UF Spring Football Primer: Newcomers to Watch

Florida redshirt freshman wide receiver Jacob Copeland (15) gets the opportunity this spring to play a key role on the offense. [Alan Youngblood/Staff photographer]

Jacob Copeland, WR: One of the highest-rated players in the 2018 recruiting class, his UF career got off to a slow start when he injured his knee early in preseason camp and underwent surgery. Once he recovered late in the season, he started showing his playmaking potential in practice and saw playing time in the Idaho game. The expectation is this explosive athlete will work his way into the playing rotation at wide receiver.

Andrew Chatfield, OLB/DE: With a lack of proven depth at outside linebacker with the early departure of Vosean Joseph to the NFL, this highly rated prospect is expected to compete with sophomore James Houston for the starting role. There’s also a chance he could be a factor at the DE/OLB vacancy left by Polite and Jefferson.

Richard Gouraige, OT: Gouraige benefited from some playing time last fall and lots of reps in practice under offensive line coach John Hevesy. He came on strong in practice late in the season and is expected to compete for a starting role at left tackle, which is wide open with the departure of Martez Ivey.

Emory Jones, QB: After being brought along at a relatively slow and comfortable pace by Mullen last season, the dual-threat QB is expected to have an expanded role in the offense as he challenges incumbent starter Feleipe Franks. He’ll likely get plenty of reps with the No. 1 offense this spring.

Malik Langham, DE/DT: One of the highest-rated prospects in the 2018 recruiting class, Langham was signed as a defensive end. But he’s steadily gained weight and is now already at 286 pounds. The coaches are projecting that he’ll likely grow into a defensive tackle, which is where he’ll probably get lots of reps this spring. By the fall, he could be ready to compete for a starting role.

David Reese, OLB: This quick and athletic redshirt freshman is capable of playing safety, but he figures to spend his spring at outside linebacker, where the starting role is wide open with the early departure of Vosean Joseph to the NFL. He’s a potential playmaker in UF’s attacking defense.

Chris Steele, CB: Mullen has already said this true freshmen is going to get reps with the No. 1 defense this spring because of the lack of depth at the corner spots. While former starter Marco Wilson still not fully recovered from knee surgery, Steele will have a chance to compete for the starting role this spring.

Mohamoud Diabate, LB/DE: This four-star recruit and true freshman from Alabama could see practice time at both outside linebacker and the hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker spot vacated by Polite and Jefferson. With a good developmental spring, he could be in a position to compete for possible playing time in the fall.

Will Harrod, OL: Among the four freshmen offensive linemen who enrolled early, he is the highest-rated prospect and probably the most athletic. Given the lack of depth across the board on the offensive line, he could see practice time at tackle and guard this spring. It’s not easy to play as a true freshman on the offensive line, but he might have an opportunity to do so with a good spring.

Jaydon Hill, CB: Like Steele, this highly rated true freshmen should get plenty of reps this spring at a position that lacks proven depth. A four-star recruit who excelled in man coverage in high school, he will have an opportunity to work his way into the playing rotation this spring.


What: Start of UF spring football practice. It’s open to the public

When: 4:15-6:45 p.m.

Where: Sanders Practice Fields on UF campus. Bleachers will be set up on the east side along the Indoor Practice Facility. Fans can congregate on the east and south sides to watch practice.


  1. Is it me or does it seem like when coaches make an “expanded package” for a dual threat QB, it is rarely and barely seen during a game, especially when the package is for a specific game. Yes, I’m certain the game flow dictates personnel, but really, we may see a couple of plays or at most a series. I would like to see what Emory Jones can really do when he gets into a rhythm. Maybe the spring game. Gonna go see in person.

    • You know Phil, QB is the most intriguing position battle this spring and summer. CDM has said it’ll be wide open, but it’s contrary to his coaching history to hand the starting job to the less experienced player. And Franks, with all his limitations, has 2 years on Emory Jones.

      I don’t believe Jones will take the starting job away from Franks, but it would speak well for him if he gets as much meaningful action this fall as Tebow got in 2006.

      • I believe that Franks definitely has a leg up here. You could see his confidence build throughout last year and by the end of the year he was very effective. Emory, Kyle, and Jalon have their work cut out for them. That said, I believe that CDM likes to win … so whoever he puts out on the field is the guy he thinks gives the team the best chance. So whoever wins the starting job, will have proven to be the Gator’s best bet. I don’t have a preference, I just want to to see the best QB play possible.

      • Franks has reached the point that if we see jones, its a good thing, because jones will have to be really good to get playing time except in low leverage situations. this is very exciting, i just wish there were more than 2 offensive linemen that had earned mention.

        • I wonder what Franks has been doing during the off-season, with two very highly touted QBs on his heels. If he’s been working on his “touch” vs those George Mira supersonic short passes, and has improved his “reads” even 20%, it’s going to be tough to beat him out — especially if he continues to run like a 250# fullback.

          If the OL at least stays at the paying level of late last season.

        • Funny you should mention the OL mveal. The reason for fewer newcomers in the OL competition this spring is their lack of experience. I posted the following response under the other story on position battles this spring:

          While not often pointed out because the Big Uglies work in near anonymity most of the time, left OT is the most critical position on the OL and second most critical on the entire offense. Its value can be seen every April in the first round of the NFL draft.

          If Richard Gouraige manages to win the starting job at left OT, the transition to CDM’s recruits will have begun in earnest. Not to individually knock any of the other guys vying for the starting job at left OT, but the OL was probably the most poorly recruited position group on the Gator squad throughout the 7-year-long Muschump/McElwhiner Error.

          To have a red-shirt freshman win that job now not only speaks well for his talent and hard work, it says something about the relative lack of talent among his more experienced competitors. Only at QB is experience more valuable than at left OT.

          The only outcome of the Gators’ spring/summer competitions that would be more dramatic (and unexpected) would be if CDM were to name Emory Jones his starter for the UM game. Not calling for THAT to happen, but wouldn’t entirely surprise me.

  2. I”m excited to see what these younger guys can do. It feels like we are finally moving in the direction of “reloading” instead of “rebuilding”. I hope I’m right. To compete with Bama and UGA we’ll need to get to the point where, for the most part, freshmen come in and spend a year adjusting to college speed and building their Savage-Bodies into SEC condition. Then in year 2-3 they get a chance to show what they can do. Seems like we’re quickly moving in that direction ….