Florida and Miami will meet in Orlando five days from now to commence the 2019 college football season. Both teams had a lot of turnover during the offseason. Here are three storylines to know about this Gators team heading into this weekend’s contest:
Emergence of the wide receiver corps
Spring camp saw the rise of multiple wide receivers in coach Dan Mullen’s offense. With the return of senior wide receiver Van Jefferson filling the top spot on the depth chart, the battle for No. 2 on the other side of the field was fierce.
Senior wide receiver Tyrie Cleveland flourished in practice and is believed to have earned himself a more prominent role in the rotation after hauling in just 18 passes for 212 yards and three touchdowns in 2018.
Junior receiver Trevon Grimes also impressedduring the Orange and Blue game. After inconsistent showings during the preceding practices, the 6-foot-5 receiver set a spring game yardage record with 195 and scored two touchdowns.
Though the team remains confident, much of the corps’ success will depend on the consistency of quarterback Feleipe Franks.
Young, inexperienced offensive line
The protection up front will be critical for Franks in order to continue his upward trajectory from last year.
UF’s offensive line took a big hit with the losses of Martez Ivey, Tyler Jordan, Fred Johnson and Jawaan Taylor. In response, Mullen will thrust upperclassmen with limited experience like redshirt juniors Stone Forsythe and Jean Delance into starting roles.
Forsythe appeared in all 13 games in 2018, but started just one at right tackle against Charleston Southern. Delance played in just four games as a reserve and suffered a leg injury in a recent practice during fall camp. If he remains out for the matchup against Miami, redshirt freshman Richard Gouraige is the prime candidate to fill in.
The offensive line took another blow during the summer when tackle Noah Banks announced he was medically retiring from football after suffering another minor epileptic episode. While Banks was not expected to win the starting role, his abrupt departure hurts the depth of an offensive line unit that contains six true freshmen and cannot spare any more setbacks.
Question marks in the secondary
Florida ended the 2018 season with 14 interceptions and ranked No. 13 in the nation in passing yards allowed (2350 yards), and, at the beginning of spring camp in 2019, had even higher expectations for its last line of defense. But as Florida enters the final week of preparation for Miami, the secondary has become an unknown.
Up-and-coming hopefuls Chris Steele, Brian Edwards and John Huggins all departed from the team for separate off-the-field circumstances during the spring and summer, leaving big holes in the defensive backfield.
Huggins, the latest exit, was dismissed on Aug. 10. He was accused of choking a female tutor in October. Mullen stated later that Huggins did not meet the “Gator standard.”
Redshirt junior C.J. McWilliams became another casualty for the secondary after he ruptured his Achilles tendon, keeping him out for the season.
In their place, sophomore Amari Burney and junior CJ Henderson are primed for breakout seasons in their respective starting roles. Mullen also made it clear during fall camp that the three freshmen in the secondary — Kaiir Elam, Chester Kimbrough and Jaydon Hill, who is recovering from a torn ACL — will also have significant playing time.
To improve on last season, Mullen and the team will lean on a secondary with a lot of talent but not much experience. The matchup against Miami should give a clear picture of what to expect from the unit for the rest of the season.
Follow Dylan Rudolph on Twitter @dyrudolph . Contact him at [email protected].