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5 mid-year enrollees to watch for Florida Gators

Zach Abolverdi
Gainesville Sun
Lakeland running back Demarkcus Bowman begins work at Florida after transferring from Clemson.

All 14 of Florida’s mid-year enrollees have moved in and started classes for the spring semester, which began Monday. 

The Gators welcomed a dozen early signees to campus as well as a pair of transfers. They will soon begin offseason workouts with strength coach Nick Savage, followed by spring football in a few months. 

Here are five players to watch when practices start: 

Former Lakeland senior running back Demarkcus Bowman.

RB Demarkcus Bowman

The redshirt freshman transfer from Clemson walks into a deep running back room at UF, but one that could use a home-run threat like him. While the Gators’ top three backs return in Dameon Pierce (503 yards), Malik Davis (310 yards) and Nay’Quan Wright (213 yards), their rushing offense ranked 96th nationally. UF will look to lean on the ground game more in 2021 and Bowman’s top-end speed gives him an opportunity to crack the rotation this spring. He’ll also have to compete for carries with Lorenzo Lingard Jr. Both former five-star recruits rushed for 32 yards last season, though Bowman only appeared in two games. 

Jacksonville Episcopal High School tight end Nick Elksnis.

TE Nick Elksnis

The departure of Mackey Award winner Kyle Pitts leaves a huge void at tight end, where upperclassmen Kemore Gamble and Keon Zipperer are next in line. Both dropped some key passes in the Cotton Bowl loss to Oklahoma after playing well with Pitts out during the regular season. The 6-foot-6, 240-pound Elksnis is one of the most underrated recruits in Florida’s class and his pass-catching ability could allow him to earn some snaps behind Gamble and Zipperer. UF also returns redshirt freshman tight end Jonathan Odom, but Elksnis plays the position like a bigger wide receiver and has the skill set to take on Pitts’ role in the offense. 

Former Penn State Nittany Lions defensive tackle Antonio Shelton.

DT Antonio Shelton 

Florida is slated to lose senior defensive tackles Kyree Campbell, Tedarrell Slaton and Marlon Dunlap, though Slaton and Dunlap have yet to announce their plans for next season. The loss of Campbell alone will take its toll (see the first three games of 2020), and all three departures would leave the Gators thin at defensive tackle. That’s why the addition of Shelton — a grad transfer and two-year starter at Penn State — is so crucial. His experience and veteran presence will be invaluable as he leads a group of six underclassmen, half of whom have never played in college (redshirt freshman Lamar Goods and early enrollees Christopher Thomas and Desmond Watson). 

Jason Marshall Jr.

CB Jason Marshall Jr.

Of all the incoming freshmen, Marshall has a chance to make the most immediate impact. He is Florida’s highest-rated recruit in the 247Sports Composite, which rates him as a five-star. The Gators return just six cornerbacks after the departure of redshirt junior Marco Wilson and transfer Chester Kimbrough. The projected starters will be Kaiir Elam and Jaydon Hill, but the four freshmen behind them played sparingly in 2020 (Ethan Pouncey missed the season after hip surgery). Expect Marshall to step right in and push for playing time this spring. The 6-foot-1, 195-pound corner possesses elite ball skills and can be thrown out on an island in man coverage. 

Corey Collier Jr.

DB Corey Collier Jr.

It’s no secret that Florida has struggled at safety, but Collier should be an upgrade in talent. Starters Shawn Davis and Donovan Stiner are both gone along with Brad Stewart, who played nickel and safety as a senior. Trey Dean III started the final two games with Davis out and Rashad Torrence II made three starts last season. Freshman Mordecai McDaniel also returns at the position, but that’s it. Collier, a five-star recruit on Rivals, still needs to put on weight and develop physically, but has the athleticism and length to see the field early. He’s also capable of playing multiple positions in the secondary, such as Stewart.