SEC: Mike Blakely

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- In the last decade, more than any other time in its history, Florida's status as a recruiting juggernaut has been proven.

Once head coach Steve Spurrier established his alma mater among college football's elite, blue-chip talent started flocking to UF. The Gators also recruited well under Spurrier's replacement, Ron Zook. Then Florida won two national championships with coach Urban Meyer.

The fact that Florida has thrived on the recruiting trail despite Meyer's soap-opera departure and some sub-par seasons on the field is a testament to the strength of the brand.

This week we count down the five most impactful UF recruiting classes in the last decade, not including Florida's most recent class, which isn't even fully assembled on campus yet.

No. 5 on our list in order of impact is the Class of 2011, head coach Will Muschamp's first class, which was ranked No. 12 by ESPN.

[+] EnlargeLoucheiz Purifoy
AP Photo/John RaouxLoucheiz Purifoy's big-play ability at cornerback allowed him to stand out in three seasons at Florida and should get him selected high in this year's NFL draft.
The stars: This is easy. Marcus Roberson and Loucheiz Purifoy became lockdown cornerbacks and were the only three-and-done players from this 19-man class. Roberson made an instant impact, starting his first 10 games as a true freshman, and Purifoy first emerged as a special-teams terror. By the end of their college careers, the two clearly established NFL pedigree -- Roberson for his advanced technique, Purifoy for his supreme athleticism. They are expected to be picked no lower than the second round this May.

The contributors: Several players stand out in this class, including a few starters. Among them, starting quarterback Jeff Driskel is the one who could still push his way into the star category if he improves during his final two seasons of eligibility. Other starters have carved out significant roles for themselves, including fullback Hunter Joyer, safety Jabari Gorman and tight ends Clay Burton and Tevin Westbrook. Valdez Showers successfully converted from safety to running back last season. And Kyle Christy was a record-setting punter who stumbled in 2013 and will fight to take his job back this year.

The letdowns: Some of the top talents in this class never panned out at UF, as eight of the 19 players transferred and one quit football after injuries derailed his career. The biggest name to transfer was QB Jacoby Brissett, who started four games at Florida but left for NC State after losing the competition for the starting job to Driskel. WR Ja'Juan Story, TE A.C. Leonard, RB Mike Blakely and S De'Ante Saunders were four of the Gators' five highest-rated recruits in the class. Transfers Story, Blakely and WR Javares McRoy were recruited by Meyer for his spread-option offense and never quite fit Muschamp's pro-style scheme. Leonard and Saunders made strong impressions on the field, but both ran afoul of the law and transferred to Tennessee State.

The results: There have been high points, such as an 11-win season in 2012 in which Florida was just one Notre Dame loss away from playing for the national championship. But there have been more low points, such as a 7-6 season in 2011 and a numbing 4-8 season in 2013. The results on the field have been uneven, but there's still time for this class to distinguish itself.

RB Mike Blakely leaving Auburn

January, 31, 2013
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Running back Mike Blakely is on the move again.

Almost two years removed from transferring from Florida only months after he enrolled, the redshirt sophomore is now leaving Auburn. Blakely, who figured to fit in well with new coach Gus Malzahn's spread offense, played sparingly for the Tigers last fall. He carried the ball just 33 times, but was third on the team with 153 yards.

Blakely's departure leaves Auburn with just two scholarship running backs -- Tre Mason and Corey Grant. Mason enjoyed a solid 2012, rushing for 1,002 and eight touchdowns. He also averaged 5.9 yards per carry. The every-down back figured to enter the spring as the Tigers' starter, but Blakely and Grant, who rushed for just 29 yards on nine carries in 2012, would have every opportunity to compete for the starting spot this fall.

Even with those two backs returning, the Tigers will enter spring practice pretty thin at running back. The good news is Auburn has signed junior college running back Cameron Artis-Payne, who is on campus and was one of the nation's best JUCO running backs this past fall.

Auburn is also looking to sign at least one more back on national signing day. Keep an eye on Johnathan Ford, who decommitted from Vanderbilt after visiting Auburn last weekend, Corneilus Elder, who is visiting Auburn, and Tarean Folston, who is currently committed to Notre Dame.

Gus Malzahn returning to Auburn

December, 4, 2012
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Auburn is bringing a very familiar and successful face back to the Plains with the hiring of Arkansas State coach Gus Malzahn as the Tigers' new coach.

