Florida Gators 2020 Roster Outlook: Safety
With the 2019 season now in the rear-view mirror, it's time to start dissecting the Florida Gators' roster as the team begins to prepare for the 2020 season.
Here at GatorMaven, we'll be evaluating each position on Florida's roster based on its 2019 performance, what the Gators have done in recruiting at the position so far, and what the early expectations are for each unit. Those expectations can change as the offseason goes on, but this is where the roster currently stands.
After previously moving the train through every position group on the offensive and defensive side, it is time to make our final stop at the safety station.
What Florida returns at safety:
Shawn Davis: Perhaps the most consistent safety for the Gators in 2019, the upcoming senior announced his intentions to return for his final year in orange and blue after contemplating declaring for the NFL Draft.
Accounting for 55 tackles, along with three interceptions and three passes defended, Davis played a significant role in the Gators' success last season.
His high motor and ball-hawking ability can allow Florida to grow with the younger pieces at the safety position next season.
His return will not only provide experience to possibly the weakest position group that Gators had on their roster in 2019 but also gives them back a big-time playmaker to anchor down on the back end of the defense.
Brad Stewart Jr.: After being suspended for the first two games of the season, Stewart would appear in all ten of the remaining games.
But, receiving high expectations from many Gator fans before the start of the 2019 season, Stewart disappointed many with his performance in the games he did play. He went on to produce very little, only totaling 28 tackles compared to the 41 he had in 2018, and forcing no turnovers - only recovering a fumble.
The unexpected step back takes the guy we saw return Joe Burrow’s late-game interception for a touchdown against LSU in 2018, from receiving substantial playing time to having limited snaps on the 2020 season.
Stewart will be trying to prove himself yet again next season but will have a slim chance to do so as a rotational piece.
Donovan Stiner: Throughout the 2019 season, Stiner seemed to find himself in the right position at the right time. A roller coaster of a year in terms of overall play in the field, Stiner saw good moments and bad moments.
On some occasions, Stiner would be responsible for blown assignments that resulted in opposing teams scoring or producing chunk plays. Pair that with his lackluster coverage skills and you look at a guy who
On the other hand, Stiner led the Gators in interceptions. In doing so, he found himself as a full-time starter in the Gators defense throughout the majority of the season after many believed that role would be taken from him the last offseason.
His play in 2019 makes him a viable option to play at the back end of the defense for the Gators in 2020. Still, it is unlikely he will be relied upon too heavily as there is a needed adjustment to make regarding the position in the upcoming year.
Quincy Lenton: A rising redshirt junior, the 5-11, 205 lb. defensive back has yet to earn meaningful defensive playing time at Florida. He suffered a season-ending injury in 2018 fall campo and only played 36 defensive snaps for Florida in 2019.
Lenton will continue serving on special teams, where he has recorded three career tackles, but it's hard to expect much more.
What Florida gains at S:
Mordecai McDaniel: McDaniel signed with the Gators in Early Signing Day after being committed to Tennessee early on in the process.
McDaniel is a stellar athlete back deep and has the range to make plays all over the field. There are some areas of concern that may hold him out of playing time upon arrival, including form tackling being a major one.
But, given his athleticism along with his speed in playing downhill, McDaniel can be a rotational piece at safety for the Gators in 2020.
Rashad Torrence: Committing got the Gators over a year before the Early Signing Day period for the 2020 class, Torrence showed his standings as a Gator very early.
In high school, the 6’0, 195-pound prospect accounted for 111 tackles in his senior season, a bolstering number for a guy who played safety.
Enrolling early at the University, Torrence will be able to go to work right away, looking to improve as the Gators could need him right away, given the inconsistency at times last season at safety.
Tre'Vez Johnson: The senior from Bartram Trail High School committed to the Gators on June 22, 2019, after receiving an offer just eight days before.
Another versatile piece to the Gator defense, Johnson can play both cornerback (specifically STAR) and safety in the Gators defense.
Being said, Johnson fits the bill for what a Gator safety has been in the past. A hard-hitting, physical player who can make plays on the ball when needed to do so. Johnson showed that ability in high school, creating a highlight reel out of driving unsuspecting bodies into the ground.
That mean streak is one the team has been missing for quite some time, and if Johnson is to see snaps as safety, could energize the unit to make big plays when needed next season.
What Florida loses at S:
Jeawon Taylor: In his final season for the Florida Gators, Taylor put up his worse season to date in 2019.
Going into the year, many viewed Taylor as one of the most complete and reliable safeties the team has. Due to lingering injuries and poor performance on the field, Taylor was unable to live up to that standard.
Proving to be a bit of a liability defensively, losing Taylor will be significant for a depth standpoint in 2020, but younger faces are likely to step in and thrive in the role the senior once had.
Room for more?
Avantae Williams: Williams is one of the last prospects on the board for the Gators. A very talented player out of Deland, Florida, the Gators are pushing hard to secure the four-star talent.
The addition of Williams to this year's safety group would be huge as Williams would be likely to see playing time as a starter from his first day on campus.
He is a versatile player that flashes speed and strength from the safety position and can be a ball-hawking piece in the secondary in 2020.
Williams makes his announcement on National Signing Day.
Last season, the Gators struggled to keep "contain" back deep. Allowing multiple passes to fly over their heads, many asked why adjustments weren’t being made in regards to the game plan at safety.
In 2020, the position looks to be trending upward, as fresh young talent makes their way into Gainesville. The Achilles heel of the team last season has the opportunity to right their wrongs in a season that is the biggest one since 2008.
The Gators ceiling is reliant on how the Gators hold up on the back end of the unit. Whether that be from rising seniors to improve in the offseason to keep "contain" and make plays from the position.
From players like Mordecai McDaniel and Rashad Torrence, who could see early playing time in their careers for their versatility and playmaking abilities. Or from securing a commitment from one of the best safety prospects in the nation in Avantae Williams.
Whatever it may be, there must certainly be a reliable unit back deep for the Gators in 2020. Given the fresh, young talent in the locker room this upcoming season, there is a good chance the position turns around for the better.