Florida linebacker Jarrad Davis and safety Marcus Maye will return to the Gators for the 2016 season, both players announced on Twitter Monday.
One last ride as a Florida Gator!! Honored to wear the Orange & Blue one more time!! #GatorNation #BDN pic.twitter.com/Y0i2oQiaDM— Jarrad Davis (@J_Davis_40) January 18, 2016
One more go round!! pic.twitter.com/L4wmYbLUiQ— Marcus Maye (@alldayMAYE) January 18, 2016
Both players were likely to be taken in the 2016 NFL Draft had they chosen to leave Florida and enter it, with each projecting as a mid-round pick at worst.
For Davis, the decision is a reaffirmation of a public declaration that he would return after the SEC Championship Game, and a chance to build on a fantastic 2015 season that saw him emerge as the Gators' most explosive second-level player and finish second on the team in tackles and third in tackles for loss.
Davis is all but inked in as Florida's starting weak-side linebacker in 2016. Should he remain healthy and improve, he could very well bolster his draft stock and project as a second-rounder after 2016.
For Maye, returning brings months of quiet speculation about his future to a close. Regarded as a fantastic athletic prospect in his earlier years, Maye developed as a coverage safety in 2015, routinely ranking among the best in the nation per grading done by Pro Football Focus, and appearing on the service's "Dream Team." But while Maye has improved as a free safety, he was also party to torchings by Alabama and Michigan, and his physical style seems to lend itself better to playing in the box, something he was largely not doing over the last two years for Florida, with Keanu Neal filling that role more than capably.
With Neal off to the NFL, Maye might get chances to play both safety positions in 2016. Geoff Collins and the rest of Florida's defensive staff — including a new defensive backs coach — will attempt to restitch a secondary that loses Neal, Vernon Hargreaves III, and Brian Poole to the NFL, and while Jalen Tabor and Quincy Wilson appear to have the outside corner positions locked down, and Duke Dawson is on track to succeed Poole as Florida's nickel back, Maye is the only constant at safety.