5 Florida Gators Sophomores Set to Make Major Impact in 2021

The Florida Gators football team will rely on plenty of young talent this year, especially from the 2020 recruiting class.
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While it typically takes a couple of seasons for a recruiting class to truly make an impact, the Florida Gators could see its 2020 recruiting class do just that.

Over the past two seasons, the Gators saw plenty of its veterans step up to the plate. In 2019, its offense consisted primarily of upperclassmen, particularly in its receiving group. That much changed to some degree last season with younger players such as Jacob Copeland and Xzavier Henderson taking legitimate snaps during the year.

Defensively, Florida lost plenty of its veterans, including safeties Shawn Davis, Donovan Stiner and Brad Stewart within its secondary, and Malon Dunlap, TJ Slaton and Kyree Campbell on its defensive line. The team also saw starting left tackle Stone Forsythe and starting center Brett Heggie.

This year, there will be plenty of young players that will be forced to step up either due to their own talent or by virtue of being the next man up. Regardless of the reason, there's still plenty to get excited about.

Here are five sophomores to keep an eye on heading into the season:

Xzavier Henderson

Henderson, 6-foot-3, 196 pounds, was one of the younger receivers that saw plenty of action during his freshman season in 2020. While he didn't register too many stats, accounting for just nine receptions for 148 yards and a touchdown, he did show off some potential in his size and speed.

The younger brother to former Florida cornerback CJ Henderson, now with the Jaguars in the NFL, Henderson possesses natural athleticism and has the skill set that will translate to the offense Gators head coach Dan Mullen prefers to run.

While this season will be a bit different due to the offense surrounding dual-threat quarterback Emory Jones, don't be surprised to see a heavy dose of Henderson in the passing game. The Gators lost both of its primary red-zone targets in tight end Kyle Pitts and receiver Trevon Grimes. Henderson fits that mold perfectly.

Rashad Torrence

Torrence getting some love on this list shouldn't come as a surprise. He was a spot starter for a few games last season, filling in for an injured Davis down the stretch. As one of the only freshmen to receive plenty of reps, the future is bright for him to become the Day 1 starter to begin the 2021 season.

Last year, Torrence, 6-foot, 197 pounds, saw snaps in nine games and started three. He would go on to record 25 tackles on the year.

While his impact wasn't quite felt during every game, his presence entering year two should improve the secondary as a whole. Torrence joined Florida as a four-star prospect and was thought to be joining Alabama when his preference flipped to the Gators, joining the team as an early enrolee.

Without a spring last season, Torrence, along with all of the members of the 2020 recruiting class, didn't get a chance to truly develop. Now, with a year and change under his belt, the transition should be easier.

Princely Umanmielen

Umanmielen might be one of the most impactful players on the Gators defensive line this season. He didn't receive many reps last year, overshadowed by other veteran defensive linemen, but his impact could be felt during his spot duty with the team.

At 6-foot-4, 245 pounds, Umanmielen packs all of the size needed to play defensive end in defensive coordinator Todd Grantham's scheme. Playing behind Zachary Carter this season, Umanmielen should receive plenty of snaps as a rotational piece.

Last year, the sophomore defensive lineman accounted for three tackles, two tackles-for-loss and two sacks.

Joshua Braun

The Gators will undergo a rebuilding of its offensive line. They've lost two starters, as indicated above, and will need to re-organize its line in order to make the best alignment possible for Jones and the team's running backs.

Braun, 6-foot-6, 352 pounds, got playing time last season in spot duty, earning reps as a reserve in 11 games last year.

This season, Braun is expected to man the starting right guard position, sliding next to Ethan White (center) and Jean Delance (right tackle). He has the size and the ability to man the position, and it wouldn't be a surprise to see him play multiple positions throughout the year.

Expect Braun to play a major role in 2021 and beyond.

Avery Helm

Helm, 6-foot-1, 174 pounds, redshirted last season so is technically a redshirt freshman, but still deserves to be on this list. Coming out of high school, Helm was a four-star prospect and has been thought to be one of the players who could really make an impact later in his career.

With the Gators needing plenty of help and Helm, with plenty of speed, will be one of the players competing with Jaydon Hill for the other starting cornerback position on the outside. While Hill has the experience advantage, Florida shouldn't hesitate to play the best players, even if it's Helm or freshman corner Jason Marshall Jr.

It remains to be seen how much of an impact Helm makes this season, but don't be surprised to see him rotate in plenty throughout the year as the Gators look to reshape its secondary after posting some of the worst numbers in all of college football just last season.