Evaluating the 2019 freshman class

Dec 9, 2019 | 0 comments


The Gators’ 2019 recruiting class arrived with sky-high expectations and a lot of intrigue. They were Dan Mullen’s first full class as he tries to elevate the program from great to elite. The 19 freshmen that made it to campus were part of a class that ranked No. 9 in the country according to the 247 Sports Composite, making them UF’s highest-ranked class since finishing third in 2013.

However, the class took a huge hit when six (Diwun BlackDeyavie HammondArjei Henderson‍, Jalon Jones‍, Chris Steele‍ and Wardrick Wilson‍) of the 17 four-star signees either didn’t make it to campus or were gone before the first fall practice.

Of those who stuck around, as usual, they’ve been a mixed bag so far. Some of them have played a lot, while others have been used sparingly. Some look like burgeoning stars, while others make you scratch your head and wonder what the coaching staff saw in them. Of course, some are still a complete unknown.

With the regular season in the rearview mirror, the attention starts to turn to the 2020 season, and the 2019 class will be counted on to be major contributors. Here is our assessment of the 2019 class after their first season in the Orange and Blue.


They Played

All 12 Games

  • Defensive end/linebacker Khris Bogle
  • Defensive end/linebacker Mohamoud Diabate
  • Cornerback Kaiir Elam

Nine Games

  • Cornerback Jaydon Hill

Seven Games

  • Cornerback Chester Kimbrough
  • Tight end Keon Zipperer

Five Games

  • Offensive lineman Ethan White

They’re Redshirting

Three games

  • Linebacker Ty’Ron Hopper
  • