FanPost

Early Look into 2020 - Who's Leaving, Returning, Arriving -- Assuming There's a Season

Florida Gators

2019: 11-2 No. 6 AP Poll

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Offensive Breakdown

2019 Points Per Game: 33.2 (3rd in the SEC, 28th nationally)

2019 Yards Per Play: 6.47 (4th in the SEC, 16th nationally)

2019 Passing Yards/G: 300.76 (3rd in the SEC, 16th nationally)

2019 Rushing Yards/G: 129.77 (11th in the SEC, 107th nationally)


2020 Returning Starters: 6



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Quarterback

Passing Yards% Leaving: 17.86%

Passing Yards% Returning: 82.14%


TD% Leaving: 14.28%

TD% Returning: 85.72%

*Including rushing TD’s


Players Leaving

Felipe Franks (Transfer, R-Senior)

698 passing yards, 5 TD’s, 1 rushing TD


Leaving Synopsis


Franks began the 2019 season as the Gators’ starting quarterback but a gruesome injury against Kentucky ended his season and ultimately his Gator career with his starting spot no longer a guarantee. He leaves after showing flashes of his skill set under the tutelage of Mullen but will always have a large degree of ambivalence associated with him after such an up and down career at Florida.


Players Returning

Kyle Trask (R-Senior)

2,941 passing yards, 25 TD’s, 4 rushing TD’s

Emory Jones (R-Sophomore)

267 passing yards, 3 TD’s, 256 rushing yards, 4 rushing TD’s


Returning Synopsis

With the return of Trask, Florida has the SEC’s top returning quarterback, statistically, despite him not even playing in the first two games. Trask comes back after finishing second in passing yards behind Joe Burrow and third in passing touchdowns behind Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa. And maybe, if it wasn’t for the season Burrow had, people would be talking about the Trask story more as no one could have predicted what Trask accomplished in 2019, the best season a Florida quarterback has had since Tim Tebow. I can assure you no one thought those words would ever have been strung together behind Trask’s name. Yet, despite all of that, it’s not out question to think there may be a quarterback competition this spring. That’s the intrigue that Emory Jones brings. He’s the highest rated quarterback Mullen has ever signed and his mobility is more of a fit for what Mullen likes to have in his offense. Jones has been brought along slowly in terms of his passing development but he’s proven on the field that he’s plenty capable of making the throws. Used mainly as a spark to the running game, Jones did lead a crucial scoring drive against Auburn and was a big part of the game plan at LSU that saw some success. Mullen has made a two-QB system work in Gainesville before but it’s easier when that option is a short yardage specialist like Tebow as opposed to the quicker Jones. Regardless, Florida is returning arguably the best quarterback situation in the conference.


New Arrivals

Anthony Richardson (Freshman)

No. 9 dual-threat QB


Arriving Synopsis

Richardson enters as a highly touted dual-threat quarterback prospect. Richardson has the look of a typical Mullen quarterback as he likes to utilize the power running ability of big and athletic quarterbacks. He should have plenty of time to develop as a passer and to learn the playbook but it’s very likely that he will one day become the starting quarterback with a clear "wait your turn" approach that Florida looks to be building in the quarterback room.


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Running back

Rushing Yards% Leaving: 59.35%

Rushing Yards% Returning: 40.65%


TD% Leaving: 68.76%

TD% Returning: 31.25

*Including receiving TD’s


Players Leaving

Lamichal Perine (Graduated)

676 rushing yards, 6 TD’s, 262 receiving yards, 5 TD’s


Leaving Synopsis

Perine leaves Florida as one of the more accomplished Gator running backs in recent memory, having led Florida in rushing yards in three of his four years on campus. There’s no way around it, losing Perine is a big loss for the Gator offense. He became the ultimate three-down back, capable of not only carrying the load as a runner but also as a receiver out of the backfield, out wide, and as a blocker.


