Spring Preview: Opportunity awaits

Mar 12, 2019 | 0 comments

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We’re still over five months away from Florida and Miami squaring off in Orlando (Fla.), but today marks the first practice of the 2019 calendar year as spring football begins. Whether it was due to injuries or a loaded depth chart, several members of the 2018 team didn’t receive as much playing time as they may have expected. Inside the Gators gives you their opinion on which players have an opportunity this spring to generate a name for themselves. 



  • Quarterback Emory Jones 

The former four-star quarterback saw limited action during his freshman campaign a season ago as Feleipe Franks solidified himself as the starting quarterback. Now, as Florida transitions their focus to the 2019 season, Jones’ name is still in the conversation in terms of playing time this season. Jones provides a unique skill set that many see as a “willing runner”, while also having the ability to make all the throws.  Adding to his arsenal, Dan Mullen noted on Monday that Jones “has added some girth” to his physique, which should give him the size to consistently take SEC hits. Mullen has used multiple quarterbacks in his system before in 2006 with Chris Leak and Tim Tebow. Jones adds a new element to the game and is a much purer runner. 

  • Wide Receiver Jacob Copeland 

One of coach Mullen’s first big recruiting victories came in 2018 with Copeland choosing Florida over Alabama during National Signing Day. The coveted four-star receiver was riddled with an injury that required a significant recovery time, forcing Copeland to miss fall practice and the majority of the 2018 season. After seeing action in just three games and catching one pass for 16 yards, Copeland enters his redshirt freshman season with a chip on his shoulder. The 6-foot, 198-pound receiver is one of the more athletic playmakers on the roster with his speed and shiftiness while the ball is in his hands. Copeland could be used like Kadarius Toney, by this staff feeding him the ball in a variety of fashions; whether that’s designed runs, screens or downfield passes.  

  • Wide Receiver/Tight End Kyle Pitts 

Pitts is arguably one of the more versatile players Florida has on their roster. With a massive frame of 6-feet-6 inches and 246-pounds, Pitts has the skill set of lining up at tight end or out-wide at receiver. After the bowl game, a rumor circulated that Pitts would be developed more as a receiver this season. We will know more on this as spring practice develops, but what we do know is Pitts can generate a multitude of mismatches while on the field. He’s too fast for a linebacker to guard him in passing situations and it too big for a safety or nickel to defend him down the field. With his versatility and size, Pitts could develop into Franks’ safety net on third down and redzone passing situations. 

  • Defensive End/Outside Linebacker Jon Greenard 

The Louisville transfer begins his journey as a Florida Gator today. With the departures of Jachai Polite and Cece Jefferson, Todd Grantham and his defensive staff are searching for another pass rusher on the edge. Greenard spent his first four years at Louisville, redshirting his freshman year and missing his final season with an injured wrist. In between those years, Greenard proved to be one of the best defensive linemen in the ACC. The 6-foot-4, 253-pound graduate transfer lead his Cardinals with a team-high seven sacks and 15.5 tackles-for-loss. Greenard has proved his ability as a pass rusher and with Jeremiah Moon missing spring ball due to an injury, Greenard has a fantastic opportunity ahead of him. 

  • Linebacker James Houston IV 

Houston IV begins his redshirt sophomore season on Tuesday afternoon. After redshirting his 2017 season due to suspensions, the 6-foot-1, 233-pound linebacker provided meaningful snaps in 2018, recording two forced fumbles and a blocked punt to go along with 28 tackles. Florida loses Vosean Joseph this year and Christian Robinson is searching for his replacement. Houston IV showed his ability to help the team in a variety of ways a season ago and this spring has an opportunity to boost his playing time. Houston IV is fast, physical and brings experience to the linebacking core. 

  • Cornerback Chris Steele 

You never know when your name will be called, whether it’s because of injuries ahead of you or other reasons, but freshman Chris Steele needs to become game ready quickly. Florida arguably has the best duo cornerbacks in the country with C.J. Henderson and Marco Wilson, but as we saw a season ago, due to unfortunate circumstances then-freshman Trey Dean III was thrown into the fire early. At 6-foot-1 and 185-pounds, Steele has a strong frame to compete in the SEC and can prove to the staff this spring he is up for the challenge. Steele was one of the highest-rated defensive backs in the country as a high school prospect and adds depth to the position, but it’s his time to learn quickly, adapt and become comfortable in Todd Grantham's defense.  

Tags: Player

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