After just one season with the Red Wolves, Malzahn is headed back to Auburn to take over for Gene Chizik, his former boss, who was fired after going 3-9 in his fourth season as Auburn's coach.

Malzahn's return brings hope that offensive competence resurfaces on the Plains. This past season was abysmal for the Tigers' offense. With Malzahn taking his act to Arkansas State, where he promptly went 9-3 and won a Sun Belt championship, and Scot Loeffler taking over, Auburn's offense shifted from the spread to a more pro-style look.

But without Malzahn's guidance -- or offense -- the Tigers were last in the SEC in total offense, mustering just 305 yards per game. Auburn shuffled around three starting quarterbacks, averaging 156 passing yards a game in the process, and scored fewer than 20 points seven times, including two shutouts in the final three weeks of the season.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, Auburn's offense scored 48 fewer touchdowns and had 41 fewer 20-yard plays than the 2010 unit headed by Malzahn.

With Malzahn back, the hope is there will be an immediate offensive turnaround. Remember, when he stepped in as the offensive coordinator in 2009, he whipped that offense into shape right from the start. In 2008, the Tigers were one of the SEC's worst offensive teams, but by the end of the 2009 season, Auburn was second in the SEC, averaging 431.8 yards of offense per game, which was nearly 130 more yards a game than 2008.

[+] EnlargeGus Malzahn
Nelson Chenault/US PresswireAfter one season with Arkansas State, Gus Malzahn is returning to Auburn, this time as the head coach.
But he really made a name for himself in 2010, when he and some guy named Cam Newton helped Auburn to a 14-0 season and a national championship behind the SEC's No. 1 offense. Newton won the Heisman Trophy after passing for 2,854 yards with 30 touchdowns and rushing for an SEC-high 1,473 yards and 20 touchdowns. Newton's 4,327 total yards of offense set an SEC record.

Malzahn isn't expected to duplicate his 2010 success -- he just can't without a Cam Newton on campus -- but he should make the offense considerably better with his fingerprints on the playbook. He has a talented backfield to work with, starting with running backs Tre Mason, Mike Blakely and Corey Grant. He also has three quarterbacks in Jonathan Wallace, Kiehl Frazier and Clint Moseley, who all have dual-threat ability, which is what Malzahn's offense needs to succeed.

It should be especially exciting to see how Wallace responds. He took over as the starting quarterback late in the season, and showed some promise as both a runner and passer.

An immediate criticism will be that Malzahn won't have Newton to work with. He's 25-13 since 2009 without him. His teams score 10 fewer points and average about 84 fewer yards without him. But Malzhan did pretty well for himself this season at Arkansas State without Newton.

Here are some interesting Arkansas State stats courtesy of ESPN Stats & Information:

  • Arkansas State is currently 40 yards shy of tying the school record for total yards in a season (currently at 5,782).
  • The Red Wolves average 481.8 yards per game, which is on pace to break the school record of 447.8 set last season.
  • The team currently averages 6.5 yards per play, which is on pace to break the school record of 6.0 set in 2008.
  • 5.2 yards per rush would break the school record of 5.1 set in 1989.
  • Arkansas State has scored 437 points this season, 19 shy of the school record.

Obviously, SEC defenses are tougher to beat than Sun Belt ones, but Malzahn should have his successes. In his three years as Auburn's offensive coordinator, the Tigers won 30 games, scored 33.6 points per game and averaged 424.9 yards of offense, including 227.8 on the ground, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

It also will help that he's extremely familiar with how things work at Auburn and the culture on the Plains. Fans know him and know what he can do. But with that comfort will come higher expectations. He'll have the usual grace period, but fans are very restless in Auburn, and they expect Malzahn to come in and clean off some of the mud splattered on the program in 2012.

This wasn't the sexiest hire for Auburn, but it's one the administration thinks will get this program back on track and back on the scoreboard.

One good reason: Auburn

July, 16, 2012
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We're back with our "One good reason" series, and we're talking about the Auburn Tigers.

Good reasons:
Let's see what Auburn could do in 2012:

Auburn will play the role of spoiler this fall: That young talent is more mature and experienced.

Gene Chizik seemed pretty excited about the team he had coming back this spring. Yes, star running back Michael Dyer is gone and two new coordinators are in town, but Chizik was very happy with the maturity he saw from his younger players. This is a team that Chizik still considers pretty young all around, but the maturation this group showed this spring wowed the coaches. And a lot of that young talent got some good field experience last year. Defensive end Corey Lemonier is a budding star and was one of the top pass-rushers in the league last fall. Running back Onterio McCalebb is the old reliable one in the backfield, but he'll be assisted by three youngsters in Tre Mason, Mike Blakely and Corey Grant who should make the Tigers' running game pretty solid this fall.

