The Gators head into a new year with a new starting Quarterback, the long awaited Emory Jones era is upon us. As is always the case with college football, the stars leave for the NFL, and new stars have to take their place. So here’s 5 questions for the Florida Gators season, in the wake of Kyle Pitts, Kyle Trask, Kadarius Toney and the rest of the class that are now playing on Sundays.
The Gators open their season on Saturday in the swamp, against FAU. So what do we need to find out?
Can Emory Jones be everything Dan Mullen wants him to be?
It feels like we’ve been waiting for Emory to get his shot forever. However Dan Mullen encourages his guys to be patient, especially the QBs. His track record as a positional coach with the likes of Tim Tebow, Dak Prescott, Alex Smith and most recently Kyle Trask has me excited to see what Emory Jones can do with a full season under his belt.
So far, we’ve only seen Emory in packages, and 90% of those have been designed QB runs, allowing him to use his athleticism to gain yardage. However, this season he will also be the passing QB. Jones has been with the Gators since 2018, and was the primary quarterback commit when Dan Mullen took over. In fact, he’s the first Quarterback to run the team who was actually recruited by Dan Mullen after he arrived.
Originally, Jones committed to Ohio State, before sending a text to Dan Mullen, stating “Coach, I want to be your quarterback’. His patience in seeing the field is finally going to pay off this year, and despite only throwing 87 passes in total for the Gators across three seasons, he’ll have the full year at his disposal to prove himself as one of the top QBs in college football.
Is Jacob Copeland capable of being a legitimate number 1 target?
Cope will take over as the primary target at receiver following Kadarius Toney’s departure, and has also picked up the number 1 jersey this season. Mullen grants the jersey to players he feels deserve it, one on offence and one on defence, and so far has handed the jersey to guys like CJ Henderson and Toney.
Now, Copeland will don the number 1, and I’d like to see him elevate his game in a similar way to Toney’s jump in production last season. The Gators will have to find new targets this year, after Pitts and Toney combined for 1,747 yards & 22 touchdowns between them last season. Trevon Grimes made his way into the endzone on another 9 occasions, so guys are going to have to step it up for this years campaign.
Of course, with Emory Jones taking over, as the year unfolds his top targets will emerge. He has talent in guys like Xzavier Henderson and former Penn State transfer Justin Shorter too. It feels like a fairly inexperienced class, but the Gators did just fine last year after the receiver room was gutted with the departure of Freddie Swain, Tyrie Cleveland, Van Jefferson and Josh Hammond, all at the same time. It’s all about chemistry between the guys and Emory. Copeland will be given the chance to dominate primarily as an outside receiver, and is a very different type of talent to both Toney and Pitts. So far in his three years with the Gators, he has 724 yards and 5 touchdowns. His best game came against LSU last year, with 123 yards and a TD, and he showed us what he might be able to do on a regular basis. I hope we get to see THAT Jacob Copeland every week this season.
Is Kemore Gamble as good as Kyle Pitts says he is?
Pitts had a lot of praise for Gamble, as did tight ends coach Tim Brewster, who has come out and said that Gamble is going to be the best tight end in the SEC. High praise!
Kemore Gamble was recruited heavily by Alabama back in 2017 before he landed with Florida, and the hype around him is taking off ahead of this season. Of course, with the Kyle Pitts fairytale in the rear view mirror, there’s a void to fill. Gamble and Keon Zipperer have a mountain to climb to recreate that kind of buzz at the tight end position, but as with the receivers, it’ll be exciting to see who connects with Emory Jones on a regular basis this year.
Gamble acted as the TE1 last season while Pitts missed some time, and had great performances against Vandy and Georgia. Now, he needs to be that guy every week.
How is the secondary going to cope?
The Gators secondary wasn’t exactly established last year, and feels even less experiences going into this season. Of course, Kaiir Elam is a diamond in the rough. His talent is every bit obvious and all being well he should be a first round pick and one of the best corners in all of college football this season. I’d like to see him challenge the likes of Derek Stingley Jr for that title.
However, outside of Elam, i’m a little concerned. At corner, Jaydon Hill was the second most experienced talent we had, and a very unfortunate ACL tear has sidelined him for the season. We do have Elijah Blades who transferred from Texas A&M, and based off experience I’d imagine he’ll be in a position to get plenty of reps.
Young guys are going to have to step up, as Elam did when he came in. We should see the likes of red shirt freshman Ethan Pouncey, who the Gators heavily recruited, and others such as Avery Helm, and freshman Jason Marshall Jr. The number two corner spot is up for grabs, and either Blades or one of these guys needs to fill it quickly and effectively.
As for the safeties, it can’t get much more inconsistent than it has been the last couple of years, so I’m all for the opportunity the new young group is going to have. Donovan Stiner, Shawn Davis & Trey Dean took the majority of the snaps last year, with freshman Rashad Torrence II getting involved at times too. Trey Dean is the most experienced guy back there, and he has work to do to tidy his game up himself, then everybody else behind him lacks the experience. That being said, like I mentioned, it’s not been a strong point for the Gators for a couple of years now anyway, and there’ll be opportunities for Torrence, Mordecai McDaniel, Donovan McMillan and Corey Collier Jr.
Are the Gators going to unleash Demarkcus Bowman?
I remember when Bowman chose Clemson over the Gators, that the buzz around him left Gator fans extremely disappointed. He was one of the top recruits in the country and a back that the Gators badly wanted to land. Roll the clocks forward a season and he transferred over to us anyway. The question is, how much playing time is the young talent going to get this season with guys like Dameon Pierce and Malik Davis ahead of him on the depth chart. Nay’Quan Wright showed some great potential last season too and he’s a guy I’m rooting for too.
Dan Mullen confirmed that the Clemson transfer will be immediately available back in July, so there’s no reason we can’t see him play in the orange and blue in 2021… Bowman has a whole bunch of natural talent and highlights coming out of camp have Gator fans even more excited about him. I hope he gets plenty of playing time, or at least a chance to show some of his skills this year. Fortunately, the running back room seems pretty deep. Now Gator vets Dameon Pierce and Malik Davis bring the experience, and then with the recent additions of not only Bowman, but also Lorenzo Lingard Jr from Miami, who teamed up with the Gators last year, there’s almost not enough carries to share around. Both Pierce, a senior, and Davis, a redshirt senior, will be leaving at the end of this season, so if nothing else, Gator fans will want a taste of what life after those two is going to be like… and the future certainly looks bright at the position.
5 Questions for the Florida Gators Season 5 Questions for the Florida Gators Season 5 Questions for the Florida Gators Season 5 Questions for the Florida Gators Season 5 Questions for the Florida Gators Season