10 Florida players primed for breakout season

Florida wide receiver Trevon Grimes tries to score a touchdown in the second half while being defended by Florida State defensive back Cyrus Fagan in the Nov. 30 game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. [Doug Engle/Gainesville Sun]

 Turnover — and we’re not talking about the fumble or interception variety — is a big (and constant) part of college football. Standout seniors and top underclassmen leave every year and others step up, fill the void, and become the next stars.

 With that in mind, here are some Florida players who seem primed to have a possible breakout season in 2020:

 Trevon Grimes, Wide receiver, Senior — With the four seniors gone, Grimes figures to be the leader of the receiving corps and a go-to guy for quarterback Kyle Trask. He had a productive junior season, catching 19 passes for 349 yards and three touchdowns, but he should easily double (maybe even triple) his production this fall as he becomes a focal point in the passing game.

 Zachary Carter, DE/DT, Jr. — He flashed signs of greatness last season filling in for the injured Jabari Zuniga, recording 20 tackles, 6.0 tackles for losses and 4.5 sacks, the most notable being that huge one in the second half in the win over Auburn. As a full-time player, which he’ll be this season, Carter has the skill set to become a dominant player — size, strength, athletic ability and a high motor. He’ll be one of the leaders on the defensive front.

 Mohamoud Diabate, LB, So. — Speaking of high motors, this guy certainly has one, something he showed as a true freshman last season. The speedy, athletic Diabate played in all 13 games and recorded 18 tackles and 4.5 sacks. His playing time, and production, will only increase at a position where the Gators lack proven depth.

 Ventrell Miller, LB, Jr. — He actually sort of had a breakout season in 2019, but it was somewhat overlooked because he played in the shadow of senior linebacker (and tackling machine) David Reese. He finished second on the team in tackles, behind Reese, with 55. He also had 5.5 tackles for losses, 3.0 sacks and two pass breakups. He closed the season with a huge game in the Orange Bowl, leading the Gators in tackles with eight and doing an excellent job shadowing and containing Virginia quarterback Bryce Perkins, who rushed for only 24 yards on 14 carries. Fast and physical, Miller has the potential to become one of the SEC’s best linebackers in 2020.

 Kaiir Elam, CB, So. — His breakout started as a true freshman last fall and should only accelerate now that he’s going to be a starter replacing CJ Henderson. Elam started five games last season and intercepted three passes, the biggest coming in the fourth quarter of the Orange Bowl. He also broke up four passes. He never played like a true freshman, performing with great confidence and natural instincts. He clearly has the potential to become UF’s next great defensive back.

 Rick Wells, WR, Sr. — With only three career receptions for 33 yards, Wells may seem like an unlikely candidate to be on this list. But during bowl preparation in December, when the senior wide receivers were asked who they thought would have a breakout year in 2020, Wells is the first name that came up. He’s been through a lot, and played little, but he’s persevered and started consistently making plays in practice last fall. He’s got size, speed and hands — and that ringing endorsement from those departing senior wide receivers.

 Khris Bogle, OLB/DE, So. — Despite playing the rush end position at only 209 pounds last season, Bogle more than held his own as a true freshman, playing in all 13 games and recording 18 tackles, 4.0 tackles for losses and 2.5 sacks. It’s going to be interesting to see how he looks, and how much bigger and better he’ll be, following another offseason and summer under Nick Savage and the strength and conditioning staff.

 Jacob Copeland, WR, So. — He was mentored by those four senior wide receivers last season and now appears ready to take on a much more significant role in the offense after catching 12 passes for 202 yards and one touchdown in 2019. With excellent size, speed and hands, Copeland has a chance to become a major playmaker in 2020.

 Evan White, OL, So. — As an early enrollee, White arrived on campus last January weighing close to 400 pounds. But he underwent a remarkable physical makeover under Savage. He gained strength, lost about 50 pounds, and by the fall was ready to play at a position (offensive guard) where true freshman rarely do. He started one game and played in five others and now will battle for a starting role in 2020. He’s a big, physical, athletic lineman who plays with a defensive player’s mentality.

