Photo credit: University of Florida Athletics Association
It hasn't always been easy for the Florida Gators to bring in just any transfer portal player.
While the program, and head coach Dan Mullen, have appeared to indiscriminately use the tool to find diamonds in the rough, there is a process that must be used, and there are some hesitations at first, even with a former five-star recruit, receiver Justin Shorter.
Over the past four seasons under Mullen, Florida has brought in 15 transfer players, with the transfer portal officially starting in 2019. The Gators have been one of the most active programs in bringing in talent from other schools, using the portal to supplement its recruiting class.
Last year, Shorter was among several transfer players entering the Florida football program, leaving Penn State as a former five-star recruit, someone that showcased a lot of talent, but the concern was simple: why was he available? That's a question that Mullen typically asks when bringing in players, he says.
"So, to me it’s, you’re going in and you’re immediately watching: do we have a need at that position? Do you have a need within what year that guy is? Is there a need within that role on the team?" Mullen said on Monday.
"Do they fit? And then most importantly, do they fit talent-wise? Are they talented enough to be here. Do they fit the program?
Those are just some of the questions Mullen must get answered prior to bringing in a player to the program. Shorter, for example, appeared to answer for every one of those questions, a talented player at a position of need still entering his prime collegiate years.
That doesn't mean there isn't any hesitation, however, even with a guy like Shorter.
"Justin, I had some hesitations," Mullen said frankly. "I’ll be perfectly honest with you when he was in the portal. I had a bunch of hesitations. And after getting to meet him, know him and find out about him, they were quickly washed away.
"You go around and ask guys around our program, ‘hey, no one outworks that guy.’ But that’s what our program is known for. Then you realize, this guy is the exact fit of what we were looking for when he became available in the portal.”
Shorter, 6-foot-5, 228 pounds, joined Florida as a redshirt sophomore last season, appearing in 10 games, making 23 catches for 246 yards and three touchdowns.
His full potential has yet to be realized, but he certainly has fit the bill as a Florida Gator, and is on his way to making much more of an impact following the departure of guys like Kadarius Toney and Kyle Pitts.
At Penn State, Shorter wasn't used much, ultimately hauling in just 15 passes for 157 yards over his first two years there. And then the receiver entered the portal. Mullen says that brings up some questions, why was he in the portal? What didn't work there, and why would it now work at Florida?
"And here’s a guy from New Jersey that’s this five-star recruit, and, you know, what’s the whole reasoning behind him being in the portal? So I always have some hesitation about that stuff.”
There isn't any hesitation now with Shorter, and the program is completely behind one of the most talented players on its roster. While it may appear on the surface that the Gators simply bring in anyone and everyone that had talent, or showed talent, in the past, it isn't quite that simple.
There's a reason why Florida not only has brought in talented players via the portal, but you've seen the returns much quicker than many might expect: they fit.