Former Florida Football Player 2022 Pre-Season Survey I

Aug 29, 2022 | 2 comments

(Photo Courtesy USA Today Sports)

With Florida’s 2022 season opener against No. 7 Utah just under a week away, Inside the Gators has turned to former Gators football players to get their take on the upcoming season. We asked numerous former players for their take on the state of Florida football.

We will publish the results as they are returned.

Here in Part I, we have responses from players from three different decades of Florida Football in defensive lineman Timothy Beauchamp (96-99), kicker Zack Brust (2009-12), offensive lineman Leon Hires (98-00), and tight end Ben Troupe (2000-03).

1) In your opinion, what happened to cause the Dan Mullen era to go south so quickly after such a promising start over the first two years?

Beauchamp: I don’t know why it went downhill, but it seemed as though the team quit.

Brust: That’s a great question. You can’t dispute Dan’s quality as a play-caller or talent developer on the offensive side of the ball. What he did in Atlanta against Bama with the underrecruited guys he developed – Kyle Trask, Kadarius Toney, Kyle Pitts – still blows my mind. I think he did a lot of other things really well beyond that, particularly re-engaging former players and their families following the Mac era.

But with all HC roles, and particularly at Florida, once you lose the fan base (and a few games), things deteriorate quickly. That’s what happened with Dan, in my opinion.

Specifically, I think his take on recruiting (or lack thereof) was what really did it with the fans. In an era where all of the data says you cannot win it all without top-tier talent, you just cannot take the position he did with a fan base that expects to compete for big trophies every year.

This ain’t 1992, where Steve Spurrier and the staff could ‘coach em up’ to 10+ wins. You gotta recruit at a high level to compete.

So to me, when you have the team losing a few games we shouldn’t lose, a stubborn loyalty to a defensive coordinator that should have been long gone, coupled with the bleak recruiting outlook, fans weren’t happy. Toss in Kirby building a certified monster at UGA, in a method that Dan just never embraced, and that was that.

Hires: After the loss to Alabama last year that was so close, you could tell the head coach and some players started putting personal interests over what’s best for the team

Troupe: The Dan Mullen era came to an end because the product on the field wasnt producing and showed to much loyalty to too many coaches on the staff and obviously recruiting was not even given any thought. You cant lose to Mizzou.

2) To this point, what is your opinion of Billy Napier?

Beauchamp: I love Coach Napier. I think he is very genuine, and a very detailed person. I believe with time he will get things turned around.

Brust: Billy is getting it done. Was down there last weekend for the Swamp Alumni event and there is a renewed sense of optimism and energy around that (shiny new) building.

Critically, I think what Billy recognized and has done an incredible job of executing against is the need for substantial investment in the infrastructure that surrounds a football team in this era.

You need an extensive recruiting team. You need dozens of content creators. You need a nutrition staff. You need a Katie Turner. And you need NIL at the forefront. That’s all in addition to coaches that know the Xs and Os and are willing to hit the recruiting trail hard.

Billy put all that together in remarkable time – we’re starting to see the dividends in recruiting, and now time to see where we’re at on the field.

Hires: The fact that he’s the first coach since Spurrier to invite players back is awesome. He is saying and doing all the right things so far.

Troupe: Billy Napier is earning the trust of all the players through being transparent,truthful, and creating a point-by-point plan that all the players are bought into. He has literally created an army.

3) What do you think of the football players finally getting things like better food, dedicated parking, and the new football complex?

Beauchamp: I believe it’s long overdue. We needed our administration and boosters to back the program with the necessary funds to produce a championship environment. I believe we are headed in the right direction. Now the players have to live up to the high expectations and give maximum effort for success.

Brust: Am I allowed to say ‘cool, but we’re 10 years late’?

We have a group text of old timers that played between 2007-2013, and the running joke is that – although obviously exciting and massive for the program – this is what our rivals did a decade ago. Somehow, an $80M facility has become the baseline.

Whereas the facility race was a thing of the 2010s, I believe NIL will define the next 10 years. The good thing for the Gators is that we appear to be prioritizing both – NIL and the player experience.

Hires: I think it is long overdue. I’m all for players getting more. It sucks it wasn’t like that when I played, I think I still owe some parking ticket money from 99-2000.

