Two who will surprise

Florida running back Malik Davis answers questions from members of the media during the annual Florida Football Media Day at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on July 25. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]

Back in the day under coach Steve Spurrier, Florida’s preseason camp was an endurance test even for the media boys (and girls) because all the practices were open and we felt compelled to watch from warmups to finish under the summer sun. Those days, of course, are gone. Other than for just a few minutes early in selected practices, we, like you, are locked out.

But I’ve seen enough and heard enough to form an opinion about two players who I think are going to surprise a lot of people — and opponents — this season, one on offense, one on defense.

Offensive surprise: Sophomore running back Malik Davis.

The preseason talk has been all about Lamical Perine and Dameon Pierce, mostly Perine. So, it appears, many have fallen asleep on Davis. I say it’s time to wake up and remember how rapidly — and impressively — he was emerging as an electrifying runner as a true freshman in 2017. He was becoming the go-to guy in the running game before he injured his knee early in the Georgia game and missed the rest of the season.

He came back last season and sustained a season-ending foot injury in the third game and has not been seen since (except in practices and the spring game.).

Davis is bigger, stronger and faster than he was in 2017 — and even more dynamic, according to running backs coach Greg Knox, whose eyes lit up last week when he was asked about Davis. He said he has a chance to be special. And he will be.

Dan Mullen likes to keep his ground game running on fresh legs, so that means Davis will get his opportunities. And he’s going to make some plays, some big plays. That means his carry total will go up, up, up as the season goes along. So, he’s my offensive surprise.

Defensive surprise: Junior defensive tackle Tedarrell Slaton

Just like Davis, Slaton pretty much disappeared last season after showing so many flashes as a true freshman in 2017. Slaton fell off the map after blowing an assignment and giving up a 44-yard run in the early loss to Kentucky that got him benched. He played in seven more games, but his role grew smaller as the season went along.

Slaton is serious about breaking out this season. So serious that he lost 25 pounds in the offseason, while growing stronger and quicker. And apparently more determined. He’s defensive tackle Kyree Campbell’s surprise defensive player, too. The two are roommates, and Campbell knows the kind of work Slaton is putting in to reach his immense potential as a disruptor up front.

“Slaton has progressed a lot,” Campbell said last week.. “He has down pat his technique and I’m 100-percent sure you all are going to be very surprised (by what he does) this season. He is taking it seriously. I can see that he has really bought into the program now. He is always with me and he is always asking questions. I believe that he wants it.”

And he’s going to get it.

So, there you have it, my two surprises for the fall.






  1. For me, Davis is not a surprise, except maybe that he’s finally healthy, but if he gets some PT, I fully expect him to be as good or better than he was in ’17. Slaton, however has plenty of room to surprise, and I hope I am.

    • I was thinking the same thing. A surprise player should be someone who hasn’t had success yet. Slaton fits the mold perfectly, but Davis not so much. I’m fully expecting him to pick up where he left off if he stays healthy.

  2. I believe Andreu is right on both accounts – I want to see Slaton become the dominant nose guard he should be for the Gator D – a real run-stuffer. Now that he is quicker and stronger, he will also disrupt the QB – at least a few sacks this year, including tackles for loss on the RBs. As for Davis – he just needs the opportunity to show what he can do. All of our RBs are good with the potential to be excellent. GO GATORS!!!

  3. If I were a coach speaking to freshmen, I would probably tell them one thing: “don’t be one of those guys who ‘get’s serious’ his Junior year. Get serious now.” Amazing how much we hear about how players figure out later in their career what they should know early. Not talking about injuries or family issues. And I know it takes a while to get things acclimated to the college game.And I don’t even know if TS falls into this category. But, I worry whenever an article or comment from a fellow player implies it took three years for the light bulb to finally turn on for a player to “get serious”.

  4. That “Davis is bigger, stronger, and faster than he was in 2017” is great to hear. I think Perine has earned his way to “featured back” status, but it’s nice to know that Pierce and Davis are waiting in the wings. With Wright coming on as well, I hope CDM can find enough carries for each of them to keep them feeling like they’re all relevant to the offensive plan. Good problem to have.

  5. davis shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone except the newspaper, but slaton, im rooting for, but if he performs anywhere near the level this article suggests, no one will be more surprised than me. as far as his 2017, i thought the only flashes were players from lesser programs running by him repeatedly, which also happened in 2018 against kentucky, and then after they benched him i never heard much afterwards. its like a pitcher that doesnt get guys out, so what if he throws 100 mph. now let me repeat myself, i would love to be proven wrong here. but then again, maybe if slaton cant make a go of defense, he could help us on offensive line, where we do have some injury risk etc. at both guards, so id either like to see big time defensive line, which would be a miracle or a move to where he has a better chance of being the next trent brown and make big time money