Five Florida freshmen who may emerge as contributors in ’18

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Florida quarterback Jake Allen throws during the second day of fall practice last August at the Donald R. Dizney Lacrosse Stadium on campus. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]

All it takes is one injury, one redshirt year, one season on the bench to go from a four-star prospect to a forgotten freshman.
It happens every year on campuses across the nation, including at Florida, where some high-profile prospects usually fade from our consciousness early for various reasons only to re-emerge the following spring or fall.
Even though 14 true freshmen played for the Gators in 2017, a handful of others did not. While their signing class brothers were playing, they were becoming the forgotten freshmen.
Here are five in that category who have a chance to re-emerge and start making an impact this spring:
Jake Allen, QB, Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas
In a new offense under a new coach, all the quarterbacks will be considered equal when spring practice opens in March. The QB who picks up the offense the quickest will emerge as the early leader for the starting role. And by all accounts, Allen has a high football IQ. And he has an impressive high school resume as a two-year starter at one of the state’s powerhouse schools. He led St. Thomas to the Class 7A state championship his senior year, throwing for 323 yards and five touchdowns in the title game. He’s not just a thrower, he’s also athletic enough to make plays with his legs. Like the other scholarship QBs, the redshirt freshman will be competing for the starting role this spring.
Zachary Carter, defensive end, Tampa Hillsborough
This four-star prospect had all the physical tools to play as a true freshman, but he struggled picking up the defense, fell behind in camp and never caught up. As a result, he did not see the field and redshirted last fall. Carter, who showed great promise with his play on the scout team the second half of the season, will get a fresh start under a new defensive coordinator (Todd Grantham) and new defensive line coach (Sal Sunseri). He has the size (6-foot-4, 263 pounds) and athletic ability to have an impact at end and possibly even at tackle in a 3-4 scheme.
Kemore Gamble, tight end, Miami Southridge
A four-star prospect, Gamble was an early enrollee last spring and made quite an early impression on the coaching staff with his athletic ability, pass-catching skills and willingness to block. Following an excellent spring and solid early camp in August, Gamble appeared headed for significant playing time last season. But he injured his foot in early September and the injury lingered, leading to a redshirt season. With the graduation of DeAndre Goolsby, the starting tight end position is wide open heading into the spring, and Gamble may be the best combination tight end (receiving and blocking) on the roster.
Daquon Green, wide receiver, Tampa Bay Tech
This four-star prospect seemed headed for immediate playing time in 2017 after drawing praise from Jim McElwain and others during training camp for his sure hands and ability to go up and make plays on 50-50 balls. But once the season got here, he became a forgotten freshman. He saw the field in only two games (Kentucky and Missouri) and had zero receptions. Because he played in a game so late in the season (Nov. 4 at Missouri), it appears unlikely that he would qualify for a redshirt season. The Gators are still in need of playmakers at wide receiver, and as he showed in preseason camp last August, Green does have the size (6-1, 187) and ability to make plays.
Nick Smith, linebacker, Orlando Dr. Phillips
This fast, athletic three-star prospect had designs on working his way into the playing rotation at the depth-shy linebacker positions as a true freshman, but that plan came to an abrupt end in July when he injured his knee during summer workouts. The injury required surgery and led to a redshirt year. He was close to being back to 100 percent by the end of the season and should be good to go for spring practice. Given the fact the LB spots have even less depth now, Smith will have a chance to make an impact at a position of need.

26 COMMENTS

  1. Nice article, but some if not all of them were not actually “forgotten” several were injured. The new coaches should be able to much better use the talent that is on the team. I would like a return to looking for walk on talent, some previous coach had some great successes, and being somewhat short of individuals this would be a great idea. Former military would be another great option.

