Florida Gators Dark Horse Candidates to Break Out in 2021

Which Florida Gators serve as dark horses to breakout during the 2021 season?
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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.

Offense

Malik Davis

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.

Trent Whittemore

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.

Defense

Jeremiah Moon

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.

Tyron Hopper

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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