UF juniors can now eye next step; Jawaan Taylor leaving for NFL

Florida running back Jordan Scarlett reaches the end zone for a one-yard touchdown in the third quarter Saturday against Michigan in the Peach Bowl in Atlanta. [Mike Stewart/Associated Press]

By Zach Abolverdi, Correspondent

ATLANTA — With the season over, the Gators now await the verdicts of their junior players considering the NFL draft.

Florida defensive back Chauncey-Gardner Johnson, who earned Defensive MVP in the Peach Bowl, announced earlier this month that he will forgo his senior season. The deadline for early entrants to declare is Jan. 14.

Right tackle Jawaan Taylor and defensive end Jachai Polite are expected to make the jump with Gardner-Johnson, but both said Saturday they haven’t decided.

“Not yet,” Taylor said after Florida’s 41-15 win over Michigan. “Really it’s just about, am I ready to go to the next level? I just gotta sit down with my family and talk to them.”

Later Saturday, Taylor announced on Twitter he was bypassing his senior season.

Polite and Taylor have both received first-round projections from some draft analysts. With another turnover caused Saturday, Polite tied the school record for forced fumbles in a season (six) and finished the year with 11 sacks.

“There’s a lot of pluses staying here, but there’s a lot of pluses leaving also,” Polite said. “If this is my last game, I went out on a high note to end the season. We just beat Michigan! They beat us twice in the last three years, so we had to get them back.”

Running backs Lamical Perine and Jordan Scarlett told reporters they need to sit down with their family members before making a decision. Perine led the Gators this season with 826 yards and seven touchdowns, while Scarlett rushed for 776 yards and five scores.

“It’s really up in the air right now,” Scarlett said of the NFL. “I’m still trying to figure things out. I’m going to talk to my family and see what they think. Just trying to get my draft status back and see how that’s looking, and then I’ll make my decision from there.”

Wide receiver Van Jefferson is also undecided. The Ole Miss transfer caught four passes for 64 yards Saturday, bringing his season totals to 35 receptions for 503 yards and six touchdowns. That’s an improvement from his 2017 numbers with the Rebels.

“I have not made a decision yet,” Jefferson said. “After this I’m just going to talk to my family and see what goes on. Mainly, I’m just going to listen to my dad (Miami Dolphins wide receivers coach Shawn Jefferson). He’s in it and has the information I need.”

Linebacker David Reese II has already announced his intentions to return for his senior season. Linebacker Vosean Joseph and defensive end Jabari Zuniga are the other juniors still to decide.

“I’m not really sure yet,” Joseph said. “The biggest thing for me is leaving my brothers. That’s hard for me, so I really gotta sit down and think about that. We’ve got a great group.

“Look at what we did this year. That’s just the first season. Next year is going to be way better. Coach (Dan) Mullen has the Gators back.”


  1. Coach Mullen (and staff) indeed have the Gators back. This Peach Bowl win was a statement – the Gators have returned to the stage and are ready to take the next step (compete for the SEC title). Should the Gators win the SEC title next year, they will play for the national title. We are losing some good (maybe even great) players. However, we are reloading, and this 10-win season capped off by thumping Michigan should help us win some crucial recruiting battles. GO GATORS!!!

    • Well stated IAMIOWAN. I already figured we would be getting some high value recruits even after the early signing period. This win will make decisions harder for some that might not have had our GATORS as high as some others they choose. We will know by February 2019 who we gat to commit. We are back and the other 119 teams better recognize! GO GATORS!!!

  2. Really glad to hear Reese say he’s coming back. He’s a great field manager. His leadership factored significantly in the success of the defense. Smart guy and team player. The players seemed to play harder when he was on the field.