Troupe: I’m happy for the players because it shows the highest level of respect and appreciation when you actually take some of the players’ concerns as more than just feedback and actually take them seriously and implement changes. The new football complex is the greatest recruiting tool we have outside of the coaches. From what I’ve seen it is beautiful. It has all the bells and whistles.

4) Florida faces three opponents, #3 UGA, #6 Texas A&M and #7 Utah, who are ranked inside the top 10 of the AP Preseason Poll. Which game do you believe they are most likely to win?

Brust: Utah is gonna get smoked. They started last year 1-3 on the road before getting hot late – take that experience and bring it to The Swamp on the first Saturday night of a new era… 38-13 Gators.

UGA is UGA – they’ll have more 5-stars lined up next to each other than a strip of resorts in Cabo. That said, their recently-departed 2021 defense was historic – we know the 2022 Dawgs are talented, but can they win games despite their Make-A-Wish quarterback this year? We’ll see. 24-23 Gators in a classic.

Huge year for Jimbo [Fisher]. He’s had the time and funds to put together what should be a contender. He did some chirping towards the mighty Nick Saban, and you don’t do that unless you think your team can and will back it up. I think we drop this one, and I think A&M just might make it to the CFP.

Hires: Utah -most likely due to it being early in the season and the humidity. It would be icing on the cake to go on the road and beat A&M and I think we will keep it very close with UGA because they are known to piss down their leg when it matters most. Especially when expectations are high. Not sure Gators win in Jville, but it will be closer than experts think.

Troupe: I believe that we can beat Texas A&M and Utah because of time and place Utah because it’s the first game and I believe we have the momentum and I believe our defense will help us beat A&M.

5) What are your thoughts on where Florida currently stands at your former position?

Brust: We look really good at middle linebacker – just as I left it… kidding.

Trey Smack is a freshman, so tough to say with certainty how he’ll do this year. That said, got a chance to watch him a few times now – he can boot the heck out of it and, in my opinion, has a great demeanor for a kicker.

Hires: The offensive line looks legit in terms of size and strength, they need to gel and all get on the same page. I think Cheston [Blackshear] will make sure that happens.

Troupe: I like the TE position. It’s not going to be a Kyle Pitts type of year but who can do that you know? I like [Keon] Zipperer and [Dante] Zanders because I think they both have unique skillsets. And [Nick] Elksnis and [Jonathan] Odom can also provide some depth. It’s yet to be determined, but I’m hopeful.

6) Which current player at your position are you expecting the most from this year? Also, is there a player you believe is flying under the radar but will shine this year?

Beauchamp: [Tyreak] Sapp is one of my favorite up-and-coming players. I believe he and Princely [Umanmielen] will have big years. Brenton Cox looked great in practice, and I know he will be great this season!

Brust: Not a lot of optionality here as a kicker, so I guess I’ll say Trey [Smack]?

I’ll offer Trey Dean as someone I’m thinking could have an epic breakout season. Chauncey [Gardner-Johnson] 2.0 coming out party.

Hires: Right guard O’Cyrus Torrence. The same position as me and I was also a transfer (from Notre Dame), so I’m rooting for him to have a great year. I also like Austin Barber who has a great future when he gets the chance.

Troupe: I’m expecting the most from Zipperer I think he is ready for a starring role. I think that Xavier Henderson is going to be a beast this year. He has the length, the size, the athleticism, and just like my senior year he has a chance to be the Alpha Dog. I also believe that Montrell Johnson gone be nice too.

7) What is your prediction on Florida’s final 12-game regular season record?

Beauchamp: It’s hard to predict outcomes of games when I haven’t seen them play. I hope they at least go 10-2. I believe they can win any game they play. If we keep Anthony Richardson and Ventrell Miller healthy, the sky is the limit!

Brust: 11-1. The only loss comes to A&M on the road. See you in Atlanta.

Hires: 10-2. It is going to be hard to win on the road at A&M and they will probably lose another – maybe UGA or LSU. And Richardson will be in the top three in Heisman votes. Book it!!

Troupe: I have us going 9-3 this year. Losses to LSU, UT, and UGA. Obviously, I hope I’m wrong and we go undefeated.

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