Transfer portal provides key elements for Florida Gators

GAINESVILLE — Arizona State transfer receiver Ricky Pearsall is a versatile playmaker that Florida coach Billy Napier’s offense can use.

Kyle Lofton left Saint-Bonaventure after four years to usher in the Todd Golden era as the Gators’ new point guard.

The Transfer Portal has provided every first-year coach with key things to help ease the transition into their first Power 5 job. None of the coaches have finished bolstering the roster either.

Golden would like to add another big man with his final purse while Napier is open to all options given the NCAA’s recently relaxed rules on purse limits for the next two years.

“We are going to operate [on a] on a case-by-case basis,” Napier said. “If we find a player who we think can make our team better, we will pursue that player.”

Pearsall fits the profile.

He led the 2021 Sun Devils with 48 receptions, 580 yards and 4 touchdowns as a junior. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound Pearsall ran the ball 6 times for 44 yards and a score, and also completed a pair of pass attempts for 59 yards and a touchdown.

Napier, a longtime receivers coach during his days as an assistant, praised Pearsall’s ability to separate from defenders, an issue with the Gators’ receiving corps.

“He’s been a very productive player and he can open up,” Napier said. “He can catch the ball. He turned out to be a player who chases after the catch. He has toughness in his game. He can play on special teams.

“We are adding a player who… can help our team.”

Pearsall, a Corona Del Sol star from Tempe who signed with the hometown school in 2018, had been on Napier’s radar since his only season, in 2017, as ASU’s offensive coordinator. Gators offensive line coach Rob Sale was also on the Sun Devils staff.

“There was a relationship there,” Napier said.

Lofton, on the other hand, caught Golden’s eye as he and his team searched for players who could speed up the Gators’ rebuild.

A three-time All-Atlantic 10 selection, Lofton averaged over 38 minutes last season and 5.2 assists over four seasons with the Bonnies — 5.9 assists per game in 2021-22. He also averaged 13.2 points, 3 rebounds and 1.6 steals at Saint-Bonaventure.

“We were able to get a lot of data on Kyle,” Golden said. “He played a ton of minutes in Saint-Bonaventure. They won a lot of games. He’s a very good playmaker, someone who led this team for a long time. We knew what we were getting when we got Kyle.

Six Gators return from last season, led by big man Colin Castleton, and added four transfers and two prospects from Dr. Phillips, guards Riley Kugel and Denzel Aberdeen.

“We’re still a little thin inside,” Golden said.

Castleton, who led the 2021-22 Gators in goals, rebounds and blocked shots, continued to recover from shoulder surgery. Golden said center Jason Jitoboh is set to return from eye surgery for an injury sustained Jan. 26 at Tennessee.

“We’re going to try to add a bigger one to give us depth in the frontcourt,” Golden said.

This article first appeared on OrlandoSentinel.com. Email Edgar Thompson at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @osgators.

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