 Dameon Pierce, RB, Jr. — Miami transfer and former five-star recruit Lorenzo Lingard is generating a lot of buzz, but Pierce is going to be the one lining up with the No. 1 offense at the start of spring drills. With the Gators’ lack of a running game, Pierce did not do much last season, rushing for just 155 yards and two touchdowns. But over the past two year’s he’s flashed some big-time playmaking ability. Like Lamical Perine, Pierce is a tough, explosive runner who also is an excellent receiver coming out of the backfield. He has the ability to become the kind of all-purpose back that Perine was the last three seasons.


  1. Things look bright for next season. CDM not only is not only attracting talent to UF but he is developing our talent. We have a roster now that seems to have minimal holes. Our play calling and execution I will put against anyone in the country. CDM get what it means to be a Gator and I couldn’t be happier. Go Gators!

    • I also noticed that Rivals now says we have two 5 star commits in this year’s class. Chip Kelly has ZERO. But he does have three 4 star recruits. Shows what a lot of the so called experts know. Go Gators!

    • Chip Kelly is a typical product of that inferior P5 conference, the Pac 12. His Oregon teams always looked really good… till they played SEC teams.

      I don’t recall his teams ever winning any of those games. That begins to explain why he chickened out of the Gator gig, which worked out just fine… for the Gators.

  2. Jack, I think he wasnt mentioned because he has had a hard time staying healthy. In other words he’s yet to prove he can do it because he cant stay on the field.
    Prairie, I couldnt agree more, just like Greenard, it will be hard to replace talent like that but lets hope we do.
    Im happy about all mentioned in the article but a comment about Grimes. Trask didnt have a favorite, but threw to the open guy! If Grimes didnt get the ball he wasnt open. Seniors leaving isnt going to get him open, just the opposite, he will get more attention from the D! If he is going to have a “breakout” year he is going to have to step up his game! I see a bit of a dropoff this year with the WR’s. Last year we struck lightening and had the best crew of receivers in college; dont expect lightening to strike twice. I believe Trask will struggle a bit more trying to find open receivers, thus more sacks or throwaways. I hope Im wrong but that was an extraordinary group we had. Greatness at almost every position. Lets hope the running game gets going with a more experienced line and then that will make up for the drop off at receiver.

    • Right on the money, which isn’t saying in any way that we’re not all pulling for Grimes.

      If the OL can give Trask half the time Burrow typically had to find an open receiver, any drop off in them will be insignificant. But if they can do that, I sure hope they can run block too since that is the ultimate answer!

      • I recall Trask dancing in the backfield quite alot last year with only 1 team giving us fits and that was Auburn. Teams knew that we were going to pass and covered well yet his elite receivers would manage to finally get open anyway. So, the o-line did give him losts of time. Pass blocking was their surprising strenght last year. So I dont see that as any help. I only see a run game as our saving grace to open up the coverage in the pass. I said it last year but it bears repeating that that was the most unique pass offense i have ever seen. It was one dimensional yet it didnt matter. we had an elite QB and receivers and teams couldnt stop them. It was like the team that can run the ball and you know they are going to run it and they do it anyway successfully. You used to see that alot in football back in the day but I cant ever remember a college team that could only pass the ball and still do it successfully. It even took the coach a while to finally buy in and just do it! Once he saw the success of it he just started play calling it that way though it went against conventional wisdom; stop the run and make them one dimentional and beat you with the pass, which most teams cant. It really was an exceptional year which I doubt we will ever see again.

        • That’s certainly reasonable, tho I submit that if the OL comes up to speed this coming year, if Pierce can really show us his stuff, and the receivers are what we think they are……man alive, Trask and Jones, in that order, are going to have seasons to remember. I do think 2021 will be the Year of the Gator, however, when Jones and Richardson take us all the way.