Auburn's defensive line is stacked with talent and the secondary returns three experienced starters. Chizik has stocked up well in the past could of years, meaning Auburn has the talent to compete with the favorites in this league. Winning the West will be quite the uphill battle for Auburn, but if the talent proves its worth, the Tigers could ruin a true contender's season. A major run might be tough, but with the talent Chizik has on his squad, you can't count Auburn out for a chance to pull a big upset this fall.

Why it won't: Lots of questions remain on offense and defense.

Growth and maturation are great, but it has to translate to the field, and until the games are played, we don't know if that will happen. On offense, the Tigers are without their centerpiece from last year in Dyer, who followed former offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn to Arkansas State. Without him last year, what was Auburn's offense? McCalebb is one of the league's best home-run threats, but his work isn't done up the middle. That's where those younger backs will come in handy, but can one put the bulk of the carries on his back? Wide receiver Emory Blake is very talented and is certainly a downfield threat, but he needs help. While there's depth at receiver, it's pretty unproven, starting with Trovon Reed, who was expected to have a much better year than he did in 2011. Seniors Travante Stallworth and DeAngelo Benton have years but hardly any valuable experience.

And the quarterback situation is still up in the air. Kiehl Frazier had a good spring and left with the edge, but we still haven't seen him throw comfortably in real games. Clint Moseley was also very inconsistent as a starter last year and missed part of the spring with a sore shoulder. And who knows where Zeke Pike's head will be this fall.

The defense seems to be a little more stable and new defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder has experience in the SEC, but this unit allowed more than 400 yards of offense each game and ranked 11th or worse in the SEC in scoring, rushing, passing and total defense. The defense has to be considerably better for this team to make a real upset possible.
We continue our position rankings by looking at some of the hardest working players in the league. Running backs are very important in the SEC and more is always better around these parts.

Past rankings:
On to the running backs:

[+] EnlargeSpencer Ware
Streeter Lecka/Getty ImagesThe powerful Spencer Ware should be a key part of LSU's running back depth this upcoming season.
1. LSU: The Tigers claim the top spot thanks to depth, talent and more depth. They have five guys back there who could start for a lot of teams. Michael Ford is the speed guy. Spencer Ware is a bruiser who also has great cutting ability, Alfred Blue is extremely versatile and strong, and Kenny Hilliard is an even bigger bruiser. This group combined for 2,338 rushing yards and 30 touchdowns last fall. Keep an eye out for freshman Jeremy Hill, too.

2. South Carolina: Marcus Lattimore alone would warrant the Gamecocks being near the top. All reports coming out of Columbia are that he’s healthy and ready to pick up where he left off when he hurt his knee. Sophomore Brandon Wilds was excellent in filling in for Lattimore last season, veteran Kenny Miles has said he will be back for his senior season and the talented Shon Carson should be back after his ACL injury.

3. Arkansas: It was a close call between the Hogs and the Gamecocks. Similar to Lattimore, Knile Davis insists he’s as good as new after missing all of last season with a fractured ankle. Dennis Johnson can do a little bit of everything and certainly won’t be forgotten about in the Hogs’ offense, while Ronnie Wingo Jr. returns for his senior season.

4. Alabama: Eddie Lacy gets his shot to be the Crimson Tide’s feature back now that Trent Richardson is gone, but Nick Saban prefers to share the wealth. Who wouldn’t when you’ve got a true freshman on campus as talented as T.J. Yeldon? Don’t forget about Dee Hart, either. Hart would have played some last season had he not been injured. And Jalston Fowler adds another big, bruising body to Bama's backfield.

5. Texas A&M: If the NCAA rules that Oklahoma transfer Brandon Williams is eligible this season, the Aggies may move up this list. Williams was sensational this spring, and Christine Michael also returns after rushing for 899 yards last season prior to tearing his ACL. In addition, incoming freshman Trey Williams was one of the premier running back prospects in the country.

6. Vanderbilt: We're still not sure what Warren Norman can do, as he returns from his knee injury. Jerron Seymour is a do-it-all guy. The centerpiece of the Commodores’ offense will again be Zac Stacy, who set a school record last season with 1,193 rushing yards. He’s the leading returning rusher in the SEC. Highly-touted freshman Brian Kimbrow could also be used at running back.

