The Florida Gators will finally be getting one of their prized-players onto the field after undergoing a year of limbo due to the NCAA's transfer protocols. After sitting out a year, defensive end/outside linebacker Brenton Cox Jr., a transfer-student-athlete from the University of Georgia, will be playing this season.
However, how much remains to be seen.
In speaking to members of the media on Monday during his pre-spring press conference, Gators head coach Dan Mullen stated the team has high expectations for Cox. Getting him in the mix will bolster the Gators' defensive end position after losing both Jabari Zuniga and Jonathan Greenard and their production (13.5 sacks and 21.5 tackles for loss) to the NFL.
“I know he’s a talented player. It’s good to have him. Hopefully, they get some of those rules fixed up. It looks like they're talking about those rules so at least there’s consistency in college football that way," Mullen said when asked about expectations for Cox entering his first year of eligibility at Florida.
The Gators head coach appeared to remain perplexed at the transfer situation which took place last season. While Cox was ineligible, his own former teammate, Justin Fields was able to get immediate eligibility at Ohio State University after transferring from Georgia, among other conflicting transfer cases across the NCAA.
"Hopefully they just really define that stuff cleaner. We expect him to have a great spring. He’s worked hard, had a great attitude, been really positive in everything he’s done and I want to see him continue to do that moving forward.
Listed as a linebacker on the Gators' official roster, Cox projects closely as a BUCK in Todd Grantham's defensive scheme, however at 6-foot-4, 247 pounds, there is room for him to play the strongside defensive end position as the Gators' coaching staff continues working to find starters and depth at the position. Last year's starter at strong-side DE, Zuniga, was listed at 6-foot-4, 246 pounds.
Players such as Zachary Carter, Chris Bogle, Jeremiah Moon and Mohamoud Diabate are expected to compete for playing time on the defensive line along with Cox.
Mullen did seem to still hold some contempt for the overall process of transfer-eligibility brought on by the NCAA, stating there simply needs to be consistency, and clarity within the rule itself.
“I just think it would be much cleaner for everyone if it was, here’s the rule. You know," Mullen said. "You’re immediately eligible and you can play, you get the one-time transfer waiver or you’re not and there’s no waiver process to create kids to make things up or one kid gets it and one kid doesn’t. I think there should be just a consistency within the rule, whichever one that everyone decides on."
Currently, the NCAA is considering implementing rules which would immediately grant eligibility to a student-athlete who meets a certain criteria. This would have come in handy for the Gators last season with Cox, and could help the team this season with redshirt sophomore running back Lorenzo Lingard, who transferred from Miami after redshirting in 2019.
Mullen spoke about certain unintended consequences arising from the current NCAA waiver system. One, is seemingly to do with the potential for opposing teams to "recruit" a player from one team to another.
“Boy I bet some of that even goes on now so I don’t know if that really makes a whole big a difference," Mullen said when asked if recruiting right off of the roster is part of the unintended effects of the rule. "Right now you don’t know. I mean there’s people saying ‘oh you can get a waiver.’ Maybe you get it, maybe you don’t. I just think by setting the standard so you know exactly what you’re dealing, it allows people to be more informed.”