Florida’s five key position battles

3
2919
Florida running back Dameon Pierce high steps to the end zone in the first half for a touchdown vs. FSU last season at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. [Doug Engle/Gainesville Sun]

Five key position battles when Florida restarts football practice:

Quarterback

 Yes, senior Kyle Trask is the starter, but as coach Dan Mullen has said multiple times, the competition is always open at all positions, including this one. So, Trask is going to have to perform well this spring to hold onto his spot because Emory Jones and true freshman Anthony Richardson are going to take the approach that they’re competing for the starting role. All three quarterbacks will get plenty of reps with the first-team offense. Jones is at the point in his development where he is ready to take on a bigger role in the offense, which is expected to happen this season. Richardson’s development will just be getting underway under Mullen and quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson. As for Trask, he said one thing he’s going to be focusing on this spring is getting the ball out quicker and making quicker decisions.

Running back

 With the reliable and versatile Lamical Perine getting ready to move on to the NFL, the position will be wide open, and there is no shortage of candidates. There will be five getting reps — returning players Dameon Pierce, Malik Davis, Iverson Clement and Nay’Quan Wright, along with Lorenzo Lingard, a transfer from Miami and former five-star recruit. Pierce has the edge in experience and likely will take the first snaps with the No. 1 offense. But he’ll share first-team reps with the other four throughout the spring as the coaches try determine the strengths of all five. Davis, who was starting to emerge as UF’s go-to back as a true freshman in 2017 before injuring his knee and then being sidelined in 2018 by a fractured foot, is expected to make a strong push for the starting role now that he appears back to 100 percent mentally and physically. Lingard is expected to have a big impact, but the question is will he be eligible in the fall or have to sit out per NCAA transfer rules?

Wide receiver

 With the four seniors from last season (Van Jefferson, Freddie Swain, Tyrie Cleveland and Josh Hammond) needing to be replaced, starting roles are up for grabs across the board. Junior Trevon Grimes and Jacob Copeland will both be looking to have breakout seasons, which would start with a productive spring, while slot receiver Kadarius Toney is expected to see his role expand in the passing game. Mullen has said everyone is going to be surprised at how talented the three freshmen are who redshirted last season — Ja’Markis Weston, Trent Whittemore and Dionte Marks. They will be competing for starting roles and also could be a factor on special teams. Here’s a sleeper to watch out for: senior Rick Wells, who started to emerge last fall in practice and has received a ringing endorsement from last season’s four seniors, among others.

Rush end/outside linebacker

 The assumption is that Georgia transfer and former five-star recruit Brenton Cox will step right in at the position where senior Jon Greenard had a dominant season in 2019. That very well could happen. But Cox is going to have quite a battle on his hands. First from senior Jeremiah Moon, who not only is a proven player, but he’s coming off the best offseason of his UF career and is bigger and stronger. Then from a talented group of hungry young players who are eager to compete, including sophomore Khris Bogle, redshirt freshman Lloyd Summerall and early enrollee Antwaun Powell. This promises to be quite an intriguing competition.

Middle linebacker

 Reliable, productive, team leader. That’s what David Reese has been the last three seasons, and now all that production, reliability and leadership must be replaced at the position. The leading candidate to take over the starting role is junior Ventrell Miller, a big-time hitter who started to emerge last season and closed out the year with a dominant performance in the Orange Bowl win over Virginia. He’s expected to get pushed by junior Lacedrick Brunson and redshirt freshman Jesiah Pierre. Junior James Houston, the likely starter at the other inside linebacker spot, also will get reps here because the coaches want all the inside LBs to be able to play both positions.

3 COMMENTS

  1. two free days of the sun so i get to comment on 50 things besides the article.
    1. any talk about replacing trask to me is only to sell newspapers. the guy proved himself on the field. it was the offensive line that cost us the georgia game in the first quarter and taking trask out cost us the lsu game imo.
    2. id take a star away from any transfer who didnt dominate on the field before they got here, and add a star to anyone that did. so the new transfers im rooting for, but calling them five stars is like overpaying for an nfl bust. but if by this time next year they dominate on the field, then you can return to calling them five stars. hint: fsu had a team full of 5 stars, and it just wasnt enough.
    3. billy gonzales adds a star to any player he coaches, so we will be fine at receiver. i like hevesy but OL still worries me way more than anything this article talked about.
    4. Davis struggling was something i didnt see happening last year, but i still think hes our best back.

      • Dang it, 6! I wanted to be the one to tell you mveal had posted again! No matter, news of Trask trying to make quicker decisions is bad news for Jones and Richardson. Quick decisions is what made him more successful than Franks. If he gets even quicker, Richardson will red shirt and Jones will be relegated to “packages”.

        Also, why must we continue to insult Lamical Perine, even in the same paragraph where he’s referred to as “reliable and versatile”. Davis was never becoming the go-to RB. He had a couple of nice games based on a couple of long runs, one of which ended with a fumble. Perine WAS the man; Pierce IS the man.

        Go Gators!