It’s starting to feel almost like every column I write about sports should come with a warning or a caveat.
The Gainesville Sun understands the severity of the coronavirus pandemic crisis that has gripped our country and the world. We’re just trying to take your mind off it for a few minutes. So, here is a column about a football season that may be a long way from starting.
OK, we got that out of the way and can now proceed with speculation about the 2020 (or ’21) Florida football team.
This was an idea that came to me as I watched several Florida football games from last season with an eye toward which players would be a part of this year’s team and those who were departing.
This much we know — Florida has one surefire first-round NFL draft pick and his name is Christopher Henderson Jr. You know him as CJ.
Henderson is expected to go in the late teens of the first round after an excellent NFL Combine backed up what he has put on tape for three years.
Henderson had four interceptions as a freshman, two that he ran back for touchdowns, but after that rookie year teams didn’t throw his way much. He had two picks in his last two seasons (none in 2019), but Todd Grantham used him in effective corner blitzes (eight sacks in his last two seasons).
Anyway, the point of this is that he was a really good player for Florida and should be in the pros. OK, that’s NOT the point, but I wanted to make sure you all understand that this is not an insult on Henderson.
Here we go anyway.
The 5 players Florida might miss more than CJ Henderson.
Man, that hurt to type. Notice I hedged and said “might” instead of “will.” Henderson was an excellent player. But watching these games from last year sparked this idea.
1. David Reese.
On this one, I will not hedge. Reese was a leader, the alpha dog Dan Mullen is always talking about. He was physical in the tradition of Brandon Siler and Brandon Spikes and played smart. If it was third-and-1, you knew who was going to stick his nose in there and make the tackle.
There were times when Florida put him in some tough situations and he was stuck covering someone he had no business covering. And I’m not sure what kind of pro he’ll be because of the lack of speed.
I’m just not sure Florida has another guy like Reese waiting in the wings. One day, we’ll see.
2. Lamical Perine.
While Perine didn’t have the kind of rushing stats he hoped for, he still nearly reached 1,000 yards in total yards because of his 40-catch season. Even with a shaky run-blocking line, Perine averaged 5.1 yard a carry.
Two reasons: 1. Those two long touchdown runs against Auburn and Virginia; 2. He always got a yard more than he was supposed to get.
Florida has a nice running back room. But there isn’t a guy in that room that can do what Perine did in 2019.
3. Jon Greenard.
Despite injuries, nobody played harder than Greenard. That will definitely be missed.
Florida has had a history of great rush ends and Greenard fit right in during his one season with 10 sacks. He was also third on the team in tackles. That’s a guy whose motor never stopped.
4. Van Jefferson.
I’ve done several interviews with NFL people who have asked me about Jefferson. I tell them the same thing — I’d love to have him on my team.
There’s a reason why the Florida receiving corps was so strong last year. Jefferson’s attention to detail and route-running was the ultimate lead by example.
5. Nick Buchanan.
Buchanan started 25 games for the Gators in two seasons under Mullen and offensive line coach John Hevesy always talked about what a rock he was, never flustered and able to calm down the young linemen on his flanks.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.