At some point, this moment had to come for Billy Napier and the Florida Gators. On Wednesday, the first-year head coach informed three players that they were no longer on the team, according to 247Sports. Safety Mordecai McDaniel, defensive lineman Chris Thomas and receiver Fenley Graham, who switched to the position during the offseason after playing in the secondary for the past two seasons, are expected to enter the transfer portal as a result.
Receiver Marcus Burke was initially removed from the updated roster as well, and the sports information director told several reporters that he was also cut, but that turned out to be a miscommunication after team leaders went to Napier in hopes of reversing the decision. Napier obliged, but the three remaining cuts still came off as a bit of a shock, both to the team and the fanbase.
Graham was a fan favorite. One of the many former Lakeland Dreadnaughts that have come to Florida, his willingness to switch positions earned him praise from wide receivers coach Keary Colbert during the spring and it was believed that he’d be in the conversation to be a kick returner in the fall. But these cuts reportedly had little to do with talent and where they were at on the depth chart and more about who was buying into the new culture.
McDaniel is another name that many expected to see contribute in some fashion this season after playing in all 13 games last year and 10 as a freshman. Thomas was a three-star recruit who saw action in just a single game as a freshman, so his cut is less surprising, but it still sends a message to the team. At the same time, doing this after the spring has given Napier enough time to earn the respect of his players.
First-year coaches are able to make these cuts of scholarship players thanks to an NCAA bylaw, but they can still stay on scholarship at the school until they graduate. Most players test the portal, though, and find new opportunities. The only problem is that the May 1 deadline has come and gone, so these players need a waiver to be eligible at another school in the upcoming season.
Florida is down to 87 scholarship players following the move. That means there’s a chance that two or more players are cut.
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