Players Returning

Dameon Pierce (Junior)

305 rushing yards, 4 TD’s

Malik Davis (R-Junior)

86 rushing yards, 1 TD

Iverson Clement (R-Sophomore)

48 rushing yards

Nay’Quan Wright (R-Freshman)

24 rushing yards


Returning Synopsis

Pierce is the easy choice to open the season as the starter. The rising junior has proven himself plenty capable the last two seasons despite not receiving a majority of the carries. He’s a bulky, low to the ground runner that can be hard to bring down but has also shown his breakaway speed on some long touchdown runs. He should bring solid production as the top rusher but it remains to be seen whether or not he can have the impact of Perine in terms of receiving and blocking. Behind him there are question marks, there are plenty of bodies but snaps have been hard to come by. Malik Davis should have an opportunity for more snaps this season. He was arguably the Gators’ most explosive back in 2017 but bad luck with injuries has cost him a couple of seasons and he never really made the rotation in 2019. The talent is there it just depends on if he’s fully recovered from his injuries and ready for a large role again. Iverson Clement and Nay’Quan Wright received garbage time carries last season but the sample size is too small at this point. But again, there’s an opportunity for someone behind Pierce to earn a role in the offense so there should be quality competition this offseason.



New Arrivals

Lorenzo Lingard (Transfer, R-Soph)


Arriving Synopsis

Lingard transferred over from Miami where he never really made much of an impact after an injury in 2018 that caused him to miss most of 2019. But this is a player that was a five-star prospect and the No. 2 running back in the country coming out of high school so he’s bringing a lot of upside. He’ll have to go through the waiver process before anyone will know if he can play right away or sit out the 2020 season but if granted immediate eligibility and assuming he’s fully healthy, it’s plausible to think Lingard could play his way into a large share of the carries.


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Wide Receiver

Yards% Leaving: 65.61%

Yards% Returning: 34.39%


TD% Leaving: 72.71%

TD% Returning: 27.29%


Players Leaving

Van Jefferson (Graduated)

667 receiving yards, 6 TD’s

Freddie Swain (Graduated)

517 receiving yards, 7 TD’s

Josh Hammond (Graduated)

346 receiving yards, 2 TD’s

Tyrie Cleveland (Graduated)

351 receiving yards, 1 TD


Leaving Synopsis

Losing four, highly productive seniors from one position group is never easy to replace. There are capable receivers coming back but no position group was hit harder than wide receiver. Florida is losing a big chunk of their production starting with Van Jefferson who led the team in receiving yards the past two seasons and has been as reliable as they come in terms of his ability to find separation and to simply make catches. Freddie Swain was a late bloomer but he will be missed next season. Similar to Jefferson, Swain was reliable and a big part of the offense in 2019, always seeming to make a big play in big situations. Josh Hammond and Tyrie Cleveland may not stick out statistically but that speaks to the overall unselfishness from this group. Both receivers still had their moments and made big plays that you don’t necessarily get from your 4th and 5th wide receivers. Florida loses quite a bit of production here and replacing that is easier said than done.


Players Returning

Trevon Grimes (Senior)

491 receiving yards, 3 TD’s

Jacob Copeland (R-Sophomore)

273 receiving yards, 2 TD’s

Kadarius Toney (Senior)

194 receiving yards, 1 TD

Rick Wells (R-Senior)

27 receiving yards

Ja’markis Weston (R-Freshman)

Dionte Marks (R-Freshman)

Trent Whittemore (R-Freshman)


Returning Synopsis

Florida has quite a bit to replace here but the returning statistical production from a pure numbers standpoint doesn’t tell the whole story. This group has plenty of potential to replace most of what was lost but obviously potential has to turn into production and Florida needs that badly in 2020. Getting Grimes back for his senior season was huge. He was third in overall production out of the receivers and athletically has a very high ceiling with his large frame and speed making him a big play threat at any moment. Jacob Copeland, similarly, is a breakout candidate with this being his third year in the program and he showed glimpses of his talent last season. He was one of the top receivers coming out of high school and the depth chart has finally cleared up for him to make a big splash with more snaps going his way. Kadarius Toney is a great example of hidden returning production. The rising senior missed most of 2019 with a shoulder injury but he’s shown a knack for explosive plays every year he’s been on campus and similar to Copeland, more snaps his way should lead to bigger numbers. Beyond that, the rest is still completely unproven. Rick Wells has been in the program the longest and will have opportunities for reps. Florida redshirted three receivers last season in Weston, Marks, and Whittemore that all bring something different and will be counted on for quality depth in 2020. This group has a lot of potential and there will be plenty of opportunities with the 2019 seniors gone but Florida will need a couple of these receivers to step up and replace what’s leaving.


New Arrivals

Xzavier Henderson (Freshman)

No. 11 WR

Jaquavion Fraziers (Freshman)

No. 26 WR

Justin Shorter (Transfer, R-Soph.)

