Gators notebook: Several players missing playing time

Graham Hall
Special to The Sun
Florida offensive lineman Jean Delance (56) drives a South Florida defensive tackle away from his quarterback in the first half Saturday at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.

TAMPA — Florida defensive back Elijah Blades’ absence extended past the second half of the season opener against FAU, as the graduate transfer was once again not dressed out for Saturday’s contest, a 42-20 victory over the University of South Florida. 

The cause for Blades’ absence was unknown at the time, and Gators coach Dan Mullen didn’t provide much clarity in his postgame address with the media. 

Blades wasn’t the only Gator to watch either, as right tackle Jean Delance exited the game in the second half and didn’t return, and it wasn’t just to get the back-ups some experience. 

“I don’t have updates on any of the injured players,” Mullen said. 

Black debuts, contributes

Diwun Black’s arrival at Florida was a much-anticipated event, and it didn’t take long for the conversation to turn to when the highly recruited Black would see the field for the Gators. 

After arriving on campus in May, just over five months ago, Black had much catching up to do, both in the classroom and on the football field, and his coaching staff didn’t shy away from preaching patience when it came to his level of contribution. 

“He’s got good run ability. He’s constantly improving his change of direction. Constantly improving his demeanor in the classroom and knowing what to do, and you know just go about that communication deal, just communicating and knowing your assignments,” UF safeties coach Wesley McGriff said on Aug. 24th, “but he’s a guy that certainly has a skill set and talent that he’ll be able to support us down the road when we get going in this thing.”

The belief was that the path to playing time would be a little bit longer than Black’s second game with the Gators. 

The junior linebacker/defensive back saw several snaps against the Bulls in UF’s win, including in the first quarter before Florida’s lead was sizable, and Black managed to record a pair of solo tackles, giving him his first Division I statistics. 

Elam gets UF’s first INT of 2021

After striking out in the season-opener, “DBU” got back on track Saturday when it came to picking off the opposition.

With just over eight minutes remaining in the second quarter and the Gators leading 28-3, Florida junior cornerback Kaiir Elam recorded UF’s first interception of the season. And it wasn’t just your usual run-of-the-mill takeaway either – Elam displayed the ball skills that have helped him earn the role of Florida’s top cornerback. 

In impressive fashion, Elam dove for Cade Fortin’s pass and pulled it into his body with one hand to give the Gators’ offense the ball. The dazzling play marked Elam’s sixth interception with the Gators and his first since Florida’s 38-17 win against Vanderbilt on Nov. 21, 2020. 

Tough start for former 5-star

There’s little doubt that true freshman Jason Marshall has the potential to be an impact player for the Gators for years to come, but it hasn’t been an ideal start for the former five-star prospect.

Marshall, who arrived on UF’s campus in January by way of Miami, wasn’t overly impressive in UF’s season-opening win over Florida Atlantic, and he didn’t do much to alleviate any early concerns in Saturday’s 22-point victory. 

Although he would finish the contest with two tackles, Marshall noticeably had the opportunity to make the play on other plays throughout the afternoon. 

Early in the first quarter, Marshall was stiff-armed while attempting to make a tackle, and the Bulls would finish the drive with a field goal. And in the second half, Marshall appeared to get beat on a 44-yard completion from Bulls quarterback Timmy McClain to wide receiver Xavier Weaver. The play would ultimately stand as USF’s longest passing play of the day. 

Sell-out? Not quite

Florida’s contest with USF was announced as a sold-out affair prior to the Gators’ arrival in Tampa, and the attendance figures followed suit. Saturday’s game had an announced attendance of 66,646, exceeding Raymond James Stadium’s listed capacity of 65,890. 

But when game-time rolled around, the stands didn’t look anything close to packed to the brim, indicating the secondary market for ticket sales was abundant Saturday. It may have been a sell-out, but it wasn’t a shoulder-to-shoulder event – far from it. 

Injured DB arrested, enters into deferred prosecution agreement

Prior to Saturday’s contest, news regarding injured cornerback Jaydon Hill emerged that revealed the Florida junior had entered into a deferred prosecution agreement on third-degree felony charges for unarmed burglary of an unoccupied vehicle, grand theft larceny of more than $750 and less than $5,000, and fraudulent and illegal use of credit cards.

Hill was arrested on June 2 after police tied him to the stolen debit card using IP address logs and surveillance footage, according to Alachua County public records,

The victim reported that on May 9th his car had been broken into and the debit card and $80 in cash had been stolen from his wallet. The victim reported several fraudulent charges on the missing card, including several at fast-food restaurants, another at a gas station and eight for unpaid UF campus parking tickets.

When questioned by police, Hill initially said he purchased the card from an unknown person at a gas station in Gainesville.

After he granted police permission to search his phone, officers found pictures taken May 8 of the stolen debit card and of the victim’s driver’s license. Hill then admitted to the crimes and showed remorse, according to records.