For the Florida Gators, acquiring talent via the transfer portal has become commonplace.
While there have been criticisms for how the team has done in recruiting lately, no one can disparage the team's efforts on the portal, recruiting players who are leaving their previous programs for other opportunities.
One of the players that will likely be key to Florida's success this season is Auburn transfer, defensive tackle Daquan Newkirk. After spending four years with the Tigers, Newkirk opted to transfer out of the program as a graduate transfer, going with the Gators, a team that was on his radar since high school.
"I'm very excited to play these guys," Newkirk said following practice on Tuesday. "I hope to bring just stoutness all across the line, just us as a whole, stopping the run, do what we need to do, just be a team player. And I'm very excited to play these guys, I think it's a great group and we're gonna have a great time."
Originally from Orlando (Fla.), Newkirk's decision to transfer to the Florida football program was almost a no-brainer. His connection to one of the current Florida coaches made it that much easier, too.
Wesley McGriff, the Gators' new safeties coach this year, coached at Auburn during Newkirk's freshman season. His ties to McGriff and the bond he's since made with Gators defensive line coach David Turner has made the transition that much easier.
"So I think coming here was the best thing I could ever did," Newkirk explained." And when I got here, I just felt like 'Dang, like this is home.' Like, not just myself, that God has helped me and I just, I was ready to go."
McGriff was originally the coach that brought Newkirk to Gainesville, and it didn't take much for him to buy in, Newkirk explained.
"I entered the portal, he was just like 'Hey, man, come be a Florida Gator.' And that's how it went, I was like 'Come on, offer me and I'm there,' just like that."
The relationship the two share goes beyond football, and McGriff has helped him in ways that he will remember for perhaps the rest of his life even while spending such a short time with the defensive lineman throughout his career.
“I love Coach Crime (Wesley McGriff). He’s always a high-energy guy and we always talk about life," said Newkirk. "Every time I came to Coach Crime, it wasn’t about football; it was always like he always put those good talks in my head and we just talked about life, honestly, and he helped me out with a lot of things.”
Now, the veteran defensive tackle will work to insert himself into Florida's culture, adapting to what the team expects out of its players. For Newkirk, he didn't expect to enter as a player who is a starter, accepting that if he were to be simply a backup, that would be fine too. Playing his role was the most important part of the gig.
He's since learned a lot about the Gator Standard, too. Understanding what is expected out of him and the rest of his teammates.
"Like, they're hard-nosed, they're workers here, and I just had to get with the program. Let the guys know that I was here to come work and not play around."
While his role on the field will be important as Florida looks to bolster its defensive line this year, his role off the field and as a leader on defense will be equally important. Especially considering one of the rising stars on the defensive line, Gervon Dexter, who is expected to take a big leap this season.
“I don’t want to boost him up too much, but Gervon is an actual beast," Newkirk said. "This guy is a massive, massive man. Like, I know he’s a boy, but he’s a massive man. He can do a lot of things. I try to coach him up a lot. He can be consistent in what he does. He can be like … it’s crazy.”
Being able to be a guide to the young players on Florida's roster will go a long way and make the impact Newkirk leaves on the Gators program that much better.
"In each and everything they do, I just try to help them, with technique. film, anything. Anything they ask I just try to help."