137 yards

Jordan Pouncey (Transfer, R-Junior)

19 yards


Arriving Synopsis

Henderson is ranked as one of the best in the country at his position. He should have an opportunity for playing time as a true freshman but he’ll mainly need to be an important piece for the 2021 offense and beyond. Fraziers is in a similar spot, there will be opportunities for reps with so many unknowns behind Grimes/Copeland/Toney but snagging him and Henderson secures the future with more receivers set to graduate after 2020. Pouncey transfers over from Texas where he never made much of an impact on the stat sheet so he’s a bit of an unknown but this position group could use some experience and he’ll have a shot to break into the rotation assuming he’s eligible. Shorter, similar to Lingard, comes in as a transfer that could really change the room. Coming out of high school he was the No. 1 receiver in the country but never made much of an impact at Penn St. He had 12 catches for 137 yards last season as a redshirt freshman but he’s a highly talented receiver that will have a chance to breakout at Florida. It just might have to wait until 2021 depending on if he’s granted a waiver for immediate eligibility.


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Tight End

Yards% Leaving: 4.62%

Yards% Returning: 95.38%


TD% Leaving: 0%

TD% Returning: 100%


Players Leaving

Lucas Krull (Transfer, R-Senior)

33 receiving yards


Leaving Synopsis

The Gators aren’t losing much from a tight end position that was largely dominated by one player. Krull brought raw athleticism to the position but it never developed into a consistent role and all of the returning tight ends except for Pitts saw a decline in their production so this move makes sense.


Players Returning

Kyle Pitts (Junior)

649 receiving yards, 5 TD’s

Keon Zipperer (Sophomore)

31 receiving yards, 1 TD

Kemore Gamble (R-Junior)

Dante Lang (R-Sophomore)


Returning Synopsis

Tight end will be a true position of strength for Florida during this upcoming season. In Pitts, Florida is returning the top tight end in the SEC and the focal point of the Gator offense. He led the team in receptions, was second in yards behind Jefferson, and third in touchdowns. The rising junior is a match-up nightmare that can run routes like a receiver with the size of a true tight end. The only area where improvements could be found would be in run blocking. He’ll be a major point of the offense again in 2020. With Krull gone, Zipperer will be the main option behind Pitts. He was the No. 2 tight end coming out of high school and should start to get more involved in the passing game. He mainly came in as an extra blocker but did manage to catch a touchdown pass. Gamble and Lang were used predominantly as blockers last season and provide experienced depth as guys that have been in the program for a few years.


New Arrivals

Jonathan Odom (Freshman)

No. 32 TE


Arriving Synopsis

This is a position that doesn’t lose much at all so there likely won’t be many opportunities for Odom to rise up the depth chart. There’s a lot of experience and talent in that room so he should have plenty of time to develop and earn a role later on.


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Offensive Line

Starts% Leaving: 32.30%

Starts% Returning: 67.70%


Players Leaving

Nick Buchanan (Graduated)

13 starts

Chris Bleich (Transfer, R-Sophomore)

8 starts


Leaving Synopsis

Offensive line was a major concern coming into 2019 with Florida having to replace four starters, so the losses aren’t as significant as that, but replacing offensive line experience is rarely easy. Buchanan started at center the last two seasons and he’s been durable and reliable. Bleich began the year as the starter at right guard but a combination of injuries, inconsistent performance, and personal/family reasons led to him losing his starting position and ultimately to the transfer portal.



Players Returning

Stone Forsythe (R-Senior)

13 starts

Richard Gouraige (R-Sophomore)

5 starts

Brett Heggie (R-Senior)

12 starts

Ethan White (Sophomore)

1 start

Jean Delance (R-Senior)

13 starts

Michael Tarquin (R-Freshman)

T.J. Moore (R-Junior)

Kingsley Eguakun (R-Freshman)

Tanner Rowell (R-Senior)

William Harrod (R-Freshman)

Griffin McDowell (R-Sophomore)

Riley Simonds (R-Freshman)


Returning Synopsis

Florida returns the majority of their production which should help a unit that struggled at times last season. The offensive line play was below average for the most part, better in pass blocking, finishing tied for 8th in the SEC in sacks allowed. Run blocking was a major concern and it slowly improved but strides will need to be made this offseason if Florida wants to get back to a more balanced offensive attack. Heggie is the most experienced, playing all over the line and is the likely choice to start at center. The Gators return starters at both tackle positions with Forsythe and Delance. Gouraige played in every game, mostly at guard but some at tackle, and took over for Bleich as the starting right guard towards the end of the year. He was highly rated out of high school and with the experience from 2019, should be an important piece in 2020. White will be the least experienced of the should-be starters but he was still able to make one start and gained some experience throughout the season. More options and depth should at least help this unit grow with competition but it still remains a big question mark for Florida next season.


