Every fall, a handful of Florida football players who haven’t previously drawn much attention start to emerge as significant contributors.
Here are six Gators (three on offense, three on defense) who aren’t really on the radar now, but will have a chance to show up this season:
C’yontai Lewis, Tight end, Sr. — He hasn’t been much of a factor up to this point in his career, combining to catch only 27 passes over the past three seasons. He’ll have a chance to double that production in one season playing in an offense that features the tight end in the passing game. Long and athletic, Lewis can be a matchup problem for safeties and linebackers. He had an excellent spring, catching multiple passes. The key for him in 2018 is showing better consistency with his hands. If he does, he could have a huge season.
Rick Wells, Wide receiver, So. — A four-star prospect coming out of Jacksonville Raines, this guy has been completely off the radar since he’s been here. He redshirted his freshman season, then was suspended all of last season for alleged credit card fraud. But this spring, out of nowhere, Wells emerged as a potential playmaker. He showed speed, the ability to get open and a determination to go get the ball. Transfers Van Jefferson and Trevon Grimes are getting all the attention heading into the season, but Wells has a chance to make his presence felt this fall.
Noah Banks, Offensive tackle, Jr. — This junior college transfer from Iowa Western College is physically and mentally ready to go and brings instant depth to the two offensive tackle spots. Should the coaches feel the need to move Martez Ivey back inside to guard, the 6-foot-6, 315 pounds Banks is ready to step in at one of the tackles. He figures to be in the playing rotation either way.
Jeawon Taylor, Safety, Jr. — This player actually started emerging in the second half of last season, starting five of the final six games. Then he sort of disappeared. He injured his shoulder against UAB, underwent surgery and was held out of contact work in the spring. But he showed last season that he’s not only a player, he also has leadership qualities that were evident in a young secondary. He’s looking at a possible breakout season if his shoulder cooperates.
Rayshad Jackson, Linebacker, Jr. — This Miami product has mostly just been a special teams player in the past, but it looks like his role is going to change dramatically under new defensive coordinator Todd Grantham. Jackson worked with the No. 1 defense for most of the spring and impressed everybody with his aggressiveness and instincts for being in the right place at the right time. He’s a physical linebacker who can really run.
Ventrell Miller, LB, Fr. — Like Wells, Miller was suspended all of last season for alleged credit card fraud and forgotten. Apparently undeterred by the year off, Miller announced his arrival in the spring with numerous big-time hits that drew everyone’s attention on the practice field. And he appears to be more than just a big hitter. He also has shown good instincts for playing the position. He’s set himself up to be in the playing rotation in the fall.