The next batch of Gator celebrities is set to arrive in Gainesville in a few weeks. So to help Gators fans anxiously anticipating their arrival, here is a way too early look at what I think each could do this summer and fall.
Since some freshmen are already on campus and have gone through spring practice, I’ll leave them out. Think of this as a nice way to get through the long summer days before fall football practice starts.
Tyler Murphy: He might have lost some major ground with fellow frosh Trey Burton and redshirt freshman Jordan Reed doing so well during spring ball. To his credit, he did use the spring to work extensively on his throwing, something he admits needs the most work. But he could be the most athletic quarterback on Florida’s roster (see any of his highlights floating around the Internet). He’ll definitely be a guy who can be used in Wildcat situations, and he’s talented enough to be used as a wide receiver also. Expect him to start off at quarterback this summer but eventually make the move to receiver this year if it gets too crowded under center.
Mack Brown: He’s the big, bruising back that Urban Meyer has always wanted to recruit to Florida. He dealt with a hamstring injury throughout his entire high school career but only recently did it really slow him down. He says he’s finally close to 100 percent and his speed is back to the 4.4 range. With Chris Rainey playing more in the slot, Brown figures to get more reps, but after rising sophomore Mike Gillislee easily earned the Most Improved Gator award this spring, Brown will certainly be in a fight. Emmanuel Moody and track star Jeff Demps will start out atop the depth chart as well. If he’s completely healthy, Brown will challenge each running back for time. But with so much talent ahead of him, I think Brown might be up for a redshirt in his first year.
Chris Dunkley: He was the top receiver on Florida’s board the entire year and now he’ll finally be getting on campus to play. He’ll have to increase his weight (he is listed at 5-foot-11, 170 pounds), but that shouldn’t be an issue now that he’s on Florida’s workout plan. Deonte Thompson proved he can step into the No. 1 sport, and Carl Moore didn’t look too bad after a tremendous spring game. Freshmen Solomon Patton and Robert Clark brought some excitement in the slot, while youngsters Frankie Hammond Jr., T.J. Lawrence and Omarius Hines seem primed to make major strides this year. Florida figures to throw the ball around more and Dunkley looks like a guy who can come in and compete from the start. He’s just too good not to get playing time this year.
Quinton Dunbar: He’s certainly got speed and great height at 6-3, but he might not be as polished. He’ll have some stiff competition when he gets in, but he’s got the confidence that he can be a player at the X or Z. His size will definitely help him get some good, early reps in July, but he might not have the playmaking ability of Dunkley. Look for Dunbar to be a guy who can either make it on special teams or redshirt.
Adrian Coxson: Like Dunbar, he’s got the size (6-2, 195) to get some early looks, but his speed has been called into question. Meyer and his staff strive to get the fastest, most athletic guys on the field and Coxson might have to work on his feet a bit more before he makes an impact on the team. There’s nothing wrong with redshirting your first year, and I think he’s got the frame to do good things on offense in the future.
Michael McFarland: He was once asked to grayshirt and is now enrolling in few weeks. Mentally, he seems to have way more confidence now than when he was first approached with the thought of sitting out the fall outside of Gainesville. He’ll have to keep his weight up, but that shouldn’t be as hard since his basketball career is over. Reed and freshman Gerald Christian looked very good at tight end this spring, and Desmond Parks should be back from injury. McFarland will have a few bodies in front of him from day one, so he still looks like a strong candidate for a redshirt.
Chaz Green: He was one of Meyer’s prized commits on National Signing Day. The position wasn’t a huge need last year, but he was a big get for the Gators. He’ll have to compete with 14 other scholarship linemen this summer, and all of last year’s freshman have seen game time. It won’t be easy, but it won’t be the end of the world if he doesn’t get on the field this fall. He’s got the talent to get in somewhere (look at Xavier Nixon last season or special teams lines), but it’s never a bad idea to develop linmen. Redshirting seems like the best idea.