New Arrivals

Issiah Walker Jr. (Freshman)

No.15 OT

Josh Braun (Freshman)

No. 21 OT

Richard Leonard (Freshman)

No. 48 OG

Gerald Mincey (Freshman)

No. 48 OT


Arriving Synopsis

Florida was able to sign two highly rated tackles and both should provide quality depth while still having opportunities to battle for snaps with nothing really set in stone yet. Mincey and Leonard should both be developmental prospects that likely won’t contribute much in 2020. All are redshirt candidates with the four game rule but it’s possible someone plays their way into snaps as a true freshman similar to White last season. With three redshirt seniors likely to start next season, the younger players should be looking to make an impact in practice with an eye on 2021.




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Defensive Breakdown

2019 Points Against/G: 15.5 (2nd in the SEC, 7th nationally)

2019 Yards Against/P: 4.90 (5th in the SEC, 21st nationally)

2019 Passing Yards Against/G: 202.1 (6th in the SEC, 32nd nationally)

2019 Rushing Yards Against/G: 129.77 (2nd in the SEC, 8th nationally)


2020 Returning Starters: 6



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Defensive Line

Tackle% Leaving: 39.27%

Tackle% Returning: 60.73%


TFL% Leaving: 51.51%

TFL% Returning: 48.49%


Players Leaving

Adam Shuler DT (Graduated)

30 tackles, 6.5 TFL

Jabari Zuniga DE (Graduated)

14 tackles, 7 TFL

Luke Ancrum DT (Graduated)

22 tackles, 4 TFL


Leaving Synopsis

Florida loses three productive players but still returns the bulk of their defensive line production. Zuniga returned for a senior season that did not go according to plan. Supposed to be the strength of the defense, Zuniga injured his ankle early in the year and was never able to fully heal. While that hurt the 2019 defense, it allowed others to step up and gain experience for 2020. But he was still highly productive in those few games with seven tackles for loss. Shuler doesn’t get enough credit as an interior wrecking ball. He was productive and reliable and Florida will need someone to replace his energy and production. Ancrum was never an impact player but like most interior defensive lineman he rarely received any praise for doing the necessary dirty work. The experience from these three will be missed but Florida returns a good chunk of their production.


Players Returning

Kyree Campbell DT (Senior)

39 tackles, 4 TFL

Zachary Carter DE (R-Junior)

31 tackles, 7 TFL

Tedarrell Slaton DT (Senior)

29 tackles, 4 TFL

Marlon Dunlap (R-Senior)

3 tackles, 1 TFL

Elijah Conliffe (R-Junior)

Jaelin Humphrey (R-Freshman)


Returning Synopsis

This group returns solid production from the starters but quality depth will need to be created as Florida likes to substitute lineman with different packages and to keep fresh legs in. Campbell had a productive junior year and led all of the defensive linemen in total tackles. Getting him back was huge for the run defense as well as getting pressure from up the middle. Slaton was a prized recruit that struggled to adjust for most of his career but he really came on strong at the end of last season and will be replacing Shuler playing next to Campbell. He could be due for a breakout season. Carter benefitted from the Zuniga injury the most and really put together a solid season. He finished second in tackles and tied for first in tackles for loss. Those numbers could increase with an offseason where he will be getting most of the first team reps this time around. Dunlap, Conliffe, and Humphrey missed most or all of 2019 with injury but Dunlap and Conliffe have been contributors when healthy. Florida will be counting on them to provide quality depth.



New Arrivals

Gervon Dexter (Freshman)

No. 3 DT

Princely Umanmielen (Freshman)

No. 9 SDE

Antwaun Powell (Freshman

No. 10 WDE

Johnnie Brown (Freshman)

No. 22 DT

Lamar Goods (Freshman)

No. 36 DT

Jalen Lee (Freshman)

No. 37 DT


Arriving Synopsis

With three graduated and five upperclassmen returning on the defensive line this year, Florida needed a big haul from this recruiting class to kick-start the development of players that will desperately be needed after 2020. They hit the position hard and the overall top recruit from their class is Dexter who projects on the inside but could also get time at SDE. The five-star prospect will likely have the opportunity to play right away and at 6-7 285 pounds he should be able to handle the physicality of the SEC from the start. Behind him Florida signed three other bluechip defensive tackles that will mostly be needed for 2021 and beyond. To complement those on the inside, Florida also signed two of the top defensive ends in the country and the Gators showed last season that there are pass rushing opportunities for younger players so they could feature in certain packages. Overall, the future of the defensive line appears to be in safe hands.


