The New Look Gators: Spring Transfers

Gators Spring Transfers

After wrapping up Spring practices, the Florida Gators are entering a pivotal year three under Billy Napier. With back-to-back losing seasons, fans are growing anxious, and Napier’s seat is beginning to heat up. The good news is that the Gators brought back a slew of young talent from last season. Playing out an inspiring Spring Game (the Orange and Blue Game) led many fans to be optimistic. Returning starting quarterback Graham Mertz should keep the offense humming despite the loss of receiver Ricky Pearsall. This is a team with plenty of young talent, who simply lacked experience in the SEC. After an impressive Spring, fans have now grown even more excited thanks to some stellar transfer portal additions. Adding three players with the potential to start from day one, things are looking up for this Gators team. Week one will be an early indication of the direction of this season.

New Weapon?

With Ricky Pearsall getting drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft, a massive hole opened up on this offense. Despite the return of Freshman All-SEC receiver Tre Wilson, the Gators were lacking another high-caliber option. Deciding to take his talents to Gainesville, Elijhah Badger came to the Gators via Arizona State. Coming from the same school that Pearsall did, Badger will look to have a similar impact on this squad. Racking in 65 catches for 713 yards, the production was certainly there for the former Sun Devil. Badger showed his versatility with over 50 yards on the ground. A compact player, he should be a game-changer for an offense looking to take a step forward. Almost assuredly starting day one, he was the number one remaining receiver in the transfer portal at the time of his commitment.

Behind Tre Wilson, the Gators’ receiving core was regarded as rather sparse, with little proven playmaking. Adding Chimere Dike out of Wisconsin from the transfer portal was also viewed as a substantial addition. Now with Badger manning the third starting spot, this position group has quickly been turned into a strength. With valuable younger depth options such as Andy Jean and Aidan Mizell, this core group should be quite explosive. Starting nine games last season, the Gators’ now number-four receiver option (Kahleil Jackson), also brings some stability. All this to say, this two-deep group for the Gators should cause fans little worry this season. Badger should be a crucial part of this offense early on, with an emphasis on getting the ball in his hands. Look for Graham Mertz to get him the ball quickly and often week one against the Miami Hurricanes.

5-star Arrival

For a defensive secondary lacking in playmaking and turnovers, changes were assuredly on the way. Defensive coordinator Austin Armstrong now enters his 2nd season on the job, with a much more physical group. Already adding in three veteran safeties and a 4-star corner transfer, the Gators still weren’t finished. Florida added arguably their most talented transfer after the culmination of Spring Practice. A former 5-star number one cornerback out of high school, Cormani McClain left Colorado after only one season. Not having the year that many expected, McClain often struggled in his coverage skills, which was campaigned as his strength. Seemingly falling out of Coach Deion Sanders‘ good graces, he decided the right move was to transfer. Joining a suddenly deep cornerback rotation in Gainesville, there is no denying that the talent is there. With some apparent attitude issues, it will be up to Napier to tap into his potential.

Flip Season

Leaving the USC Trojans after only a couple of months on campus, Jason Zandamela decided to take his talents to Gainesville. A top 10 player in the entire transfer portal, this was one of the most important signings of the entire offseason. Recruited to play as an interior offensive lineman, the Gators have had lineman issues the past couple of seasons. With some question marks at the guard position, Zandamela should compete for early playing time right away. Florida decided to move former starting tackle Damieon George inside to right guard, claiming a starting job. However, the left guard spot happens to be a bit more open to competition. After finishing the Gators’ Spring Practices, it appeared that rising sophomore Knijeah Harris would get the starting nod. Now with some competition emerging, it will be quite interesting to see how the Gators’ Fall Camp plays out.


It felt as if Florida had lost big during the first transfer portal window. They lost arguably their best player on offense (Trevor Etienne) and on defense (Princely Umanmielen). However, this post-spring transfer window was much kinder to the Gators. Bringing in three blue-chip talents and only losing two players left fans quite pleased. The Gators lost linebacker Mannie Nunnery, an expected departure to say the least. Starting some games last season due to an injury to Shemar James, Nunnery had a solid season with 28 tackles. Seemingly losing his job to transfer Grayson Howard, he decided it would be in his best interest to depart from Gainesville. Taking a shot at Austin Armstrong on his way out, he questioned his play-calling ability, thus showing some immaturity. Committing to Texas State, he now hopes to have a new home for the rest of his college career.

The other of the losses, cornerback Ethan Pouncey left the Gators for Georgia Southern. Spending 4 years in Gainesville, he saw action in 11 games throughout this time. Failing to take the field this past season, the writing was on the wall. If he wanted to receive playing time at the college level, unfortunately, it wouldn’t be for the Gators. With the addition of some high-caliber corners via the transfer portal, it would’ve been tough for him to break through. Earning his degree in the Spring, the former 4-star will be a grad transfer. Hoping to see some action with the Eagles, Pouncy now has a chance for a fresh start.


Gators Spring Transfers
Photo courtesy: Joe Rondone/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK


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