Though his team faced major depth issues in 2011 and is still trying to fill its roster with talented, hard-nosed players with a winning mentality, head coach Will Muschamp has no concerns whatsoever about the 12 players that have transferred away from the Florida Gators since he took over the team.
Before giving a speech at a Gator Gathering in West Palm Beach, FL on Thursday, Muschamp broke down transfers into three categories (natural attrition, family reasons, other issues) and said he and the coaching staff approach each individual request differently depending on the player and their unique situation.
“What are the reasons?” he asked when posed a question about his thoughts on a dozen players leaving the team since he arrived. “I use Josh Shaw as an example. He’s a young man that came to me. He’s very happy at Florida. He was a good football player for us. He was competing to be a starter at Florida. He had a bright future ahead of him. He had some personal issues within his family that were obviously affecting him at Florida and him being that far away from home.
“Very similar to Graham Stewart’s situation. Both of those young men came to me, and I don’t know at the end of the day that they wanted to leave Florida, but they wanted to do what was best for their family. And I saw both guys on a day-to-day basis struggling. At the end of the day, life’s too short.”
That is why, upon Shaw making a decision where he wanted to transfer [USC], Muschamp petitioned for him to be eligible to play immediately rather than sit out the one-year mandatory transfer window required by the NCAA. Shaw’s waiver was approved, giving Muschamp hope that the same will be true for Stewart at Connecticut.
“Let’s help these guys out,” he said of his position. “I petitioned for Josh to the NCAA for him to be eligible immediately at USC, and I’m doing the same for Graham Stewart because it’s the right thing to do.
“It’s distance from home and being with your family, and family always comes first with me. Helping those young men is a lot more important than what we’re doing at Florida as far as their future is concerned.”
That does not mean that every player who wants to transfer is met with the same reaction. Some do not respond well to being pushed. Others don’t want to (or feel like they can’t) compete against the talent in front of them to start at their position of choice.
Most importantly, Muschamp does not want to even group these types of issues together because sometimes the student-athlete is to blame and other times, well, it could be the coaching staff’s fault that he is not getting the opportunity he deserves.
“Now when a young man comes to me and says, ‘I don’t feel like I’m being treated fairly, and I want to transfer,’ that’s a different case, a different story,” he explained. “I hate to put a blanket over all transfers and say this is what our stance is. I think they’re all different. I view all situations different. Are you at a position that’s stockpiled with four guys better than you? Is that your fault? No. We signed you. That’s our fault. Those are things you have to take into account.”
The good news for Muschamp and the Gators is that, despite losing Stewart on May 4, the team is deeper than it has been in two seasons at the line of scrimmage. He has finally been able to build the depth he has sought out for the last year and believes that Florida will be better for it both in 2012 and beyond.