        • Joe, former walk on. Mayfield is a scholarship player absolutely. Walk ons are great and I said I liked them. Point was if you have walk ons all over the field we’ll have to curb our expectations…wont be beating bama or Georgia anytime soon with them. Cristian Garcia is a great story and played admirably but don’t tell me there wasn’t a drop off going from Davis or anzalone to garcia

  2. If any QB on the roster gets in before Jones I think we’re in trouble. That depth chart needs new blood. Not sure how athletic Allen is, but if anything I think it would be Alex Smith type athleticism, not game changing . Trask could have been injured at some point, but I think he was healthy in spring and couldn’t beat out Franks ( 2 star recruit for a reason). Franks is a Jarmcus Russell size bust for the program. Franks should transfer, all the tools but can’t put it together. Would like to see them get a second QB in the class for new depth. We’ll be back soon, Mullen is a great coach and the team is young! GO GATORS!!

    • would like to see Franks given a chance at wide receiver, maybe even tight end, but yes, a bust as qb. agree with assessment on trask as well. would like to keep an open mind on the jones/allen question though, and trust dan mullen to make the right decision.

  3. I will GLADLY take Alex Smith type athleticism
    Jake Allen is a stud. He is a film room junkie and was coached by Eric Kresser (@Matt, Kresser was a backup QB to a guy named Wuerffel) He is going to be a contender for the starting QB.

    • Hank I wanna call you a moron but I’ll refrain! Alex Smith was great in college, I’m talking Alex Smith as a pro. He’s been absolutely nothing but a game manager. Fell way short of being a first overall pick. Jake Allen is a stud, but is a pro style qb. The guy is great and hope he does fit the system well, but I think emory Jones is a better fit and has a higher ceiling! My opinion, slide it on back!

    • kresser actually lasted a couple of years in the NFL even though he only started one homecoming game if i remember correctly. i sort of remember the good old days when the quarterback depth was that fantastic. or maybe it’s just the alzenheimers and wishful thinking.

  4. Allen will start in the fall. Then Jones as he develops. FF and Trask will back up or transfer after spring. To bad previous Clown Coaches needlessly played Green and may have cost him a year, Idiots. #2 QB option will have to be a perfered walk on. Wyatt Rector or someone else that would fit DM offense. Guilty, about a of the players listed. DM will shift the wheat from the chafe pretty quickly. Looking forward to the Orange and Blue game. Will drive up for the first time in many years.

  5. Emory Jones needs to put on pounds(of muscle) to be able to run the ball in the SEC more than Jake Allen would be asked to do. As Jones tries to gain weight, maybe Allen IS the answer. Mullen made it work with Chris Leak, who has a similar skill set to Allen, I suppose. I’m not ruling out anybody as our starter right now, though I have doubts about Franks because I didn’t see improvement in “field awareness” for him as the season progressed and he gained experience. I am confident Mullen will make the best choice.

  6. Agree, Lex Smith and Chris Leak were pretty good QB’S. Jake Allen can easily be that type of QB to start with. Think he may have sold a little short last year. All Mac and Nuss cared about was a big arm. Mullens is looking for a a much more complete package in his QB’S. Just don’t see FF or Trask fitting that bill. Time will tell alright.

  7. Interesting article. No mention of Felipe Franks. Coach Mac said last season he was “the guy” who best understood the offense, had a cannon for an arm–and could run. Well, he got one out of 3 right. Franks does have an arm. The question was always “Who is he throwing it to?” I don’t think Franks can beat out Trask or Allen, at least from what I saw of those two in high school. Franks has shown me nothing extraordinary. Almost like another Jeff Driskell. Remember him. The No. 1 rated recruit in the entire country and he went to Florida. He then fell in a sinkhole of interceptions and was last seen getting a free agent contract from some NFL team. I do like the fact that Mullen said the QB job is open competition. Look for Franks to transfer to Louisiana Tech or Southwest Missouri State when he doesn’t become the starter. I’m sure he will succeed. Look at Jacoby Brissett, Driskell, Will Grier, et. al. All enjoyed success after transferring. So was the problem the system or the school?

  8. The QB contest is wide open. Competent offensive coaches, a competent strength coach intent on instilling physical and mental toughness… some may crack under the pressure and run home to mommy, but others will emerge from the molten cauldron with minds and bodies of tempered steel, and they will unleash terror on the SEC.

    Also, thank God for a Tight End willing to block. What an improvement that will be! Our opponents will actually have to play against all 11 guys on offense now, and not just the 5 or 6 who feel like executing their assignments on any given play.