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July 5, 2012
With Thursday's news that signs seem to be pointing toward Jonathan Bullard being cleared by the NCAA, ending over one week of drama concerning the admission of three of the Gators' top signees along the defensive line.
The end result was part good and part bad. Five- star defensive ends Bullard and Dante Fowler Jr. were admitted to UF and will be a part of Florida's 2012 team. Four-star defensive tackle Dante Phillips wasn't so lucky. After reportedly clearing NCAA standards, he was not cleared by the UF admissions office.
It's now time to take a step back and examine what all of this means for the Gators.
What does it mean for the 2012 signing class?: Head coach Will Muschamp probably wasn't sleeping too well when he began to realize that two of his three five-star prospects in the 2012 class were having admissions issues. Bullard and Fowler were major reasons why the Gators pulled in the nation's No. 3 rated recruiting class. Florida is in desperate need of depth along the defensive line and explosive pass rushers. If Bullard and Fowler are anything like they were in high school, defensive coordinator Dan Quinn will enjoy having both at his disposal. Phillips' appeal process is still being reviewed, but in all likelihood, he will be the only academic casualty of the cycle for the Gators and the first of the Muschamp era.
What does it mean for the 2013 signing class?: Assuming Phillips doesn't make it back into Florida's 2012 class, his void scholarship will carry over to 2013. This likely means Florida's next signing class will be around 23 players in size. The logical solution with the loss of a four-star defensive tackle in this class would be to snag another defensive tackle the next go-round. The biggest candidates for that spot would likely be Honolulu (Hawaii) Moanau's four-star tackle Scott Pagano.
What does Bullard do for the Gators in 2012?: Muschamp has admitted his hesitance in the past regarding starting young players along either the offensive or defensive line. With Bullard, he doesn't have much of a choice. The freshman will bring a skill-set Florida needs badly at a position that it scrapped together in 2011. Bullard will need to successful to help allow junior Sharrif Floyd to move back inside where he is most comfortable. As of Thursday night, according to Inside the Gators' source, Florida is confident Bullard will be able to participate in fall camp, and that is good news as the Gators can't afford for him to fall behind a learning curve because of an admissions delay.
What does Fowler do for the Gators in 2012?: There was a time when Fowler was probably more of a luxury for 2012 than a necessity; then the Orange and Blue Debut happened. Ronald Powell, Florida's junior starter at the Buck linebacker spot Fowler is slated for, tore his ACL in the Gators' spring game and will miss at least a couple months of the season. There are players who will likely start ahead of Fowler - namely senior Lerentee McCray. However, Fowler has not been shy about saying he intends to force coaches to consider starting him with his play in fall camp. Regardless, he will see the field in a substantial role as a freshman whether or not he starts.
Where does Phillips go from here?: According to reports from the Gainesville Sun, Phillips's admission appeal to UF will be reviewed during a weekly meeting next Wednesday. The chances of a decision being overturned are highly unlikely, meaning he will have to continue looking for a new school. The most obvious option seems to be Miami, a school that recruited him heavily during the recruiting process. Miami has not been able to tell him he can definitely be admitted there and chances are he may have to wait until January to enroll and sit out this coming season. Ole Miss is another school Phillips has said is entertaining the idea of bringing him in.
(Deal ends July 20, 2012)