20/23 for 2023: Can Etienne take it to the next level

20/23 for 2023

by Inside the Gators Staff

Please Read: Welcome to the new-look Inside the Gators

The summer is flying by and the Florida Gators 2023 campaign is approaching quickly. As the players and coaches prepare for their August 31 kickoff against Utah, here at Inside the Gators we take stock of the roster to break down our list of ’20/23′ players for the 2023 season.

It will go like this: the 20 most valuable returning players and then the 23 most valuable incoming players who have yet to appear for the Gators. These are not necessarily the best players but the most valuable in relation to the team having a successful 2023 season.

Cam Parker and Mark Wheeler made their lists, combined them, and here’s how the final tally worked out (points in parenthesis).

This 10-part series will take a look at two returning players along with two new players in each edition. 

Part IPart IIPart IIIPart IVPart V
Part VIPart VIIPart VIII


No. 4-TREVOR ETIENNE (33-points)

  • Position: Running Back
  • Class: Sophomore
  • Size: 5-foot-9, 213-pounds

Cam’s Comment: His breakout freshman season means there will be a lot of pressure on Etienne to help carry the offense, especially with the loss of Anthony Richardson’s running ability. I have two questions about him going into the season. Did his pass protection improve? I believe so. It was something his mother Donnetta told me in his Parental Perspective feature he spent a lot of time on in high school, and he told the media in spring it was something he continued to work on extensively over the season. Secondly, can he avoid a stereotypical sophomore slump? Once again, I believe so. Even with a new offensive line, the run game will be relied on heavily, and another tremendous season for Etienne is certainly on the table. (Voted No. 4)

On the Mark: Etienne was named a Freshman All-SEC after he turned in 118 rushes for 719 yards and 6 touchdowns last year as part of a Florida rushing threesome that also featured Montrell Johnson and Anthony Richardson. With Richarson moving on, and Graham Mertz nowhere near the running threat, that should result in more opportunities for Etienne. To take his game to the next level, and because there’s a dearth of experience at receiver, it will be interesting to see if he is able to become more of a threat out of the backfield in the passing game. Last season he totaled 9 catches for 66 yards. That needs to at the very least double this season. (Voted No. 4)

Related: A football family

No. 3-AUSTIN BARBER (36-points)

  • Position: Offensive Tackle
  • Class: Sophomore
  • Size: 6-foot-6, 305-pounds

Cam’s Comment: With a multitude of outgoing transfers, as well as his tremendous performance last season, Barber is the best lineman on the roster and arguably the most important. He split time at both tackle spots last season but seems to have settled on the left side of the ball. Florida loses mobility at the quarterback spot and will be heavily reliant on the run, meaning Barber’s importance to the offense increases immensely. His leadership will be crucial for a group full of new faces, and his talent will be crucial to giving the quarterbacks as much time as possible to make decisions and the running backs plenty of room to run.  (Voted No. 3)

On the Mark: Barber has an interesting story in that he may only be on the team because another camp he was going to was canceled because of the weather, so he and his father decided to drop by Florida instead and see John Hevesy instead. A few months down the road later, he was offered and committed to the Gators. Now, after seeing some starting time at right tackle last season when Michael Tarquin was injured, he has taken over on the left side. He wasn’t randomly voted No. 3 on each of our ballots – when you get this high up on the list, it is basically do-or-die based on their performance as to whether or not Florida has a successful season.  (Voted No. 3)


No. 4-DAMIEON GEORGE JR. (41-points)

  • Position: Offensive Tackle
  • Class: Sophomore
  • Size: 6-foot-6, 361-pounds

Cam’s Comment: An Alabama transfer should get Gator fans excited purely because of where his previous top was. The issue? He was benched last season and did not see a lot of time with the offense as he was mostly on special teams. That being said, the Gators have an immediate need at right tackle, especially after Kiyaunta Goodwin’s transfer. He struggled a bit against speed rushers, but he’ll still be the starter and he has fall camp to continue to improve. If not, there’s Lyndell Hudson Jr. right behind him. (Voted No. 4)

On the Mark: On the surface, you can find some comfort in Florida’s projected first-team right tackle has starting experience at Alabama. However, after starting three games in 2021, other than seeing action in a blowout of Utah State, his other snaps came on special teams. Though he is listed as a sophomore, this is his fourth year in the SEC after playing three seasons for the Tide. There is value in having that much experience in a strength and conditioning system – where our spring insider said he looks like a grown man in the weight room compared to other linemen – and that though he is physical, he struggles against speed rushers, which the SEC is littered with. (Voted No. 4)

No. 3-CAM’RON JACKSON (42-points)

  • Position: Defensive Tackle
  • Class: Junior
  • Size: 6-foot-6, 371-pounds

Cam’s Comment: Out goes Gervon Dexter Sr. and in comes Cam’Ron Jackson, who pretty much became an immediate starter with his arrival from Memphis. His size (6 feet 6 inches, 371 pounds) and experience (13 starts last season) give the Gators a force to be reckoned with in the middle while adding to the depth they didn’t have last season. I expect him to have an immediate impact while creating one of the largest defensive line rooms in the country with Caleb Banks and Desmond Watson. (Voted No. 2)

On the Mark: From the first practice of the spring through the Orange & Blue Game he was the talk of the defensive line – and rightfully so. It isn’t often that you see someone his size move so well. He was equally as good against the run as he was getting push up the middle against the pass. It wouldn’t be at all surprising to see Jackson have the type of 2023 season that many expected from Gervon Dexter Sr. last year.  (Voted No. 3)

Go to discussion...

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  1. It's been a downer reading these reports on our offensive line.
    Lost 3 starters including our best player. Haven’t recruited the position well enough for elite plug and play. Seem to have legit coaching though so I think they will be more than good after 3-4 games.
  2. I'm not here to sell tickets. We don't try to be positive or negative. We try to lay out what we see as we see it. Can we be wrong? Absolutely.

    The thing about the college game nowadays is that with players transferring left and right, it's hard to get a preseason feel for what a team has.

    We have to go with what we know based on their resume from last season, regardless of where that took place.

    The fact is, there is only one player who has started multiple games for Florida at the position he is projected to play this season, and Eguakun had an underwhelming 2022 season.

    Leonard is a bit on the smaller side, and in his two career starts hasn't given us any cause to say he solidly has that job won. Hell, Harris might challenge for that spot as a true freshman.

    Now, Barber looked good in his time at right tackle, honestly, he looked better than Tarquin. Moving to the left side is new to him and thus a bit of a question mark.

    Mazzccua has a chance to be very good if he can build on what he did at Baylor, but we're still in the dark as to when he will be fully good to go.

    Then you have George at right tackle, who took offensive line snaps for Alabama in one game last year, and his top backup is no longer here.

    So, there's potential, but there are plenty of question marks.
  3. I've already said here on another thread that I think Etienne will be RB1 after a couple games. He blew up in the weight room and still has the speed and moves and if he gets through the line LB's are going to have a problem with him. Webb has also put on more muscle and I think Napier will find in fall practice that he has a 4 back rotation to work with. But Etienne should lead the way, JMO.

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