Stock watch: Shawn Davis, true freshmen up; tight ends and health down after Week 2
The Florida Gators are entering Kentucky week today following their 45-0 win against the UT-Martin, a game in which it's tough to imagine many players disappointing in.
And that was the case for the majority of the game. With that being said, let's take a look at the stocks across the Gators roster: Who's up, who's down, and who do you need to keep an eye on going forward?
Safety Shawn Davis
Safety was arguably the biggest question mark across the Gators roster entering the 2019 season. Shawn Davis has eliminated half of the skepticism last night, though.
The defender is enjoying a bit of a breakout to start his junior campaign. Over the past two games, the 5-11, 185 lb. defensive back has made his name known in the run game and the short passing game, accumulating eight total tackles, a tackle for loss, a pass breakup, and a quarterback hit. Six of those tackles and the TFL came last night against the Skyhawks.
Assuming Brad Stewart can regain his starting position when he returns from suspension, a Stewart and Davis tandem would be in the team's best interest. There's never been a question to Stewart's talent, so pairing his ball-hawking ability with Davis' improved tackling and short-field play would give the position some stability in multiple aspects.
True freshmen defenders
The UT-Martin game isn't one that Florida will put on their College Football Playoff résumé, given the level of competition. What made this game important was the valuable game reps it gave to young players across the Gators roster. And several freshmen took advantage of their opportunities.
Cornerbacks Kaiir Elam, Jaydon Hill, and Chester Kimbrough all impressed in their Gators debuts, as well as defensive end Khris Bogle. Elam recorded an interception in the endzone, as well as a tackle. Hill and Kimbrough both recorded four tackles, with Hill adding a pass breakup as well.
Bogle had five tackles and a sack in his first game as a Gator. He also created numerous quarterback pressures.
All in all, 13 true freshmen played for Florida last night, with several key depth pieces making an early impact. That's what you want to see from games like this.
Quarterback Feleipe Franks
Feleipe Franks posted the second-highest completion percentage (92.9%) in Gators history, displaying near-perfect ball placement consistently throughout the night.
He had some issues with his reads - on several dropbacks he elected to check-down rather than find an opening down the seams and sideline. Head coach Dan Mullen mentioned at his post-game press conference that he and Franks discussed a couple of those instances during the game, and that those should be cleaned up going forward.
Other than that, pretty much a perfect night for Florida's QB.
Stock to keep an eye on
Running back Malik Davis
It had been 707 days since Gators running back Malik Davis had scored a collegiate touchdown. A torn ACL and broken foot later, Davis found the endzone against the Skyhawks from one yard out to extend Florida's lead to 24 in the third quarter.
Ddavis recorded 18 yards on three carries to go with his score, while Florida continues to ease him into action. He wasn't so successful against Miami two weeks ago, where he had the same amount of carries but for -9 yards and a fumble. Obviously, Davis is trending in the right direction, but we're only keeping our eye on his stock for now and waiting to see how he does against SEC competition.
Wide receiver Jacob Copeland
Jacob Copeland recorded his first career touchdown on Saturday night, posting a 3-23-1 stat line. he missed the majority of his true freshman season with a knee injury, but appears to be fully healthy and should begin demanding more targets in this offense.
Considering the combination of size and athleticism that resides in the Gators' tight end room, there were high expectations for the group entering the 2019 season.
So far, the group is far from meeting them. Kyle Pitts is the only tight end to record a reception so far this season, with five coming on Franks' 54 passing attempts. Pitts had two against UT-Martin last night, including one where he had plenty of separation to secure a first down after the reception - but he slipped and fell short on third down.
The group has also struggled plenty in their run blocking. Florida is averaging four yards per carry through two games this year - a solid average, but far below the 5.3 mark Florida posted last year.
It's interesting that the team has deployed Pitts and Lucas Krull as blockers over the more proven Kemore Gamble, as Pitts and Krull are better suited in the passing game. They will need to make some adjustments here going forward.
Florida saw three key players suffer injuries against UT-Martin: Wide receiver Kadarius Toney, cornerback C.J. Henderson, and Shawn Davis.
Toney's injury has not yet been specified, but he left the game displaying discomfort with his arm and shoulder area. Mullen stated after the game that the team is still examining the injury. Henderson was banged up in coverage on a deep post prior to halftime, and he returned to the sidelines wearing a boot and using crutches in the third quarter. Mullen believes Henderson suffered a slight ankle sprain, avoiding a major injury. No timetable was provided for his return.
Davis appeared to limp off the field after making his final tackle of the night near the sideline. Nothing was said of Davis' injury at the post-game press conference, so we will continue to monitor his situation.
While Florida accomplished getting young players some valuable reps against UT-Martin, these injuries are the last thing you want to come from a cupcake game. Hopefully, all three are ready to return to action soon.