Take Five Breakdown: Florida-#14 Utah Preview

Utah Preview

by Chris Will
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Please Read: Welcome to the new-look Inside the Gators

A new season is upon us, but 2023 starts the same way 2022 did. The Gators will take on No. 14 Utah in Salt Lake City on Thursday. Inside the Gators’ Chris Will sat down with KSL’s Josh Newman to get a preview of the 2023 Utah squad.

Five Utah Utes to Know

Cam Rising, Quarterback, Senior

  • The elephant in the room is Rising’s status for Thursday. The senior quarterback threw for 216 yards and ran for another 91 last year against Florida in The Swamp. An ACL tear in the Rose Bowl has left doubts over whether he will play and in what capacity that may be. “As of late last week, he was still a limited participant in practice,” Newman said, “He has not gone full 11-on-11 and pads again can’t move laterally, can’t do all the things that he needs to do.”

Brant Kuithe, Tight End, Senior

  • Kuithe is in a very similar scenario to Rising. The senior went under the radar with an early ACL tear in the 2022 season and Dalton Kincaid carrying his hype to the NFL. With that said, Kuithe had nine catches for 105 yards and a touchdown. Newman said he’ll be a valuable resource should a backup quarterback have to come in the game. “He’s going to come up with six, eight, nine catches, third and manageable, third and seven. You know, you can go to Kuithe on a jet sweep or over the middle and he’s going to deliver,” he said. “If the backup does not have that type of security blanket, it’s going to be tough to see. Who is your go to guy?”

Devaughn Vele, Wide Receiver, Junior

  • Vele was a player Inside the Gators had its eye on going into last season’s matchup between the Utes and the Gators. He didn’t have a huge game (just three catches for 36 yards). But he had a big game against Penn State in the Rose Bowl when he put together a 100 yard game. And the measurables didn’t go anywhere. He’s still 6-foot-5, 210 pounds. “[Vele] can go up and beat a guy one-on-one,” Newman said.

Ja’Quinden Jackson, Running Back, Sophomore

  • A former quarterback who is now the leading man in the backfield. He didn’t see any action against UF last season, but is poised for a big role this time around. “Huge stretch run,” Newman said, “He played really well against Colorado State, played really well against USC in the Pac-12 Championship Game, and he scored a touchdown in the Rose Bowl against Penn State. It became clear late in the season that he was going to stay at running back.”

Cole Bishop, Safety, Junior

  • The Walter Camp Preseason All-American led the team in tackles with 83 last year. He also added an interception and 1.5 sacks. “He is a younger kid at the other safety side, showed some flashes last year, but they’re very high on what their defensive backfield looks like,” Newman said.

Five Fast Facts

  • The 2023 opener marks the third-ever meeting between Florida and Utah, with the Gators holding a 2-0 series lead.
  • Florida is 8-13 all-time in true road season openers including a 6-4 mark in the last 10 dating back to 1956
  • This is Florida’s third true road game in a season opener in the last 38 years (1987 at Miami, 2020 at Ole Miss)
  • Florida last opened consecutive seasons against ranked opponents in 1953-54 against Rice in Houston (L, 20-16; L, 34-14).
  • The Gators have never won ranked matchups in back-to-back season openers

Five GameDay Storylines

Playing on a Thursday

  • This year these two teams play on Thursday. A week day matchup with a ranked team. It will get the primetime treatment on ESPN, but is Utah a fan of it? “They’ve won 14 straight there,” Newman said, “They’re 26-2 since the beginning of 2018. And I think, you know, I don’t speak for all fans, but, yeah, revenge is on the mind a little bit just based on how last year’s game went. And look, people are excited that Rising is back whether he plays or not on Thursday.”


  • The talk of last year’s matchup focused on Utah going to the Florida heat and humidity. Now, the roles are reversed. Florida will now travel to the mountains of Utah over 4,000 feet above sea level. “Certainly, a number of fans jumped all over that one.” Newman said, “It’s not going to be that serious.”

Backup options

  • Bryson Barnes: Newman described Barnes as a cult hero. He came in a trew a game-tying touchdown pass in a Rose Bowl game. He came in a won when Rising was out. “But you know, you watch enough of Barnes and he’s limited,” he said, “He’s not the athlete that Nate Johnson is. He doesn’t have the upside that Nate Johnson has.
  • Nate Johnson: “His first two collegiate touches last year were a nine-yard touchdown run and an eight-yard touchdown run, and his one career pass is a touchdown pass,” Newman said, “You see this kid and he’s hyper-athletic. Very fast and has a cannon for an arm, but he just doesn’t have the reps yet,”

Graham Mertz

  • The transfer portal has landed Wisconsin transfer Graham Mertz a job at Florida. It took a career game, full of highlight-reel plays from Anthony Richardson to get a win for Florida. “Anthony Richardson did not kill [Utah] last year with his arm. He killed Utah with his athleticism,” Newman said, “So very, very curious to see what happens in terms of Mertz versus this Utah defense.

One last Pac-12 Season

  • Conference realignment was the story of the college football offseason and Utah is no exception. The Utes will join to Big 12. “I think in the back of your minds, it would be cool to win the last PAC 12 title as the PAC 12 is right now. No team in the championship game, which is 2011 until now, no team has won three straight PAC championship games.”


  • Newman – 24-20 Utah
  • Chris Will – 28-21 Florida

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