20/19 for 2019: Campbell imperative for strong run defense

Jun 11, 2019 | 0 comments


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The summer is flying by and the Florida Gators 2019 campaign is approaching quickly. As the players and coaches prepare for their August 24 kickoff against Miami, here at Inside the Gators we take stock of the roster to break down our list of “20/19” players for the 2019 season.

It will go like this: the 20 most valuable returning players with considerable game experience and then the 19 most valuable players who have yet to appear for the Gators and/or make a significant contribution in game play to this point. These are not necessarily the best players but the most valuable in relation to the team this season.

This is a 10 part series that will take a look at two returning players along with one to two upcoming players each time. Today we dive in with players 15-16 from our Top 20 list and players 14-15 from our Top 19 list.

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20 MOST VALUABLE RETURNING CONTRIBUTORS

No. 16-KYREE CAMPBELL

  • Position: Defensive Tackle
  • Class: Junior
  • Size: 6-foot-3, 304 pounds
  • High School/Hometown: Woodbridge High (Woodbridge, Va.)

Why He’s Important: With Tedarrell Slaton and Elijah Conliffe starting at defensive tackle for the first two games of 2018, the Gators gave up 262.5 rushing yards per game and 6.3 yards per rush. Disappointed by the play of his young tackles, defensive coordinator Todd Grantham inserted Campbell and Adam Shuler into the starting lineup. They gave up 144.4 yards per game and 3.9 yards per carry in the remaining 11 games. As an interior lineman, Campbell isn’t going to pile up huge statistics – he recorded just 3.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks last season – but he eats up blocks and allows linebackers David Reese and Amari Burney to make plays against the run. He’ll need to play well again in 2019 because Slaton and Conliffe are once again the top backups, and the sample size on them hasn’t been very good. UF signed only one defensive tackle in the 2019 class.

Questions to be Answered: While Campbell was an upgrade, the rush defense numbers still weren’t great. If Florida had given up 144.4 yards per game for the entire season, that still would’ve ranked just eighth in the SEC. That’s not all on Campbell, of course, but he’s a critical component of the rush defense. Can Campbell and the rest of the defense rise from the middle of the pack in rush defense in 2019? Also, can he be more of a factor as a pass rusher this season?

 Unless Conliffe and/or Slaton take huge jumps this offseason, Campbell will start every game in 2019, barring injury. With the interior defensive line settled, better speed and depth at linebacker and experienced safeties, the rush defense statistics should go down a bit this season. Expect UF to give up about 135 yards per game on the ground and Campbell to have a few more impact plays than he did a year ago.

No. 15-TOMMY TOWNSEND

  • Position: Punter
  • Class: Redshirt Senior
  • Size: 6-foot-2, 183 pounds
  • High School/Hometown: Boone High (Orlando, Fla.)

Why He’s Important: Townsend’s ability to flip the field with booming punts is a huge weapon for the Gators. In 2018, he averaged 45.4 yards per punt and landed 24 punts inside the 20-yard line. He recorded 14 punts over 50 yards, including a 71-yarder against LSU, which was the seventh longest in program history. He’s very athletic for a punter, as Vanderbilt found out when he sprinted up the middle for 18 yards on a fake punt. Head coach Dan Mullen places a huge emphasis on special teams, and Townsend is a major part of that. An opponent having to start a drive at its own 20 instead of the 40 could be the difference in a close game. He also serves as UF’s holder on extra points and field goals, and they didn’t have any bad holds or blocked kicks last year. The Gators need him to continue being a weapon in 2019.

Questions to be Answered: Will Tommy ever reach the legendary status achieved by his brother Johnny? Johnny left UF after the 2017 season as the leading punter in school history. His 46.2-yard career average is first in SEC history, and he owns the school record for punt average in a season (47.9 in 2016). Tommy has the leg to match Johnny’s statistics, but he’ll have to eliminate the few short punts and shanks that weighed down his average in 2018. Of course, if the Gators’ offense continues to progress, he won’t have as many opportunities to boom 60-yarders. Can Tommy clean up the few mistakes from last season and become one of the nation’s top punters this season?

