Sunday stars? Five Florida Gators to watch in matchup with Eastern Washington Eagles

Kevin Brockway
Gator Sports

Florida football (3-2. 0-2 SEC) will host the Eastern Washington Eagles (1-2, 0-1 Big Sky) on Sunday at The Swamp (noon, SEC Network Plus) in another non-conference test before the grind of the remainder of the SEC schedule. 

Here are five players to watch for the Gators in the matchup:

Quarterback Anthony Richardson

Richardson's career passing day against Tennessee (453 yards) moved Florida up from last in the SEC in passing offense to ninth at 219 yards per game. Richardson also threw his first two TD passes of the season, though ball security (five interceptions, one fumble lost in four games) remains an issue.

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On the ground, Richardson has rushed for 196 yards on 4.8 yards per carry, and his five rushing TDs are tied for the most in the SEC. Given EWU's shaky run defense, this could be a game where Richardson makes big plays with his legs as well as his arm.

Wide receiver Justin Shorter

Florida Gators wide receiver Justin Shorter (4) hauls in a pass over South Florida Bulls defensive back TJ Robinson (2) in the second half on Sept. 17 at Steve Spurrier Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville.

Shorter is coming off the best game of his career, with seven catches for 155 yards against Tennessee, which included a pair of 39-yard catches. At 6-foot-4 and 223 pounds, Shorter is a big target capable of emerging as a weekly threat in the passing game.

“Justin has developed nicely," coach Billy Napier said. "He’s a really good practice player. He’s very consistent in terms of his effort and attitude and approach. He’s a competitor in a practice setting. The guy’s got tools, there’s no question he can be a matchup issue. I think his ball skills have developed and certainly, his skill level has developed."

Safety Kamari Wilson

Wilson's reps have increased steadily each week and now the five-star freshman will get a chance to prove himself as a starter with Trey Dean out with an injury. Can Wilson take advantage of the opportunity? Wilson was a hard hitter in high school and has shown he can be solid stopping the run early in his career but will need to prove he can cover tight ends and running backs out of the backfield to become more of a factor in SEC play. 

Cornerback Jaydon Hill

Hill is another player who will get a chance to prove himself after sitting out last year on a medical redshirt with a knee injury. He will make his first start of the season on Sunday.

"Jaydon is a guy I've got a ton of respect for," Napier said. "You know, you talk about what he's been through from an injury perspective. He had a knee in high school, had a knee here, had kind of a minor knee issue in the summertime, and then he's been on that path to recovery."

Hill last saw action in 2020, appearing in 12 games with five starts, and was strong in coverage with seven pass breakups. "I'm excited to watch him play," Napier said. "I'm excited how he can impact our team."

Linebacker Diwun Black

Florida Gators inside linebacker Diwun Black (30) during spring practice, Saturday,  April 2, 2022 at the James W. 'Bill' Heavener Football Training Center in Gainesville, Florida.

A former JUCO standout who transferred to Florida in 2021 from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, Black made Florida's first onside kick recovery since 2000 with an athletic play last week against Tennessee. Whether that earns Black more reps on defense remains to be seen, but at 6-foot-3 and 223 pounds, he's shown he can make an impact on special teams. Napier said that to earn more playing time on defense, Black needs to demonstrate more consistency on and off the field.

"There's no question Diwun at times flashes and has some ability," Napier said. "So we're hopeful that he continues to grow and mature and gets more opportunities in the future, but that's going to be up to him and his attitude and his work ethic."