7. Mississippi State: The competition this preseason at running back ought to be fierce at Mississippi State. Speedy LaDarius Perkins is the likely starter, but the Bulldogs’ coaches can’t wait to see what a healthy Nick Griffin can do. There are two talented redshirt freshmen -- Josh Robinson and Derek Milton -- who’ve also been waiting their turn.

8. Georgia: Losing Isaiah Crowell was a real blow for the Bulldogs, but they’re not lacking in talent. We won’t have to wait long to see if true freshman Keith Marshall is the real deal, but he's at his best when he's in space or used in the passing game. Ken Malcome had a very good spring and was a co-starter heading into summer. Incoming freshman Todd Gurley will be called upon this fall as well.

9. Auburn: Onterio McCalebb remains one of the top breakaway threats in the league, but he's going to need help. Tre Mason could emerge as the Tigers' every-down back. Transfers Mike Blakely and Corey Grant also impressed this spring and will add good depth. Either way, losing a player the caliber of Michael Dyer always stings.

10. Missouri: People forget that Kendial Lawrence was the starter before he went down with an injury last year. He regrouped well and was even better this spring. Marcus Murphy was out last season with a shoulder injury, but will be back and adds explosion to the backfield. Big-bodied rising senior Jared McGriff-Culver returns and should get carries along with redshirt sophomore Greg White. It still looks as though leading rusher Henry Josey won't be healthy enough for the fall.

11. Florida: Mike Gillislee has been inconsistent during his career, but is perhaps the key to the team and is the first downhill runner Florida has had since Tim Tebow. The Gators also hope this is the year finally Mack Brown comes on. Hunter Joyer might be best true fullback in the league and Trey Burton will also play a role as an H-back/fullback.

12. Tennessee: The Vols will be searching this preseason for their go-to back. Junior Rajion Neal has gotten bigger and stronger and may be the most explosive back. He left spring practice tied with an improved Marlin Lane and Devrin Young for the starting spot. Tennessee's rushing game has to improve greatly, as it ranked 116th nationally last year.

13. Kentucky: All four top rushers are back, but none eclipsed the 500-yard mark last year. The Wildcats hope Josh Clemons can recover from a knee injury that cut short his promising freshman season. CoShik Williams was Kentucky's leading rusher last year (486) and is one of the Wildcats' more elusive backs. Jonathan George will be in the mix again, while Raymond Sanders figures to be healthier this fall.

14. Ole Miss: The Rebels can’t afford to lose top back Jeff Scott, whose academics are still being monitored. Seniors Devin Thomas and H.R. Greer provide depth, but have combined for 125 career rushing yards. Redshirt sophomore Nicholas Parker has dealt with shape issues and has yet to see any game action, while Tobias Singleton moved from receiver to running back this spring. The Rebels will have to turn to their incoming freshmen for help here.

Video: Auburn's running backs

March, 30, 2012
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Edward Aschoff talks about Auburn's depth at running back this spring.
SEC bloggers Chris Low and Edward Aschoff will occasionally weigh in on different questions facing the league. We'll both have strong opinions, but not necessarily the same opinion. We'll let you decide who's right.

Today's Take Two topic: Auburn's Scot Loeffler and Florida's Brent Pease are two of six new offensive coordinators in the league. Who faces the steeper challenge in 2012 -- Loeffler or Pease?

Take 1: Chris Low

[+] EnlargeOnterio McCalebb
AP Photo/Austin McAfeeRB Onterio McCalebb should provide Auburn explosiveness out of the backfield in 2012.
The truth is that both offenses were hard to watch last season, and Auburn’s 17-6 victory over Florida was a clinic in bad offensive football. The two teams were a combined 4-of-26 on third down, and there were 16 punts in the game. Neither team passed for more than 128 yards. Loeffler takes over an Auburn offense that’s losing its most productive player by far. Running back Michael Dyer was suspended for the bowl game and then wound up transferring to Arkansas State. He rushed for 1,242 yards and scored 10 touchdowns. Loeffler wants to bring a more physical style to Auburn’s offense, and even without Dyer, wants to be a run-first team. The Tigers aren’t lacking in talent at the running back position, and Onterio McCalebb has quietly been one of the league’s best breakaway threats the last two seasons. But the trick may be finding somebody who can make the tough yards and get it done between the tackles. Maybe that somebody is Florida transfer Mike Blakely. That’s what this spring is for.