Projection: Townsend will continue to destroy footballs with his right leg. He won’t put up the numbers Johnny did – no shame in that – but he’ll average about 46 yards per punt and pin opponents deep with regularity. He’ll spoil Gators fans with another excellent season of punting and leave huge shoes for the next punter to fill.

19 MOST VALUABLE WHO HAVE YET TO CONTRIBUTE SIGNIFICANTLY

 

No. 15-LUCAS KRULL

  • Position: Tight End
  • Class: Redshirt Junior
  • Size: 6-foot-6, 255 pounds
  • High School/Hometown: Shawnee Mill Valley High (Shawnee, Kan.)

Why He’s Important: With the graduations of C’yontai Lewis and Moral Stephens combined with Kyle Pitts’ move to wide receiver in the spring, the starting tight end position is up for grabs between Krull and Kemore Gamble. Krull has the ideal physical attributes of a modern tight end: a small-forward type of body with great hands and decent speed. His size should allow him to be an effective blocker in the running game as well. His biggest value could come in the red zone, where space is tight and defenders can use the back of the end zone as an extra defender. Krull is going to be covered most often by linebackers and safeties, who usually aren’t taller than 6-foot-3 or 6-foot-4. So, even if they have perfect coverage, all quarterback Feleipe Franks has to do is throw it up high and watch Krull use his size and athleticism to box out defenders and bring down the catch.

Questions to be Answered: After graduating high school in 2015, Krull played baseball in junior college for a year before transferring to Florida and picking up football again. He looked a little rusty in his first year back in the game. He would do things in practice like drop a pass because he didn’t hold on through contact or not run his route perfectly. He played a ton on special teams in 2018, but he recorded just six catches for 75 yards. The potential is there, but he’s got to knock the rust off and fine-tune his skills. Will Krull look more comfortable in all aspects of the game in 2019, and will he be able to hold his own as a blocker? If so, what does that mean for his role in the offense?

Projection: Mullen likes to use some two tight end sets, so Krull should see plenty of playing time even if he doesn’t beat out Gamble to be the starter. He’s a guy that should be used all over the field – split out wide, in the slot, on the line as a traditional tight end and maybe even as a fullback on the goal line. He’ll haul in 15-20 catches and a few touchdowns, and Mullen will try the left-handed Krull as a passer again for a play in 2019.

No. 14-RICHARD GOURAIGE

  • Position: Offensive Line
  • Class: Redshirt Freshman
  • Size: 6-foot-4, 303 pounds
  • High School/Hometown: Cambridge Christian (Tampa, Fla.)

Why He’s Important: It’s no secret that offensive line is the biggest area of concern for UF entering this season. Gouraige won’t likely enter the season as a starter, but he should be a valuable part of the rotation as a swing tackle. He was a top-100 recruit in the Class of 2018 according to the 247 Composite but played in just two games a season ago. With offensive line coach John Hevesy searching for a combination that works, Gouraige will get his chance to prove himself in 2019.

Questions to be Answered: Like many of the young linemen, the coaches are still trying to figure out where he works best. He was the No. 2 left tackle in the spring, but for this offensive line to become the best version of itself, he’s probably going to have to learn to play right tackle as well. Otherwise, unless Noah Banks returns with a clean bill of health, they’re likely going to be relying on a true freshman should something happen to starting right tackle Jean Delance. Speaking of the freshmen, is it possible for early enrollees Michael Tarquin and William Harrod to pass him on the depth chart in the fall now that they’ve had a full offseason to get stronger and digest the playbook? Can Gouraige fend off the younger players, and, if so, how will he fare in his first significant action?

Projection: Gouraige will be the first lineman off the bench and will come in to give left tackle Stone Forsythe a breather. If something were to happen to either Forsythe or Delance, he would get the start. However, if Forsythe or Delance continues to struggle in the fall, he might earn a starting job by the end of the year.

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