20/19 for 2019: Perine is the go-to back

Jun 25, 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 7-8 from our Top 20 list and players 6-7 from our Top 19 list.

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20 MOST VALUABLE RETURNING CONTRIBUTORS

No. 8-TREY DEAN III

  • Position: Defensive Back
  • Class: Sophomore
  • Size: 6-foot-3, 194 pounds
  • High School/Hometown: Dutchtown High (Hampton, Ga.)

Why He’s Important: The Gators must replace Chauncey Gardner-Johnson’s production at ‘Star,’ their version of the nickelback, following his departure for the NFL. Dean appears to be in line for the starting role. He began his freshman season as a reserve but started nine games as an outside corner following a season-ending injury to Marco Wilson. He mostly played well, although he did have some freshman moments, such as Michigan’s first scoring drive in the Peach Bowl when he gave up a 41-yard completion and a touchdown. For the season, Dean broke up six passes, second on the team, and intercepted a pass against Florida State. He was named to the coaches’ Freshman All-SEC Team. With Wilson back from his injury and ready to go, the Gators moved Dean to star in the spring, and he played well enough to all but cement his spot in the starting lineup. He seems to have the ideal physical qualities of the position – he’s fast enough to cover speedy slot receivers and physical enough to help out in the running game. Perhaps the biggest value he brings is his versatility. He can move back outside to corner or to safety should injuries pop up.

Questions to be Answered: When Dean struggled last season, it was often because he didn’t turn his head around and play the ball. Both of the big catches he allowed on Michigan’s first scoring drive were a result of this. Not turning his ahead around leaves him vulnerable to back-shoulder throws and pass interference penalties on underthrows. Has Dean improved at getting his head around in time? Like last season, offenses are going to try to pick on Dean because of Wilson and CJ Henderson on the outside. Will he play well, or will he experience a sophomore slump? Dean’s versatility could present some interesting decisions to defensive coordinator Todd Grantham. If Wilson or Henderson were to get injured or ejected for targeting, does he move Dean back outside or just plug in a backup corner? With the safety position unsettled and John Huggins emerging as a strong backup nickel, is there a chance Dean gets moved to safety?

Projection: Dean will start every game at star, although he will see some snaps outside when Henderson and/or Wilson inevitably roll an ankle or cramp at some point. He’ll pick up right where Gardner-Johnson left off and provide a seamless transition. He’ll pick off three passes and break up about 10 passes and be named to an All-SEC team before moving back outside as a starter in 2020.

No. 7-LAMICAL PERINE

  • Position: Running Back
  • Class: Senior
  • Size: 5-foot-11, 227 pounds
  • High School/Hometown: Theodore High (Mobile, Ala.)

Why He’s Important: Perine led the Gators with 134 carries, 826 rushing yards, 996 total yards and seven touchdowns despite starting only one game and splitting carries with Jordan Scarlett. He’s the unquestioned No. 1 back this season following Scarlett’s departure. With the backups being mostly unproven, Perine could see the highest workload of his career. He’s not the fastest or most explosive runner, but he makes up for it with outstanding vision and a very physical running style. He embraces contact and fights for every yard. When he has a hole, he has just enough burst to break off long touchdowns, as he did against Florida State (74 yards) and Michigan (53 yards). He’s the Gators’ best running back in pass protection and one of top pass-catchers of the group. He’ll be looked to this season to carry the ball more than he ever has and provide leadership to a young and inexperienced position group.

Questions to be Answered: Perine will receive more carries, for sure, but coach Dan Mullen prefers to rotate backs to keep everyone fresh. How many more carries will Perine get this year? If the reserves don’t progress at a satisfactory rate, will Mullen give him the ball 180+ times? Is a 1,000-yard season within reach? Perine was more involved in the passing game against Michigan, catching four passes for 22 yards and a score. Will he continue to be involved more as a receiver, or was that just a one-time thing because of the matchup?

