Before the start of last season, Florida coach Dan Mullen said he was looking for some players to emerge as alpha dogs to lead his football team. He didn’t know if that would happen or not, but it did.
Seniors David Reese, Jon Greenard, Adam Shuler, Jabari Zuniga, Lamical Perine, Van Jefferson, Freddie Swain, Tyrie Cleveland, Josh Hammond and Nick Buchanan stepped up and provided strong leadership for the 2019 team, which played a role in the Gators going 11-2 and making it to a New Year’s Six bowl game and finishing in the top 10 nationally for the second consecutive season under Mullen.
Now that all those leaders are gone, new ones are going to have to emerge and provide similar leadership if the Gators hope to win the SEC East and contend for the College Football Playoff.
Here’s a look at some potential alpha dogs for the 2020 Gators:
Kyle Trask, QB, Sr. — As any football coach will tell you, your quarterback has to be a leader. Trask did fine in that role last season after getting thrust into the lineup in the second half of the Kentucky game. He led by example, by the way he worked and prepared each week. Now that this is his team, he’s ready to become a more vocal leader.
Trevon Grimes, WR, Sr. — With those four senior wide receivers leaving, he’s next up to lead the WR group. He was close to Jefferson, Swain, Cleveland and Hammond and observed how they led. Now he’s ready to take on the role.
Kadarius Toney, WR, Sr. — His decision to return for his senior season was big for the Gators. Stepping up as a leader might be even bigger, so it’s a move he’ll attempt to make.
Kyle Pitts, TE, Jr. — He has such a commanding presence on the field that he seems like a natural leader. He’ll be an easy guy to follow this season.
Dameon Pierce, RB, Jr. — Replacing Perine’s production is going to be a priority. The same can be said of his leadership. Pierce seems to have the drive and personality to take command in what should be a talent running back room.
Brett Heggie, OL, Sr. — There are two other seniors on the offensive line (tackles Stone Forsythe and Jean Delance), but Heggie has played the most and the more vocal of the three. And he plays more than one position (guard and center). He’ll be expected to lead a line that is top heavy with freshmen and redshirt freshmen.
Ventrell Miller, MLB, Jr. — On defense, the middle linebacker is the quarterback. So, like Trask, Miller will have to lead. He has big shoes to fill in Reese, but with the tenacity that he plays, he seems a capable fit for the role.
Kyree Campbell, DT, Sr. — Playing beside Greenard and Zuniga, Campbell started showing some leadership qualities last season. So, this should be a natural transition for him.
Tedarrell Slaton, DT, Sr. — His effort to bring consistency to his game has earned the respect of his teammates.
Zachary Carter, DE, Jr. — He’s earned the respect of his teammates with the persistent work he’s put in to emerge as a player. He’ll be one who leads by example.
Marco Wilson, CB, Jr. — With his tireless work ethic, he’s been leading by example since his true freshman season. He’ll take on a more vocal role as one of the many veterans in the secondary.
Shawn Davis, S, Sr. — He really came on strong as a player last season, showing he’s a playmaker and maybe the biggest hitter on defense. Now, it’s time to expand his role and take over as a leader.
Donovan Stiner, S, Sr. — He’s a consistent player who is on the quiet side. But, as a senior, he should feel more comfortable opening up as a leader.
Brad Stewart, S, Sr. — His effort on special teams as a true freshman was an indication where his career was headed. He’s been a significant contributor ever since. Now, he’s in a position to lead.