Florida football notebook: Ty’Ron Hopper reenters transfer portal, Gators nab trio of 2022 commits

By Adam Silverstein
January 24, 2022
Florida football notebook: Ty’Ron Hopper reenters transfer portal, Gators nab trio of 2022 commits
Football

Image Credit: GatorsFB / Twitter

Florida Gators football is full-steam ahead to National Signing Day next Wednesday, but while the program is focused on adding members to its Class of 2022, head coach Billy Napier understands that further attrition may well come to his roster. That’s just the name of the game when coaching changes take place, particularly at a program that needs a major overhaul.

In fact, after a strange back-and-forth in the transfer portal last week, Florida appears to finally have some resolution regarding the future of one of its key defenders. The Gators are also filling out that aforementioned Class of 2022 with future freshmen while scouring the transfer portal for major additions that could help them compete immediately.

Let’s take a look at some of the most recent comings and goings surrounding Florida football.

Hopp-in around (and out)

Just a few days after entering and then leaving the transfer portal all in a span of just about one hour, redshirt sophomore linebacker Ty’Ron Hopper returned to the portal on Monday, according to multiple reports. While the Gators have seen a number of portal entries following the departure of Dan Mullen wind up returning to the roster, the vast majority of players who explore transferring ultimately move on.

That’s certainly not a positive for Florida, which saw Hopper develop into arguably the team’s most valuable defensive player down the stretch of the season. Hopper registered 28 total tackles (19 solo, six for loss) with two sacks and a forced fumble in the Gators’ final three games. And that’s with him not completing the 2021 Gasparilla Bowl in which he was ejected during the third quarter for an alleged thrown punch that appeared phantom on replay.

Hopper was thought to be a potential leader of the defense in 2022, so his likely departure coupled with that of junior LB Mohamoud DIabate (Utah) will put Florida in a tough spot. The Gators will have a gaping hole in the middle of their defense that they’ll be forced to fill before the season starts.

How special will it be?

When Napier completed his 10-man coaching staff last week, Florida officially became the latest to join a small group of FBS teams without a dedicated on-field special teams coach. The Gators will not have an assistant dedicated to that position for the first time in memory, and they stand alongside just seven FBS teams (one of which has already hired a special teams coach) who did not have the position filled among their on-field staffers last season.

The program announced Friday that Chris Coach has joined Napier’s off-field staff as “GameChanger Coordinator”. Couch will serve as an analyst in charge of special teams. This despite him holding an on-field role as special teams coordinator (while also being the director of quality control & analytics) under Napier last season at Louisiana. Prior to that, he was a special teams analyst and recruiting coordinator for Tulane across five seasons.

Napier has not yet discussed this decision nor his plans for a unit that declined sharply under Mullen & Co. Football is a three-phase game, and Florida’s its on special teams over the last couple seasons have absolutely played a role in its overall struggles.

Closing strong

The Gators will not wind up with one of the top recruiting classes in college football by the time National Signing Day concludes, but Napier has already made significant strides in adding key talent to what was a lackluster class under Mullen. Now is the race to the finish line for Florida and the rest of the sport, which led to Napier accepting commitments from three prospects over the last couple of days following a big recruiting weekend at UF.

Three-stars tight end Hayden Hansen (Weatherford, TX), defensive lineman Andrew Savaiinaea (Graham, WA) and linebacker Bryce Capers (Jacksonville, FL) all committed to the program across the last couple days. Hansen and Savaiinaea will both receive scholarships, while Capers will join the program as a preferred walk-on.

Hansen (6-foot-5, 250 pounds) is a big-bodied tight end who was a previous Naiper commitment at Louisiana. Savaiinaea (6-foot-3, 258 pounds) is taking a gamble on Florida as a native of Washington state. Capers (6-foot-4, 219 pounds) is a local product who is excited to be playing close to home.

The Gators now stand as the No. 33 team in the Class of 2022 team rankings, according to the 247Sports Composite. They hope to add a few bigger-ticket prospects over the coming days before looking to the transfer portal this spring and early summer for additional talent.

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