we have yet to see the skill-set Wells can bring to the table, but this staff wants a fresh start at the position.
In addition to these prospects, Florida has already brought in a legitimate group of wideouts for the upcoming season. Former 5-star receiver Trevon Grimes transferred from Ohio State, former 4-star Van Jefferson transferred from Ole Miss, and 4-star recruit Justin Watkins recently committed during his official visit last week. The Gators are waiting to hear from the NCAA whether the two transfers will be eligible for the upcoming season.
All in all, the reinstatements should not dramatically shake up the staff’s recruiting board. Two linebackers rejoining the team ultimately creates more depth and may allow Mullen to only add one more body at that position, but he may have been forced to do that anyway with Peters’ academic issues. Regardless, the extra bodies will undoubtedly help the Gators on the field in 2018.