After 243 days, the Florida football team can firmly leave the sour memory of being demolished by the Oklahoma Sooners in the Cotton Bowl in the past. The long offseason has concluded, and the Gators’ 2021 season opener against Florida Atlantic stands just five days away.
Head coach Dan Mullen, redshirt freshman Avery Helm and senior Trey Dean met with the media Monday to preview its Saturday matchup versus the Owls.
Hours before Mullen took the microphone, Florida dropped its unofficial depth chart for week one. Media and fans quickly noticed who will man the second starting cornerback spot opposite of junior Kaiir Elam — Helm.
The Gators had to find a replacement early in fall camp after the presumed starter, junior Jaydon Hill, suffered a torn ACL to end his 2021 season. Mullen wouldn’t offer any clues about who’d take his spot in previous media availabilities.
“I don’t know, it’s not September 4,” Mullen said on Aug. 23. “They all get the same reps right now.”
Even with the template announced, the head coach refused to budge Monday, and he added that Helm’s name isn’t etched in stone to start Saturday.
“I guess that’s today’s depth chart,” Mullen said. “It changes every day. Show up on Saturday, you get to see who starts.”
Helm said he believed he earned the right to start by applying what he learned in the offseason to practice every day and he’s happy to see it all come together.
Mullen noted that the Texas-based product arrived in Gainesville still rehabbing a torn ACL he suffered during his junior year of high school.
“To grow and mature through that and then put himself, obviously he has tremendous physical talents,” he said. “But it’s the maturity of learning how to play within the scheme, play within what we’re doing and do what’s expected of him beyond just his physical talents.
“And he’s worked hard to go learn that, having missed all the time from an injury when he got here."
The Gators have also not settled on a true starter at the running back position. They listed senior Dameon Pierce and redshirt senior Malik Davis first but with an “or” between their names, and running backs and special teams coach Greg Knox said in previous media sessions the backfield would operate as a committee rather than through a workhorse. Redshirt sophomore wide receiver Trent Whittemore recovered nicely since he suffered a punctured lung last season. He was listed as the starting slot receiver.
Florida has also been forced to manage some other injuries. Redshirt freshman safety Kamar Wilcoxson sent out cryptic tweets this weekend, alluding to an injury. Mullen confirmed he’s dealing with a slight knee injury and that he is doubtful for Saturday. He mentioned sophomore defensive lineman Jalen Lee will be questionable versus FAU.
Florida kicks off its season Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in The Swamp and can be seen on the SEC Network.
Contact Zachary Huber at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @zacharyahuber.