Florida Gators 2021 preview: Offense to feature new look at QB, skill positions
The Florida football team is set to return to the practice field with fall training camp starting Aug. 6.
The Gators kick off the season a month later with their Sept. 4 home opener against Florida Atlantic. Over the next three days, the Sun will preview UF’s offensive, defensive and special teams units for 2021.
Versatility at QB:Mullen confident in Jones' QB development, game experience
Up first is the offense, which lost six starters from a year ago.
Departures: Kyle Trask
Returners: Emory Jones, Anthony Richardson
Newcomers: Carlos Del Rio-Wilson, Jalen Kitna
Overview: The Gators have a new position coach (Garrick McGee) and starter at quarterback with former offensive coordinator Brian Johnson and Heisman Trophy finalist Kyle Trask moving on to the NFL. Emory Jones, a former top-100 recruit, now takes the reins after biding his time behind Trask and Feleipe Franks. At SEC Media Days, Florida coach Dan Mullen said Jones is prepared for this opportunity and ready to take advantage. UF’s passing offense should take a step back without Trask, though the drop in production may be offset by more QB runs from Jones and Anthony Richardson, who is expected to play as well.
Departures: Iverson Clement (transfer)
Returners: Dameon Pierce, Malik Davis, Nay’Quan Wright, Lorenzo Lingard
Newcomers: Demarkcus Bowman (transfer)
Overview: Florida’s running game didn’t cut the mustard last season, but could be the strength of the offense in 2021. The Gators brought back their top three rushers and added a second five-star transfer to the backfield in Demarkcus Bowman, who has immediate eligibility. Dameon Pierce and Malik Davis, both of whom averaged 4.7 yards per carry last season, will likely receive the majority of the touches with junior Nay’Quan Wright. The trio combined for 1,778 yards of total offense (1,026 rushing) and seven touchdowns in 2020. Lorenzo Lingard is also pushing for playing time after a breakout performance in spring.
Departures: Kadarius Toney, Trevon Grimes
Returners: Jacob Copeland, Justin Shorter, Xzavier Henderson, Ja'Quavion Fraziars, Jordan Pouncey, Rick Wells, Trent Whittemore, Ja’Markis Weston
Newcomers: Marcus Burke, Daejon Reynolds
Overview: A year removed from losing four receivers to the NFL, Florida has to replace the tandem of Trevon Grimes and Kadarius Toney, a first-round pick. Toney’s jersey and position now belong to Jacob Copeland, the lone returning starter. He moved to the slot in the spring and was awarded No. 1 this offseason by Mullen. Justin Shorter also has a new number (4) and will fill the void left by Grimes outside. The Gators have several options for their third and fourth receiver spots, with sophomores such as Xzavier Henderson and Ja'Quavion Fraziars competing against upperclassmen Jordan Pouncey and Rick Wells.
Departures: Kyle Pitts
Returners: Kemore Gamble, Keon Zipperer, Jonathan Odom
Newcomers: Nick Elksnis, Gage Wilcox
Overview: Florida’s tight end position obviously won’t be the same without Mackey Award winner Kyle Pitts, but it should still be productive this fall. Kemore Gamble and Keon Zipperer have been in the program for multiple years and both made plays with Pitts out of the lineup last season. Gamble, now wearing No. 2, likely gets the starting nod as a senior, but watch out for Zipperer. He’s a versatile weapon who has the potential to play an H-Back role, catching shovel passes and tight end screens. Early enrollee Nick Elksnis also impressed during spring ball and could see the field as a true freshman.
Departures: Stone Forsythe, Brett Heggie, TJ Moore (transfer)
Returners: Richard Gouraige, Ethan White, Stewart Reese, Josh Braun, Jean Delance, Will Harrod, Kingsley Eguakun, Richie Leonard, Gerald Mincey, Michael Tarquin, Riley Simonds
Newcomers: Austin Barber, Yousef Mugharbil, Jake Slaughter
Overview: With 59 combined starts between departing left tackle Stone Forsythe and center Brett Heggie, UF identified two experienced upperclassmen to replace them. Richard Gouraige moved to left tackle after starting at left guard the past two seasons, while Ethan White took over Gouragie’s previous position following time at right guard and center. Stewart Reese also switched to a new spot in the spring, going from right guard to center. Reese returned for a sixth year along with right tackle Jean Delance, who’s looking to bounce back from a rough showing in 2020. Josh Braun is projected to replace Reese at right guard in the starting lineup.