Ronald Powell (DE): If he wants to play tight end, he will. If he wants to play linebacker, he will. And if he wants to start at defensive end, I think he will. He was arguably the top high school recruit last year, and he’s one of the most athletic defensive prospects I’ve seen in years. If he has the same intensity and fire that he had in high school, expect him to come in and immediately compete for a starting spot. He’s too good not to play, and while there are bodies in front of him, he looks like a guy who won’t have a problem competing with anyone. I see him as a starter this season. Maybe not right off the bat, but he’ll earn that spot before too long.
Sharrif Floyd (DT): Like Powell, he’s just too good to sit. He was an absolute beast during the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. The only problem is the defensive tackle curse at Florida. Recent heavily hyped defensive tackles who came to Gainesville have not panned out. Omar Hunter was hit with a rash of injuries as a freshman but is now a solid body in the middle who should be the top interior lineman for the Gators alongside senior Lawrence Marsh. Floyd could push himself in front of both of those guys, but I only see it happening if injuries occur. Defensive line coach Dan McCarney loves to rotate a ton of guys. Floyd will play, and I think he will play a lot.
Dominique Easley (DE/DT): Another beast of an defensive lineman in this class. He’s extremely talented, but I don’t know if he’s exactly on Powell’s level. He’s a guy who can really disrupt the running game and could be used inside and out. He’ll play this year and he’ll get some a nice reps at tackle and end. Don’t be surprised if his playing time increases throughout the year.
Lynden Trail (DE): Earlier this year he became known for his awesome leadership and public relations skills, but Trail has a lot of talent as well. He might not be the physical specimen that a Powell or an Easley is, but he’s got a ton of speed. He’s very fast off the line and he’s got a ton of strength to back it up. I see him as more of a special teams guy in the sense that he can be used to block punts and field goals/extra points. He’s so fast off the edge that he’ll see most of his time in that role during his first year.
Michael Taylor: Size has been the issue with Taylor at 6-1, 213 pounds. When I saw him this spring I definitely agreed. But he’s got a game-time motor that Florida coaches will love. He’ll be a guy Meyer and defensive coordinator Teryl Austin talk about constantly this summer. There’s a need at linebacker, but it looks like young guns Jelani Jenkins and Jon Bostic will have spots along with veterans Brandon Hicks and A.J. Jones. I anticipate Taylor being a special teams guy because his work ethic will be too much to redshirt him.
Gideon Ajagbe: He might be the most athletic linebacker in the class, but he’s very raw. He can play safety and linebacker, which means his coverage skill should be good, but he’ll need some work on his technique. So did Bostic last year. Ajagbe is another guy who could spend time on special teams, but might need another year of development before getting playing time. He’s also got to grow out of his 197-pound body. A redshirt is a strong possibility.
Darrin Kitchens: Athleticism doesn’t escape him, but like Ajagbe, Kitchens is raw. He’ll have to put on some pounds as well, since he was pushing 215 when he signed But Kitchens has got great height at 6-3. I see him as a redshirt candidate.
Cody Riggs (CB): His size will be an issue at 5-10, 165 pounds, but his speed won’t. Riggs became one of the fastest high schoolers in the country when he posted an impressive 36.51 in the 300m hurdles earlier this spring. And he just captured gold in the event at the Class 4A state track and field meet this month. There is certainly going to be some heavy competition at cornerback this summer, and it didn’t help him that freshmen Joshua Shaw and Jaylen Watkins looked impressive this spring. Riggs will have a chance to get some time this fall because there aren’t a ton of bodies, but if he doesn’t make it as a special-teams gunner, he’ll probably sit this season out with a redshirt.
Jonathan Dowling: He’s a guy who can line up at safety and wide receiver. He’s that athletic and that good. Because of how sharp Florida’s receivers looked this spring, my guess is that he’ll start out at safety. It will be an uphill battle for him, but Dowling’s coverage skills are outstanding and he could get looks at the nickel corner position along with frosh Matt Elam. I think Dowling gets some playing time this year in a reserve role.
Travon Van: He was an impressive prospect at running back in high school but looks best suited for cornerback. He could also be used in the return game. I see him has a special-teams guy with corner as his primary position. Whether he returns kicks or gets a job as a gunner, he’ll play this year on special teams.