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Rush End/Buck/OLB

Tackle% Leaving: 40.62%

Tackle% Returning: 59.38%


TFL% Leaving: 49.20%

TFL % Returning: 50.80%


Players Leaving

Jonathan Greenard (Graduated)

52 tackles, 15.5 TFL


Leaving Synopsis

Greenard was arguably Florida’s most important player last season. The grad-transfer from Louisville stepped into the "buck" role as a pass rushing OLB and produced immediately. He led the SEC in sacks and was also productive at setting the edge and making an impact in the running game. He seemed to be the alpha of the defense and those are never easy to replace. There’s plenty of production returning but it will require someone to take a big jump to replace the impact of Greenard, and even then it might not be enough.


Players Returning

Jeremiah Moon (R-Senior)

31 tackles, 6.5 TFL

Kris Bogle (Sophomore)

18 tackles, 4 TFL

Mohamoud Diabate (Sophomore)

17 tackles, 4.5 TFL

Andrew Chatfield (R-Sophomore)
5 tackles, 0.5 TFL

Lloyd Summerall (R-Freshman)

2 tackles, 0.5 TFL

David Reese (R-Sophomore)


Returning Synopsis

This position group is the main feature of Todd Grantham’s defense. It’s been that way at every stop he’s had in his career and while he’s been at Florida the starter at this position has finished second and first in the SEC in sacks so it’s safe to say whoever plays at this spot is bound to harass quarterbacks. Moon can play a variety of positions and seemed to always be in the backfield last season before shutting it down with an injury. Florida will need him to be fully healthy and if so the team should have a strong chance at leading the SEC in sacks again. Bogle and Diabate made an impact as true freshman and both could be moved around to ensure they’re on the field as much as possible. Diabate could play buck or more of a true OLB and Bogle has the size to play SDE as well. There’s a lot of pass rushing depth on this team and the three behind them were all highly recruited players that will push for snaps. This is probably Florida’s strongest position on the team.


New Arrivals

Brenton Cox (Transfer, R-Sophomore)


Arriving Synopsis

Cox is the true wildcard here. The former five-star recruit transferred from Georgia last offseason and never received a waiver to play immediately but his experience in the system should make it a seamless transition into the lineup. He could play buck or SDE and he’ll likely be moved around the line. He’s the highest caliber athlete Florida has had at this position since Mullen was hired and he should be able to wreak havoc playing in a defense that prides itself on aggressiveness.


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Linebacker

Tackle% Leaving: 37.90%

Tackle% Returning: 62.10%


TFL% Leaving: 28.88%

TFL% Returning: 71.12%


Players Leaving

David Reese (graduated)

94 tackles, 6.5 TFL


Leaving Synopsis

Reese is the only true linebacker that Florida is losing but similar to Greenard, his impact will be hard to replace. He’s been a mainstay at middle linebacker since he was a true freshman and has been the leader of the defense ever since. He’s been as sure as they come at making tackles near the line of scrimmage and Florida will need someone to fill that void to ensure there’s no drop off on the run defense.


Players Returning

Ventrell Miller (R-Junior)

55 tackles, 5.5 TFL

James Houston IV (R-Junior)

38 tackles, 6 TFL

Amari Burney (Junior)

37 tackles, 0.5 TFL

Lacedrick Brunson (R-Junior)

22 tackles, 3.5 TFL

Tyron Hopper (R-Freshman)

2 tackles, 0.5 TFL

Jesiah Pierre (R-Freshman)


Returning Synopsis

Despite losing Reese, Florida is still returning a very healthy linebacker room. There’s plenty of production returning with young players developing behind them and all are eligible to return past 2020. Miller started next to Reese this past season and was one of the top newcomers on the defense. He is poised for a big 2020 as is Houston IV who will see his snap count increase with Reese gone. Both have been in the program for a while and should be ready to handle the responsibility together. Burney is more of a safety/linebacker hybrid and is the likely candidate to start at the "star" (nickel) position next season. He had some injury issues in 2019 but is extremely athletic and should complement the other two with his different skill set and positional flexibility. Depth is starting to develop behind them with Brunson who will be in his fourth year in the program and Hopper, one of the higher rated recruits from their 2019 class, who should start to get more opportunities to further his development.


