As defending SEC East champions, the Florida Gators will feature an offense that starkly contrasts from last season. Without Kyle Trask, Kyle Pitts, Kadarius Toney and Trevon Grimes, Florida loses much of its production from one of the nation’s best passing offenses in 2020. Let’s take a look into the Gators upcoming roster and how they plan to make up for the lost talent.
Presumptive starting quarterback Emory Jones will take the helm of the Gators offense that will likely rely more on the ground game for production as Dameon Pierce, Malik Davis and Nay’quan Wright all return to bolster a backfield with seasoned guys. They’ve also got Clemson transfer DeMarkcus Bowman and Miami transfer Lorenzo Lingard, two five-star recruits out of high school that have yet to make a significant impact at the intercollegiate level.
There are several receivers set to make an impact with the gaps left behind by the 2020 core, and redshirt junior Jacob Copeland looks to be the top option available as the most prolific returning pass-catcher from last season.
Justin Shorter gives the Gators a favorable matchup in size as a 6-5 wideout, and a tight end duo of Keon Zipperer and Kemore Gamble bring experience as blockers and upfield receivers to contribute to multiple offensive aspects. The offensive line returns three starters but arguably the biggest hole to fill will be at the left tackle spot previously occupied by Stone Forsythe. Richard Gouraige, Stewart Reese, Ethan White and Jean Delance are the veterans who will be mainstays on the O-line unit.
The Gators’ front seven returns a lot of experience including pass rush leaders Zachary Carter and Brenton Cox Jr. as well as both of their 2020 top tacklers in Ventrell Miller and Mohamoud Diabate, among others. That will be extremely valuable for a defense that graduated four guys from the secondary this past year, and previously projected starter Jaydon Hill will not get to follow up a strong sophomore campaign after tearing his ACL in practice last week.
Potential All-American cornerback Kaiir Elam is going to be the glue among a position group that seems to be one of the Gators’ most questionable heading into the season. Texas A&M transfer Elijah Blades brings SEC experience, and Jadarrious Perkins, who was on the Mizzou roster in the spring after committing out of junior college and promptly left, has an opportunity to immediately contribute alongside the younger athletes on the roster. Safety Amari Burney, who made 52 tackles and one interception last season, will also be a key contributor.
Florida enters the year ranked 11th on the coaches poll and 13th on the AP preseason poll. Maintaining its spot atop the SEC East will require head coach Dan Mullen to get the most out of Jones and the offense. That shouldn’t be much of an issue though considering Mullen has a track record of building impressive units with mobile quarterbacks like Dak Prescott and Feleipe Franks, both of whom aren’t as athletic as Jones. But, what will be just as crucial – if not more – is the performance of “DBU” a year after it broke the school record for most passing touchdowns allowed in a single season (28).
Mizzou hosts Florida at Faurot Field for its last home game of the year on November 20, which will give the Tigers adequate time to prepare for whatever the Gators’ offense brings this year. However, Mizzou fans can still expect a tough matchup against the defending SEC East champions. Four Gators were named to the Preseason Media Days All-SEC teams, and five received honors on NCFAA preseason watch lists.