The starting quarterback job is also up for grabs, although Loefller said he’s not in a rush to name a starter this spring. The Tigers also have to replace both offensive tackles. So there’s not a lot for Loeffler to hang his hat on this first season, at least in the way of proven offensive players. Loeffler has a vast coaching background, but he prefers more of a pro-style attack. It will help if the Tigers’ receivers can stay healthy. The passing game a year ago rarely produced any big plays down the field. Loeffler’s smart enough to realize that he has to play to his personnel. What makes that so difficult, though, is that it’s hard to say right now that the Tigers do anything particularly well on offense given what they have returning. Loeffler’s definitely going to need some new faces to emerge. He's also going to need a lot of focus out of everybody on offense this spring as the Tigers make the transition from Gus Malzahn's system. That transition isn't going to happen overnight, meaning it could take the Tigers a few games next season before they figure out what they do best.

Take 2: Edward Aschoff

I think both of these coaches will have their hands full this spring and fall. Both have to deal with inexperience at just about every position. But for Pease, he has to deal with more unproven players than Loeffler. Loeffler might have an interesting quarterback battle on his hands, but he at least has a proven running back in Onterio McCalebb and a proven receiver in Emory Blake. Pease has neither. Florida has three young quarterbacks -- Jacoby Brissett, Jeff Driskel and Tyler Murphy -- running backs that have had consistency issues, unproven wide receivers and an offensive line that returns most of the parts of a unit that struggled mightily last season. The good news is that it sounds like the offensive line added some bulk during the offseason, and when you have four starters returning, improvements are inevitable.

Florida still isn't sure which quarterback will step up and lead this team. Brissett had the edge heading into spring, but Driskel was the top high school quarterback in his class for a reason. No matter which one prevails, baby steps will still have to be taken this fall because the winner will still be a little bug-eyed come SEC play. What would help is if a receiver or two steps up during the offseason. Since Riley Cooper left after the 2009 season, the Gators have lacked a consistent go-to receiver. Quinton Dunbar has shown flashes this spring, but he did last spring as well and caught just 14 passes in 2011. Frankie Hammond gets a lot of praise in practice, too, but it hasn't consistently translated onto the field. Andre Debose was Florida's best deep threat, but it's time for him to do more for this offense and be more reliable in all types of situations, not just deep throws. One thing that will help is that the tight end position should be solid with Jordan Reed and A.C. Leonard coming back. As for running back, Mike Gillislee has the talent to be a solid starter this fall, but he has to do more than just carry the rock. He has to improve his blocking as well. Mack Brown has the tools as well, but getting the offense down is his first objective because it has kept him off the field for two years. Pease is Florida's third offensive coordinator in three years and brings new elements like the others did, so the Gators are having to learn even more. It will be a challenge, but there are bodies to work with. It's all about getting his guys to understand things before the season starts or Florida's offense will continue to struggle.

Lunchtime links

July, 5, 2011
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We are back from the Fourth and here with some SEC links as you return to the real world.
Florida's front seven has taken a big hit.

Friday, coach Will Muschamp announced that redshirt freshman defensive end/linebacker Chris Martin is transferring from the program.

“Chris and his family have indicated that it might be best for him to be closer to home," Muschamp said. “We wish him nothing but the best of luck.”

Martin is now the fifth player to leave Florida's program this year. All-SEC cornerback Janoris Jenkins was dismissed from the team this spring, following his second arrest on misdemeanor marijuana charges in less than three months. Freshmen receivers Chris Dunkley and Javares McRoy both transferred, along with freshman running back Mike Blakely.

Martin, who played high school ball at Aurora, Colo., Grandview, originally signed with California, but transferred to Florida in July because he felt his heart was at Florida and there were too many distractions at Cal.

But Cal wasn't even Martin's first choice in recruiting. Martin, who was in and out of three different high schools, originally committed to Notre Dame in February of 2009, but later decommitted and was going to commit to Florida. He chose Cal in December after former Florida defensive coordinator Charlie Strong left to be the head coach at Louisville.

Now, Martin is on the move once again and will be looking for his fourth school to call home.

There’s no denying the ability Martin has on the field. During his redshirt year, Florida coaches and players raved about his play and how he was one of the most talented defensive players in practice. The 6-4, 250-pound athlete practiced at middle linebacker in the fall, but was moved outside this spring. He left spring as the backup to rising sophomore Ronald Powell at the hybrid Buck position.

