Photo: Trent Whittemore; Credit: Zach Goodall
Brett DioGuardi is a former Second-Team All-SEC long snapper for the Florida Gators from 2016-20, who has teamed up to share his takes and create content with Sports Illustrated's AllGators.
With the 2021 college football season nearing, I decided to give my take on a couple of players that I expect to make names for themselves on both sides of the ball for the Florida Gators. There were several candidates to choose from, but I decided to go with players who I feel have the ability to reach their potential in this upcoming season.
People seem to forget the season that Malik Davis was having during the 2017 season prior to a season-ending knee surgery. Davis was averaging 6.7 yards per carry on 79 attempts as a true freshman and posted a five-game stretch in which he totaled at least 90 yards, all of which were against SEC opponents.
Davis is a hard-working individual who has matured a lot throughout his time at UF. I expect him to flourish this season as an all-purpose back who has the ability to beat opponents through the air and on the ground. Though the Gators have a plethora of talent in their backfield heading into the 2021 season, I expect Davis to separate himself from the pack and return back to his once-dominant form.
The Gators' offensive skill position groups will need to have a handful of players step up in order for the team to resemble the dominant offensive unit they showcased last season. Jacob Copeland and Justin Shorter will look to account for a majority of the targets available now with players like Kyle Pitts, Kadarius Toney and Trevon Grimes no longer with the team.
I wanted to dig a little deeper to chose my candidate for a breakout player from this year’s Florida receiving corps. I decided to go with the sure-handed redshirt sophomore Trent Whittemore. At 6-foot-4 with fluid route running ability, I expect Whittemore to take the next step for the Gators this year and have an immediate impact in the passing game for Florida. Whittemore is a meticulous and reliable pass catcher that I could easily see stepping up as the WR3 who can be put out wide or line up in the slot for the Gators this year.
There might not be a Gator football player that I am more excited to see breakout this season than Jeremiah Moon. Moon has the physical stature and work ethic to be a dominant force not only in the SEC, but at the next level as well.
At 6-foot-5 with uncanny athleticism, there is a reason Moon received an invitation to the Reese’s Senior Bowl during the offseason before deciding to return to UF for a sixth season. Unfortunately, Moon has had a case of the injury bug throughout his career at UF, however, I expect Moon to lock down the other end spot alongside Brenton Cox Jr. to form one of the best pass-rushing duos in the SEC.
With Cox and Moon on the outside edges combined with Zach Carter and Daquan Newkirk holding down the interior positions, look for Florida to boast a nasty defensive front that can get to the quarterback in a hurry.
This is a dark horse pick as Hopper has yet to receive many snaps at the linebacker position prior to the 2021 season. He has made his impact for the Gators as a key special teams contributor.
However, I believe that this is the year for Hopper to break into the lineup and become a difference-maker for the Gators.
Hopper has had a successful offseason and added muscle to a frame that fits the mold of today’s modern-day linebacker. Hopper has plenty of athleticism and can provide assistance in both the passing and running game. For a Gators defense that was minuscule in all facets of the game last year, I expect young talented players like Hopper to help rewrite the script and get the Florida defense back to its dominant form.
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