Gators cut three scholarship players

Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that wide receiver Marcus Burke was among the players who had been cut from Florida’s roster. According to a team spokesperson, Burke’s name and player profile were incorrectly removed from Florida’s roster and he is still on the team.

Florida has parted ways with three scholarship players: wide receivers Fenley Grahamsafety Mordecai McDaniel, and defensive lineman Chris Thomas. Multiple sources familiar with the development told Swamp247’s Brett DioGuardi on Wednesday afternoon.

All three players have been removed from Florida’s online roster, which is official and current. One program source told Swamp247 that all three players are “expected to enter the portal if they haven’t already.”

The move is made legal by NCAA Bylaw 15.5.1.7, which allows a first-year head coach to not invite a scholarship athlete back to the team. The athlete may, however, be given the right to stay at the school on scholarship until they graduate with their degree.

It’s a somewhat surprising trio of players as none seemed to be in danger of falling to the bottom of the Gators’ depth chart at their respective positions. One source told DioGuardi that the moves were not based on performance but rather each player’s individual buy-in and how they assimilated to head coach Billy Napier’s desired culture for his program, which players are strictly asked to adhere to.

Graham was viewed as a potential return man for the Gators this season after he moved from defensive back to wide receivers during the spring and fielded kicks during the Gators’ spring game. Graham even drew the praise of Florida wide receivers coach Keyary Colbert.

“He’s an athlete and a lot of these guys played both ways in high school or their entire life,” Colbert said of Graham in April. “Yes, he’s been in the defensive back room and backpedaling and stuff, but when you’ve got natural good athletes like Fenley, they can transition over and it’s like riding a bike.

The Gators added two scholarship wide receivers in recent weeks, Arizona State transfer wideout Ricky Pearsall and community college addition Thai Chiaokhiao-Bowman.

Also viewed as a four-star prospect on the 247Sports Composite rankings, McDaniel saw action in all 13 of Florida’s games last season and recorded 15 total tackles and an interception. McDaniel also played in 10 games as a freshman in 2020.

Thomas was a three-star prospect in the 2021 class who appeared in just one game as a Gator before getting cut.

Despite its most recent trimmings, the Gators’ scholarship roster remains above the 85 scholarship limit, though certain NCAA rules might allow it to proceed without further cuts. In addition to Graham, McDaniel and Thomas’ departures, quarterbacks Emory Jones (Arizona State) and Carlos Del Rio Wilson (Syracuse) and defensive lineman Lamar Goods (Northern Colorado) transferred away from the program.