While Martin had all the talent to excel in this league, issues off the field might have finally caught up with him. On Jan. 29, Martin was cited by Gainesville police for possessing less than 20 grams of marijuana. A source close to the situation told ESPN.com Friday night that Martin had multiple off-the-field issues that played a part in his decision to transfer.

Martin also had a history of being pretty outspoken on social media outlets.

Shortly after Jim Tressel's resignation at Ohio State, former Florida coach Urban Meyer released a statement stating that he wasn't interested in pursuing any coaching jobs this fall and that he was committed to his new as a college football analyst with ESPN.

After Meyer's statement came out, Martin took to Twitter on the account @cmart4634 to express his feelings about what Meyer said.

"Committed to espn? Lets see if the other analyst stress him out so bad he has to spend time with his family in COLUMBUS now.. #truthhurts," Martin tweeted.

Earlier this year, Martin wrote on his Facebook page that he was dismissed from the team. After a handful of people responded both on his Facebook page and on Internet message boards, he wrote that his status was an "early April Fools" joke and then offered up this gem to those who read his Facebook:

"FOR ALL YOU FACEBOOK STALKERS THAT POST OUR STUFF TO MESSAGE BOARDS...HERE IS THE FIGURATIVE FINGER FOR BEING NOSY."

Immaturity is something all college athletes struggle with, but more and more these off-field antics are shortening careers, but it seems like Martin is still figuring that out.

One thing is for certain, Martin is wasting some quality talent and with the current college football climate, coaches might think twice about getting involved with someone who has a knack for putting himself before his team.
Florida's depth at running back took a hit Tuesday.

After missing all of spring practice due to arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder in January, true freshman running back Michael Blakely has decided to transfer.

"Mike has come to the conclusion that the University of Florida is not where he wants to play football," coach Will Muschamp announced Tuesday. "We wish him the best of luck."

Blakely is the third freshman, and second true freshman, to transfer from Florida this spring.

Blakely, who committed to the Gators while former coach Urban Meyer was in charge, is more of a spread offense running back, but ended up signing with Florida, despite knowing that a new pro-style offense would be installed this spring.

The 5-foot-9, 198-pound back was ranked the No. 7 running back coming out of high school by ESPN.com and ranked 74th in the ESPNU 150. As a junior, Blakely carried the ball 189 times for 1,323 yards and 16 touchdowns. He also caught 30 passes for 313 yards and two more scores.

Blakely fit Meyer's spread, but it seems he wasn't ready for Charlie Weis' pro-style, even though he never really gave the offense a shot. Blakely missed all of spring recovering from shoulder surgery and wasn't able to work into the flow of the offense.

By all accounts, he reported to practices, but it appears he didn't feel as though he fit into Florida's new offensive philosophy.

“Everyone at Florida has been very supportive of me in my time here and I'm thankful for the experience that I had, but I've made a decision to continue my college football career somewhere else,'' Blakely said in a statement.

It's unknown where Blakely will transfer to, but if he decides to immediately go to a Football Bowl Division school, he'll have to sit out a year, per NCAA rules. There's also the idea that he could transfer to a junior college and return to the FBS afterward.

Keep an eye on Auburn here. Blakely was very close to committing to the Tigers before he chose Florida last fall.

So how much does Blakely's absence hurt Florida's running back situation? It certainly doesn't help, but Florida has more than enough bodies to throw out onto the field. However, there is uncertainty with a couple players.

Seniors Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps will be the primary running backs, but for Florida to generate a power running game, bigger backs Mike Gillislee and Mack Brown have to return from their spring injuries and contribute this fall. Gillislee was bothered by a stress fracture, while Brown broke his fibula. Both are expected to make full recoveries by the start of fall camp.

Where Blakely would have fit into the mix is a bit of a mystery. According to sources close to Florida, Blakely never really bought into the idea of playing in a pro-style offense once he saw what the offense could potentially look like on the field. That's not a very good attitude to have if you can't even get out and participate.

If Blakely wasn't invested in how things were going at Florida, this moves benefits both parties.

Florida will enter next season with two running backs in Gillislee and Brown. The Gators will also welcome freshmen Matt Jones and Mike Davis, who were both recruited by and committed to Muschamp. That will give Muschamp four running backs that suit his offense.

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