Gators Notebook: Truesdell fills 'recruiting gap' at DT; Mullen on injuries, depth chart
More than two weeks after entering the transfer portal, former Auburn defensive tackle Tyrone Truesdell has found a new home at Florida.
He’s the third graduate transfer UF landed at the position this offseason and fills a “recruiting gap” with former Tigers teammate Daquan Newkirk and Antonio Valentino (Penn State), both of whom transferred in the spring.
Following the departure of three senior defensive tackles, including Packers rookie T.J. Slaton, the Gators had no upperclassmen returning prior to the additions of Newkirk, Valentino and now Truesdell, who has immediate eligibility.
“I think you’re looking at your depth and that was a position really, to me, it was a little bit of a recruiting gap in the middle that we’ve had from my first and second year here. Then you have some injuries and some guys not able to perform,” Mullen said of adding Truesdell. “It was somebody that we looked at immediately at the start of training camp and it’s just something that you look at the depth chart, where you’re at, the needs, and you got a guy that started a lot of games in this league.
“The opportunity for him to come in, I know it’s kind of a late start, but being a veteran guy that’s started in the league I think he’s going to adapt really quick.”
Truesdell, a three-star recruit in the Class of 2017, entered the portal Aug. 11 prior to his fifth season at Auburn, including the last two years as a starter. The 6-foot-2, 326-pounder appeared in 44 career games and made 19 starts, totaling 67 tackles, 9.0 TFL, three sacks and two forced recoveries.
UF injury news
Mullen addressed the status of Newkirk and defensive tackle Jalen Lee, both of whom have missed time in preseason camp with undisclosed injuries.
“Jalen will be questionable. Newkirk is good to go today,” Mullen said Monday.
Lee is listed as the backup behind Newkirk, while Valentino is starting at nose tackle ahead of Gervon Dexter. The Gators have five more players at the position with Truesdell, Lamar Goods, Desmond Watson, Jaelin Humphries and Chris Thomas Jr.
Florida’s secondary depth took a hit with an injury to defensive back Kamar Wilcoxson, who tweeted Monday that he was undergoing surgery.
“He has a slight knee issue, so he’ll be doubtful this week,” Mullen said. “We’ll see how that plays out, though.”
Wilcoxson had been competing for playing time at nickel and safety. The Gators also lost projected starting cornerback Jaydon Hill (torn ALC) in preseason camp.
“Not only him, but J. Hill as well,” senior safety Trey Dean said Monday when asked how much Wilcoxson will be missed. “We’re a strong defensive back core, but I have faith in every defensive back that goes here. I don't think we're DBU for no reason. So we're going to weigh it on our shoulders and we're going to play for them this year."
Depth chart takeaways
The Gators released their first unofficial depth chart Monday for the season opener against Florida Atlantic.
Mullen, of course, downplayed the significance and said it could still change before Saturday.
“I don’t look too much into the depth chart stuff. I know what our plan is,” Mullen said. “I’m probably not going to share it with you, unfortunately, before we play the game.”
Nonetheless, here are some takeaways from Florida’s first 2021 depth chart:
Gainesville native Trent Whittemore is starting in the slot over Rick Wells, while Xzavier Henderson and Ja’Markis Weston will play behind starters Jacob Copeland and Justin Shorter, respectively.
Princely Umanmielen has emerged as a backup to defensive end Zachary Carter. With Hill out for the season, Avery Helm has earned the starting job at cornerback opposite Kaiir Elam.
Helm is ahead of Texas A&M graduate transfer Elijah Blades and freshman Jason Marshall Jr. will be Elam’s backup. Missouri transfer Jadarrius Perkins is playing the nickel behind starter Tre’Vez Johnson.
One position battle that’s still undecided is at kicker, where seniors Jace Christmann and Chris Howard continue to compete for the nod.
“Well, it’s Monday. So I have till Saturday at 7:30 to figure that out," Mullen said when asked about the kicking situation.
Elam is listed as the starting punt returner over Copeland, who will return kicks with Weston. Safety Fenley Graham, a dynamic returner in high school, was not one of the options on the depth chart.
“He’s doing a good job,” Mullen said of Graham’s omission. “I mean, he’s gotten some reps at that, so we’ll see.”