The Gators will be taking the field for actual, real, honest-to-goodness LIVE football a week from tomorrow. Every year there are certain players who we hear a lot about out of spring, and out of camp, or who we remember from recruiting or last year’s team, and hope will have successful seasons this year.
While I am excited about seeing all of the Gators play, there are two players in particular that I will be keeping my eyes on. I am mentioning one player from offense and one from defense (though that was not entirely intentional). On offense, the player I am most intrigued by is someone who will be playing his first season with the Gators this year. He is someone who has been mentioned frequently during camp by Jim McElwain as a versatile playmaker that is expected to contribute in several ways this fall. On defense, I picked a player with plenty of potential that should have a big role this season.
A name you have surely heard mentioned often during this offseason is junior college transfer wide receiver Dre Massey, whom Jim McElwain called “a jack of all trades”. The 5-foot-9 Massey is a versatile player anticipated to see time at receiver and kick returner; but he has also been mentioned as a possibility at punt returner, and even punter, by Jim McElwain. Massey has naturally drawn comparisons to Brandon Powell, his fellow slot receiver that is of similar stature and has a similar versatile nature.
QB Luke Del Rio to slot WR Dre Massey, a standout in Florida's last scrimmage. https://t.co/Yki7H5RB1Q— Zach Abolverdi (@ZachAbolverdi) August 23, 2016
McElwain was asked if Massey might throw the ball this season and did express that that was a possibility. (Did I give any of you wildcat flashbacks?) Massey actually was a dual-threat quarterback at Greenville, South Carolina’s Mauldin High School. He once accounted for 11 (ELEVEN!) touchdowns in one game - eight running and three passing- which his team won 83-70. While a senior at Mauldin he passed for 2,798 yards and 28 touchdowns, as well as rushed for 2,050 yards and 34 touchdowns. He was recruited out of high school by East Carolina and South Carolina (under Steve Spurrier) but had to go the junior college route due to academics.
Massey spent most of spring practicing with the first team at slot receiver as Brandon Powell recovered from foot surgery. This past week he was spotted at slot receiver with the first team offense, sometimes appearing on a field with Antonio Callaway and Brandon Powell split outside. McElwain hopes to be able to get Massey and Powell on the field at the same time. And though Massey and Powell are essentially competing for the same positions, the two have been complimentary of each other - which I love to see from teammates.
Good idea = Dre Massey and Brandon Powell on the field at the same time. https://t.co/I84mhGc6xt— Zach Abolverdi (@ZachAbolverdi) August 23, 2016
So why did I choose Massey? There are not many things more exciting than kicks returned for touchdowns. Hearing how multi-talented Massey is, and that he is poised to contribute for the Gators on offense and special teams, has me excited to see what he can do. Antonio Callaway was unbelievably exciting and entertaining for Florida last year (and is likely to be again this year). Hopefully Dre Massey can have a similar breakout inaugural season with the Gators.
Duke Dawson has played in 25 games during his time at Florida. The junior has played at safety, corner and nickel (I love versatility, you guys) for the Gators. He spent most of spring working at nickel and received a lot of praise in that role. During Florida’s Spring Game, Dawson intercepted freshman quarterback Feleipe Franks twice, and returned one of those picks for a touchdown. He spent time during fall camp working at both nickel and corner but will presumably see most of his playing time at nickel.
Duke Dawson with an INT. pic.twitter.com/Sk0zcw5GZM— Nick de la Torre (@NickdelaTorreGC) August 11, 2016
Like Massey, Jim McElwain has praised Dawson’s performance during spring and fall camp and indicated that he will have a varied role with the Gators this season, saying after spring that he would “play a ton”. (Dawson has been limited some during fall camp, including during last Friday’s scrimmage, as a precautionary measure.)
I still vividly remember Dawson intercepting his first pass in his first game, Florida’s season opener (after the Idaho game was cancelled) against Eastern Michigan in 2014, and returning it for a touchdown. I was sitting in the endzone that he scored in and he, his teammates, and the coaches were so elated at what he had just done as a true freshman getting his first taste of playing time. It was a very cool thing to watch.
Florida’s secondary has been incredibly fun for the last few years. No. 7 is a talented physical player who has flashed some big play potential. Dawson seems like he is ready to have his breakout season and help fill the void left by some of the departed members of that position group. And I am really excited to see him do just that.
So, who do YOU want to see?
Which two players are you most excited to see this season? Anyone new? Favorite returning players? Leave your answers in the comments!