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Florida vs. Ole Miss, Depth Charting: Gators’ Week 1 layout has logjam at RB

Could a forgotten man in 2019 really be Florida’s bellcow in 2020?

Vanderbilt v Florida Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

One of the most exciting moments of any Week 1 for football nerds is the release of the first full depth chart of a new season — and in this pandemic-shifted 2020 season, the Florida Gators dropping their first depth chart on Monday as part of the pregame notes for their visit to Ole Miss on Saturday makes it seemingly final that there will truly be a season.

Of course, though, what would a depth chart crafted by coaches be if not for a document fans are supposed to overscrutinize.

Below are the offensive, defensive, and special teams depth charts for Florida vs. Ole Miss. Where one position is listed multiple times (WR, LB, CB), the tables read from top to bottom how Florida’s charts read left to right.

Offensive Depth Chart

Position First String Second String Third String
Position First String Second String Third String
QB Kyle Trask Emory Jones Anthony Richardson
RB Malik Davis OR Dameon Pierce Nay'Quan Wright
WR Jacob Copeland Justin Shorter
WR Trevon Grimes Xzavier Henderson
WR Kadarius Toney Trent Whittemore
TE Kyle Pitts Kemore Gamble OR Keon Zipperer
LT Stone Forsythe T.J. Moore
LG Richard Gouraige Griffin McDowell
C Brett Heggie Kingsley Eguakun
RG Stewart Reese Josh Braun
RT Jean Delance Michael Tarquin

Thoughts on the offensive depth chart:

  • Quarterback is the only position on the entire roster with a listed third-stringer. Those guys get all the perks.
  • Running back is obviously a position with a question mark or three surrounding it, and Malik Davis having his name listed first (even if that’s a product of being alphabetically ahead of Dameon Pierce) certainly pops out; similarly, Lorenzo Lingard is conspicuous by his absence. I think you could see Davis, Pierce, and Wright getting something like a 40/40/20 mix of the RB carries against the Rebels, at least until the fourth quarter, but I have to think that Florida will lean on Pierce late in games because of his reliability in those situations in 2019 and memories of fateful Davis fumbles, and I can’t see Lingard not getting any run at all unless he’s hurt or truly hopeless when it comes to the playbook.
  • The top three wideouts are the three guys you’d expect, but it’s interesting that Justin Shorter backs up Jacob Copeland and Xzavier Henderson backs up Trevon Grimes, based solely on presumed physical skills. Trent Whittemore, who’s earned praise for his surprising athleticism — yes, he’s white — being the first of the 2019 wide receiver signees to crack Florida’s depth chart is also interesting, especially if you remember how excited Dan Mullen sounded to have signed JaMarkis Weston a year ago. And the fact that Ja’Quavion Fraziars is wearing No. 0 but isn’t to be found here suggests that Henderson might merit that number more than his fellow true freshman does. (Also: Yes, Rick Wells is on the roster.)
  • Tight end is a spot where Florida could’ve just listed its starter. If Kemore Gamble and Keon Zipperer combine for more in 2020 than their combined career line (10 catches, 89 yards, one touchdown), that’s probably either going to reflect Kyle Pitts getting hurt or a great deal of garbage time.
  • The offensive line definitely look weaker to me at tackle than inside, as I can’t put a ton of faith in Stone Forsythe getting nimbler or Jean Delance taking the three or four steps forward that he often seemed to need and have even less hope that their younger backups are ready to supplant them.
  • The most interesting thing about the line might be where missing man Ethan White slots in when he recovers from injury. Mullen indicated Monday that he could start “at center or guard,” but I’d guess he’s most likely to supplant Brett Heggie at center, given that Mississippi State transfer Stewart Reese is a reliable veteran who didn’t come to Gainesville to play sixth lineman and that Richard Gouraige started at left guard down the stretch last year. (Heggie could also slide over to left guard after White returns, or Florida could spend some of this first game rotating Heggie and White at center to see who fits better.) No matter how the combination of Gouraige, Heggie, Reese, and White shakes out inside, though, that’s a whole lot of humanity in the middle of Florida’s line, and it would be hard not to improve on the run blocking from 2019.

Defensive Depth Chart

Position First String Second String
Position First String Second String
End Brenton Cox Jr. Andrew Chatfield Jr.
Nose Tedarrel Slaton Marlon Dunlap Jr.
Tackle Zachary Carter Gervon Dexter
Buck Jeremiah Moon OR Khris Bogle David Reese
LB Ventrell Miller James Houston IV
LB Amari Burney Mohamoud Diabate
CB Marco Wilson Jaydon Hill
CB Kaiir Elam Chester Kimbrough
Star C.J. McWilliams Tre'vez Johnson
FS Shawn Davis Rashad Torrence
SS Donovan Stiner Trey Dean III

Thoughts on defense:

  • Just one OR and no third-teamers listed suggests Todd Grantham has his two-deep all but inked in. I’m taking that as a positive sign.
  • The scariest foursome up front, potentially? Brenton Cox, Tedarrel Slaton, Gervon Dexter, and Khris Bogle. Two lightning bolts outside and two beasts up the middle would be a package I couldn’t resist trying on passing downs.
  • There’s been some quiet buzz this week that Kyree Campbell will opt out of this season. He’s not listed on this depth chart, but presumably would be if he were healthy and ready to go, so that would certainly seem to back up the buzz.
  • I don’t totally understand the Buck and LB personnel as listed. Moon and Bogle are Bucks, but David Reese the younger always struck me as more of a stand-up linebacker than a pass-rusher; likewise, Mohamoud Diabate’s insane quickness was best deployed as a pass-rusher a year ago, and yet he’s here at ‘backer. Ventrell Miller, James Houston, and Amari Burney being more “pure” linebackers I get, though I imagine Burney could still slide to Star or drop in coverage in some packages. (I might very well be making too much of this.)
  • For all of the fretting about Florida’s depth at corner and Chris Steele’s departure early on in 2019, the strong year from the freshmen — not just Kaiir Elam, but Jaydon Hill and Chester Kimbrough, too — and Marco Wilson deciding to stick around for a senior year after what was a substandard season for him sure shored up those spots.
  • C.J. McWilliams in a starting role has been a dicey proposition before. Star might be better for him than boundary corner was, much like safety might be better for Trey Dean was, but there’s obviously a chance Florida will spend another year pining for what Chauncey Gardner-Johnson did on Saturdays in 2018.

Special Teams Depth Chart

Position First String Second String
Position First String Second String
K Evan McPherson Chris Howard
P Jacob Finn Jeremy Crawshaw
LS Brett DioGuardi OR Marco Ortiz
H Jacob Finn Jeremy Crawshaw
KR Kadarius Toney Jacob Copeland
PR Kadarius Toney Jacob Copeland

Speaking of pining: This will be the first year since 2012 that Florida won’t have a Townsend on the roster — and the only years in the span since then that a Townsend wasn’t starring at punter were ones in which Kyle Christy did. But Florida’s legacy of excellent punting extends even farther back: To reach the last season in which the Gators didn’t entrust the job to Tommy Townsend, Johnny Townsend, Christy, Chas Henry, or Eric Wilbur — five players who were all at least two-year starters at the position, and four of whom (Tommy’s the exception) started for at least three years — we have to go all the way back to 2002, a year in which Jason Hunter, Ingle Martin, and Sean Morton shared duties.

So, hey, no pressure, Jacob Finn. (On just two punts in 2018, Finn exceeded Tommy’s per-punt average. I think we’ll be fine.)

The other notable development from the special teams depth chart, though, is the use of Toney and Copeland as returners. High-risk, high-reward — but exciting as all hell.