Five on the Spot: Banks has become a disruptor

Five on the Spot

by Rafael De Los Santos
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Please Read: Welcome to the new-look Inside the Gators

Here are five Florida Gators football players who are in the spotlight, and on the spot, to perform this week against South Carolina.

Arlis Boardingham

Almost a year and a half after our interview with Arlis Boardingham for ITG’s Getting to Know series, we finally get to see why Billy Napier described him as a “mismatch type of player.”

“I just feel like I’m a mismatch because I’m big. I’m strong enough to outpower a corner and I feel like I’m also fast enough to outrun a linebacker. That versatility is something that I’m bringing,” Boardingham said in March 2022.

Boardingham was named SEC Co-Freshman of the Week for the first time in his career after finding the end zone twice during the Gators’ Week 6 victory at home against Vanderbilt.

The redshirt freshman’s seven catches marked the most receptions by a Florida tight end since Kyle Pitts totaled eight in 2020. His 99-yard day was the most receiving yards by a Florida tight end since Kemore Gamble recorded 122 in 2021.

Boardingham is expected to shine as Florida looks to add passing weapons beyond Ricky Pearsall against a South Carolina defense that ranks 126th in the country in passing yards allowed.

Caleb Banks

Louisville transfer Caleb Banks has been stuffing the stat sheet for Florida halfway into the season. Banks has started all six games for the Gators this season, totaling eight tackles (3 solo), 1.5 tackles for loss, and two sacks. His 12 pressures, one QB hit, and nine QB hurries across 156 snaps, are the most from a Gators’ defensive tackle through six games.

The 6-foot-6, 320-pound redshirt freshman has proved a versatile piece of the defensive line for the Gators, recording 15 snaps as the nose tackle, 89 snaps at defensive tackle, 50 snaps over the offensive tackle, and two snaps outside of the offensive tackle.

Banks’ win rate of 12% ranks first among interior defensive linemen and second across all defensive linemen, trailing only edge rusher Princely Umanmielen. The duo will hope to keep Rattler on the run and on the ground as the Gators look for their first road win of the season.

The Gators will head into South Carolina with an emphasis on starting fast in a game that could be decided by Banks’ unit. The 22 sacks on Spencer Rattler are good for 2nd highest in the SEC.

Kamryn Waites

Kamryn Waites made his comeback against Vanderbilt less than 10 months after tearing his Achilles tendon as what Napier has deemed a new player.

“He’s leaner. He’s more explosive. Although he’s been injured, I think it speaks to the training room, Tyler Miles and return-to-play protocol in sports science does a great job, and then certainly working with a nutritionist and strength and conditioning, that plan has worked for him for sure,” Napier said at Saturday’s postgame conference.

Waites played 59 total snaps on Saturday, including 52 at right tackle and seven at left tackle as the Gators O-line saw Montrell Johnson Jr. run for 135 yards and a touchdown.

Redshirt Sophomore has been a long-awaited addition to Rob Sale’s unit after losing last year’s starters to the NFL Draft and the transfer portal. Injuries to Kingsley Eguakun and Austin Barber have added to the demand for Waites as he looks to find his role on the Florida offensive line.

Bryce Thornton

The Gators started a pair of true freshmen at safety last week against Vanderbilt and received reasonably solid performances from both. Whereas Jordan Castell has already stamped his name among Swamp favorites, Bryce Thornton stepped into the starting role for the first time in a solid defensive outing for the Gators.

Though South Carolina will present a tougher aerial challenge for Florida than Vandy, there’s

a lot to like about the film from Thornton. In his first career start, Thornton played 45 of 55 defensive snaps, finishing the game with three tackles, 0.5 tackles-for-loss, and a pass breakup.

Despite two deep ball blunders from UF, the Gators held the Commodores to 64 rushing yards, forcing a fumble in the process.

Ja’Keem Jackson

It may be the hype that surrounded his camp performances before getting to the UF campus, but the gap between expectation and reality for Ja’keem Jackson has been a big one.

Granted he’s starting at one of the hardest positions on the field as a true freshman, but Saturday’s performance was nothing short of flashbacks from the Tennessee game.

Though the Gators were able to hold Vandy in the redzone, Ken Seals’ 52-yard pass to Junior Sherrill was reminiscent of the 55-yard touchdown Jackson gave up to Bru McCoy against No. 11 Tennessee.

As his counterpart in Jason Marshall Jr. continues with his struggles living up to the projected first-round pick he was deemed to be, Jackson will look to disrupt the SEC’s third best completion percentage in Spencer Rattler.

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