New Arrivals

Derek Wingo (Freshman)

No. 5 OLB


Arriving Synopsis

Wingo arrives as one of the top linebacker recruits in the country to complement an already experienced linebacker room. He has the highest upside of any of the returning players but will have to earn his snaps with the experience in front of him. Still, players of his caliber aren’t usually signed to redshirt so he will have opportunities to play whether it’s on special teams, blitz packages, or playing as a true linebacker.


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Cornerback

Tackle% Leaving: 26.40%

Tackle% Returning: 73.60%


PD% Leaving: 47.82%

PD% Returning: 52.72%


Players Leaving

CJ Henderson (NFL)

33 tackles, 11 PD


Leaving Synopsis

Florida only loses one cornerback but the loss is a big one. Henderson made a name for himself as a true freshman with two pick-sixes and has been a leader of the secondary ever since. A supremely talented athlete, Henderson declared for the NFL Draft early and will likely hear his name called in the first round. There’s a lot of high-caliber depth in the cornerback room but replacing legitimate NFL talent can be challenging.


Players Returning

Marco Wilson (R-Junior)

36 tackles, 2 PD, 2 INT

Kaiir Elam (Sophomore)

11 tackles, 4 PD, 3 INT

Trey Dean (Junior)

26 tackles, 1 PD, 1 INT

Jaydon Hill (Sophomore)

11 tackles, 3 PD

Chester Kimbrough (Sophomore)

8 tackles, 2 PD

C.J McWilliams (R-Senior)


Returning Synopsis

Getting Wilson back was huge with Henderson gone. Florida desperately needed a proven vet to lead all of the young talent and Wilson is poised for a big season. He started as a true freshman, ahead of Henderson, but a torn ACL the following season set him back. He found his groove though in 2019 and finished the season strong down the stretch even playing some star when needed. Elam will step in to replace Henderson and he made the most of his snaps as a true freshman. One of the top cornerbacks coming out of highschool he showed his talent with three interceptions all while playing in some big games, including a start in the Orange Bowl after Henderson chose to sit out. Dean started the season at the star but was later replaced after some on field struggles there. He started at cornerback in 2018 after Wilson was lost for the year, holding his own there, and he has positional flexibility to play as a safety or to go back to star. It appears that Dean has lost his starting spot but he can play anywhere across the secondary and that kind of quality depth is needed in the SEC. Hill and Kimbrough looked good in their limited snaps last season and also bring quality depth to a position that had virtually none two years ago.


New Arrivals

Jahari Rogers

No. 7 CB

Ethan Pouncey

No. 11 CB

Avery Helm

No. 23 CB

Fenley Graham

No. 33 CB


Arriving Synopsis

Florida signed several bluechippers to a position that is already well stocked. Rogers and Pouncey are two of the best cornerback recruits in the country but snaps in 2020 may be hard to come by. Depth shouldn’t be a concern for a while at least and this position should be able to just reload each year.


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Safety

Tackle% Leaving: 19.01%

Tackle % Returning: 80.99%


PD% Leaving: 20%

PD% Returning: 80%


Players Leaving

Jaewon Taylor (Graduated)

27 tackles, 1 PD


Leaving Synopsis

Florida rotated four safeties last season and only one is gone with Taylor. He’s not a big loss in terms of production and was probably the weakest of the four but he’d been a veteran presence for a few years and sometimes that gets overlooked in these types of things. With the other three returning, there’s plenty of production to fall back on in 2020.


Players Returning

Shawn Davis (Senior)

51 tackles, 3 PD, 3 INT

Donovan Stiner (Senior)

30 tackles, 1 PD, 3 INT

Brad Stewart Jr. (Senior)

28 tackles

Quincy Lenton (Senior)

6 tackles


Returning Synopsis

Davis had his breakout year after playing sparingly the two years prior. He led the group in tackles and had a knack for making a play on the ball as shown by his three interceptions. Returning a playmaker like that on the backend is big for this defense. This will be Stiner’s third season as a starter so his experience will be invaluable. He doesn’t display elite athleticism which has made safety a weak spot at times for this defense but similar to Davis, he has a knack for creating turnovers. Stewart was supposed to be the breakout of the group last season but seemed like he regressed after a stronger 2018. If Florida can get him back into form and keep him on the field they should have a better overall year from the safety position with so much experience coming back.