Projection: If Perine averages 6.2 yards per carry like he did in 2018, he only needs 162 carries to reach 1,000 yards in 2019. He should get that and maybe even surpass 1,100. He’ll be more involved in the passing game, and he’ll score Florida’s first touchdown of the season against Miami on the same tunnel screen play the Gators ran against Michigan. He’ll leave as a mid-round draft pick and one of the most beloved Gators of this decade by fans.

19 MOST VALUABLE WHO HAVE YET TO CONTRIBUTE SIGNIFICANTLY

 

No. 7-JEAN DELANCE

  • Position: Offensive Line
  • Class: Redshirt Junior
  • Size: 6-foot-4, 313 pounds
  • High School/Hometown: North Mesquite High (Mesquite, Texas)

Why He’s Important: The Gators lost four starters from 2018’s offensive line, none bigger than right tackle Jawaan Taylor, a mauling run-blocker who was Florida’s most consistent lineman. Delance will get the first crack at replacing him. He began his career at Texas in 2016 but played in just two games and transferred after a coaching change. He sat out in 2017 due to transfer rules and played in four games in 2018. He was a top-120 overall recruit in high school, making him the highest rated of UF’s probable line starters. The Gators need him to live up to the billing right away, as there’s nothing but youth and inexperience behind him on the depth chart. Delance might not be as dominant in the running game as Taylor was, but he has the potential to be better in pass protection because of his agility. As one of the older offensive linemen, he’s being counted on to open holes for Perine and keep defenders off of quarterback Feleipe Franks.

Questions to be Answered: Like the rest of the offensive line, Delance struggled at times in pass protection in the spring. Can he take big steps over the summer and fall to become a dependable right tackle? He was viewed as more of a left tackle prospect when he was in high school. Could he swing over to the left side should something happen to Stone Forsythe? Chemistry and cohesion are often said to be as vital to success at offensive line as raw physical talent. With three other new starters around him, will Delance be able to gel with his line mates quickly?

Projection: Delance will start every game at right tackle. He’ll play mostly well, but he’ll struggle against some of the SEC’s better defensive lines. He’ll help the Gators rush for more than 200 yards per game as a team and make Franks one of the least sacked quarterbacks in the conference.

No. 6-JONATHAN GREENARD

  • Position: Defensive End
  • Class: Redshirt Senior
  • Size: 6-foot-4, 263 pounds
  • High School/Hometown: Hiram High (Hiram, Ga.)

Why He’s Important: Needing to replace Jachai Polite and his 11 sacks and 17.5 tackles-for-loss, the Gators went to the transfer portal. Greenard began his career at Louisville in 2015. He appeared in all 13 games in 2017 and recorded a team-high 15.5 tackles-for-loss and seven sacks, tied for best on the team. He appeared to be on the verge of a big season in 2018, but a wrist injury on the first series of Louisville’s opening game with Alabama prematurely ended his season and sent him looking to play elsewhere. He was inserted into the first-string defense at buck, a hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker position, from the moment he arrived at UF. He looked dominant at times during the spring. While not quite as explosive off the edge as Polite, he should still be a threat to get 10 sacks and be someone opposing coaches have to game plan around. He was recruited by Todd Grantham at Louisville, so he knows the system and what Grantham expects of him. For as great as Polite was last season, he struggled to set the edge in the running game at times. Greenard should be an upgrade as a run defender. He’ll also be counted on to be the leader of the young group of pass rushers behind him.

Questions to be Answered: Greenard redshirted in 2015 and put up just 2.5 sacks in 2016, so he’s only had one season where he played at a high level. How good is he? Is he ready to make the jump from playing on a bad ACC team to playing for one of the SEC’s premier programs? While Greenard looked great in the spring, he was going up against an inexperienced offensive line. Was his spring performance more indicative of his strong play or the offensive line’s struggles?

Projection: Greenard won’t put up the statistics that Polite did, but that’s to be expected. Polite’s 2018 season was one of the best in UF history. Greenard should still have a major impact on the defense. Expect him to finish with seven or eight sacks and about 13 tackles-for-loss. He’ll force three fumbles and recover one.

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