You could pick many words to describe this year's Florida Gators team, but "shorthanded" is one of the most appropriate ones. Find any college football talking head and it'll probably tell you that Florida is the most talented team in the SEC East (for whatever that's worth). It will also tell you that UF is an inexperienced squad with little depth.
So where did all the Florida players go? How did a school that had three 13-1 seasons from 2006-09 get so shorthanded just two years later? Here's a table of what has happened with the past five recruiting classes in Gainesville:
|Class||At UF||NFL Early||Graduated||Transferred||Dismissed||Injury||Left Team||Total||Pct. on Team|
Three notes. First, the total for Percent on Team in the bottom row doesn't include the 2007 class, as the only ones left from there are fifth-year seniors. Second, Dee Finley shows up in both the 2008 and 2009 classes on Rivals thanks to not making it into school for '08; I only counted him towards '09. Also, the "Injury" column denotes players who have had career-ending injuries.
Things begin to make some sense now. Almost half of the 2008 class is gone, though two were never going to be around in 2011 as JUCO transfers. On top of that, the 2009 and 2011 classes were small by any schools' standards. When you combine a high-attrition class with two subsequent small classes, you're going to be hurting for numbers. What's telling from a talent standpoint is that only one player from the 2008 class left early for the NFL. That one player was Will Hill, who went undrafted.
Thanks to all of that, Florida has just 71 scholarship players from recruiting this year. One is out for the year injured in Neiron Ball, who had a brain blood vessel rupture in February. The team got an extra player in Dan Wenger, the sixth year senior transfer from Notre Dame. Those two even themselves out numerically, making the count of available scholarship players 71.
When Florida traveled to LSU this past weekend, three players were out for the game injured: John Brantley, Jeff Driskel and Jeremy Brown. In addition, Quinton Dunbar didn't make the trip due to what Will Muschamp described as a "personal issue". That puts the pool of available scholarship players down to 67. During the game Jeff Demps, Ronald Powell and Josh Evans left the game due to injury and wouldn't return.
That means by the second half, Florida was playing with just 64 healthy scholarship players. That number would be even lower if it included freshmen already designated for a redshirt like Ja'Juan Story. It also would be higher if you count the four walk ons who were awarded scholarships before the season, but I don't. That's a technicality, and of those four, only the punter David Lerner really plays anyway.
Muschamp, to his credit, has said over and over that "no one feels sorry for the Gators" in response to questions about possible excuses for this season. He's certainly right about that. However, there's a difference between asking someone to feel sorry for you and asking someone to appreciate how relatively shorthanded this team really is. Restocking the roster will be a multi-year project for Muschamp as he continues his tenure in Gainesville.