New Arrivals

Rashad Torrence

No. 32 Safety

Mordecai McDaniel

No. 34 Safety

Tre’Vez Johnson

No. 41 Safety


Arriving Synopsis

With so many upperclassmen set to leave soon, Florida had to hit this position hard in recruiting. Barring any injuries none of the three should have to contribute right away but it’ll be vital to make sure they’re getting some opportunities to play because they’ll be needed badly in 2021 with four seniors set to leave.


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Overview


Florida is poised for another strong season in year three of the Mullen era. Mullen inherited a four win team and in two years it’s gone from ten to eleven wins, with both teams finishing No. 7 in the AP Poll. They haven’t been very strong out of the gate but typically get stronger as the year goes on. While you want to be playing your best football by November, they also need to put together a more complete performance to regain their place among the elite. It’s likely that with the talent they’ve been accumulating, they may have a better overall roster one or two years from now, but with the players that are returning and the relative ease of the 2020 schedule, it’s not far out to expect a playoff push this season. The SEC has never been more wide open which means the playoff has never been more wide open. But that is dependent on getting past Georgia, something that hasn’t been done under Mullen yet.


The roster has been set up nicely to replace a majority of the departing players but again that’s reliant on several players improving on their 2019 production, which seems possible on paper but it doesn’t always play out that way. Returning a stable quarterback room goes a long way though and Trask was a pleasant surprise for Florida last season. He’ll have to prove that he wasn’t just a one year wonder and that he’s capable of taking another step as the leader of the offense. But it’s been a long time since Florida passed for 300 yards a game so the decade of offensive ineptitude, specifically at quarterback, appears to be over at least. It will however be difficult to mirror their 2019 passing production with the loss of those four senior receivers and as outlined above, they’re returning some promising options but it’s doubtful that they can fully replicate the production from the four departures. Mullen has tweaked the offense each year based on the personel so it’s safe to expect that to happen again. He doesn’t force a system on the players he has, rather, he adapts to the strengths of the team. They return a major weapon in Kyle Pitts and receivers like Trevon Grimes, Jacob Copeland, or Kadarius Toney could finally see a breakout year. Florida will need the offensive line to make some gains this off-season following a year in which they were at the bottom of the SEC in rushing yards. If the offensive line can build off of their experience from last season then the offense should be able to get back to a more balanced attack. A lot rides on if some of these high profile transfers will be immediately eligible as well. Plenty of pieces still return for this offense to be near the top of the SEC again but if Florida wants to take the next step in terms of true contention, they’ll need more from the offensive line.


Defensively, 2020 might be their last chance with a really experienced unit for a year or two. They’ve recruited stronger on the defensive side in recent years so there’s promising depth at every level but they’re returning predominately upperclassmen on the defensive line and at safety, so this time next year the defense will be relying on mostly unproven youth so now is the time to take advantage. With Grantham in charge, Florida should continue to have one of the best defenses in the country, they led the SEC in total sacks by a large margin so they should get after the quarterback again, but they’ll still have to replace some really productive veterans in certain spots. The Zuniga and Shuler losses are manageable since Carter and Slaton handled plenty of snaps last season but Greenard, Henderson, and Reese were the cornerstones of the 2019 defense. Fortunately, all three spots appear to have talented options to step into those roles but again, it looks that way on paper, they’ll need it to actually happen on the field to avoid any dropoff. All in all, the defense is well stocked, returning experience and production at every level while continuing to add quality depth so it should be a strength of the team again.


The way the schedule plays out, Florida has a chance for a really special season. All of the top SEC teams from 2019 have major question marks at key positions. LSU and Georgia will obviously make or break the season and both are replacing productive quarterbacks which gives Florida a window to take advantage. The non-conference slate is extremely easy with three FCS schools and Florida State which probably won’t take a major jump in year one under a new coach. That gives Florida flexibility to rotate players and to get into a rhythm. The question is: will this be the same Florida team that struggled in the first half against weaker division opponents like Kentucky, South Carolina, and Missouri? Or in year three under Mullen can they announce their staying power with dominant wins over their inferior conference opponents while getting a signature win against LSU or Georgia? That remains to be seen, but on paper, this team should have every opportunity at contending for the SEC title and for a playoff spot. All roads will have to go through Jacksonville though.

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