Five-star QB Jaden Rashada files for NLI release: Florida loses crown jewel of 2023 class, per report

By Staff
January 17, 2023
Five-star QB Jaden Rashada files for NLI release: Florida loses crown jewel of 2023 class, per report

Image Credit: Hannah White, UAA

Disaster has indeed struck for the Florida Gators. Five-star quarterback Jaden Rashada (Pittsburg, CA), the crown jewel signee in the program’s Class of 2023, has decided not to enroll at Florida. Instead, Rashada on Tuesday asked for a release from the National Letter of Intent he signed with the program in December 2022, according to 247Sports’ Brandon Huffman.

The Gators are expected to grant that release, allowing Rashada to enroll elsewhere and be eligible to play as a true freshman in 2023.

Rashada’s falling out with Florida comes amid a significant snag in a substantial NIL agreement he signed with a university affiliated collective, a source with direct knowledge of the situation told last week. That source clarified that the value of Rashada’s NIL deal, as reported elsewhere, was inflated and not accurate. cannot verify the details of the agreement other than the aforementioned snag existing in the initial part of the deal. Specifics regarding Rashada’s situation have been kept close to the vest.

With the add/drop deadline for the spring semester last Friday at 11:59 p.m. ET, there was limited time to get on the same page with Rashada given the situation reached a fever pitch at the beginning of last week. While he could have theoretically enrolled this week or delayed his enrollment until the summer, it stands to reason the relationship had been strained to a point that trust was lost between the parties.

The primary reason Rashada did not pull the plug sooner was the family’s relationship with head coach Billy Napier. Rashada wanted to play for Napier and the Gators, but the circumstances surrounding his NIL made doing so difficult for the family. Ultimately, the decision was neither based on football nor academics.

Rashada was long expected to commit to Florida out of high school only to surprisingly pledge to Miami initially before ultimately flipping to the Gators six weeks before the early signing period. He concerned fans on National Signing Day when he was late to send his NLI, and since the start of the spring semester, he neither appeared on campus nor enrolled in classes despite being accepted by UF academically.

Florida losing the top player in its class is not only a terrible on-field development for the forthcoming 2023 season and beyond, it will likely have long-term consequences for the program. Questions will be be raised by rivals to future prospects the Gators are recruiting: Can you trust Florida’s NIL affiliates to live up to their agreements?

Well before the Rashada situation became public, the Gators acknowledged internally that significant adjustments needed to be made to their NIL affiliates. Such changes are already in progress.

The No. 29 overall player in the Class of 2023, Rashada was expected to compete for the starting quarterback job as a true freshman. Without him in the class, Florida falls from 11th to 14th in the 247Sports Composite team rankings.

2023 QB situation is now dire

Far worse than the class rankings drop, though, is the Gators’ situation at the most important position in the game. After losing Anthony Richardson to the NFL Draft, dismissing Jalen Kitna (after a felony arrest), pulling a scholarship offer from four-star QB Marcus Stokes (due to a social media post) and now losing Rashada, Florida enters the 2023 season with three-star transfer Graham Mertz (Wisconsin) as the team’s presumed starter.

Mertz threw for 19 touchdowns with 10 interceptions while completing just 57.3% of his passes last season for the Badgers. His acquisition out of the transfer portal was a head-scratcher to say the least.

Behind him on the roster are redshirt sophomore Jack Miller III, who failed to lead the Gators to a touchdown drive in the 2022 Las Vegas Bowl, and sophomore QB Max Brown, the No. 35 QB in the Class of 2022, according to 247Sports. Brown is playing baseball this spring.

What’s next?

It is possible, and perhaps likely, that Florida will target another signal caller out of the transfer portal. Four-star Jake Garcia entered the portal Tuesday out of Miami. While the Gators were not involved in his initial recruitment, they can offer an open battle for the starting job and short drive up the road that puts Garcia closer to his home of Loganville, Georgia.

Another name though to be under consideration was four-star Walker Howard, the No. 40 prospect in the Class of 2022 who entered the portal from LSU and is a native of Lafayette, Louisiana, where Napier previously coached. However, Howard committed to Ole Miss on Wednesday.


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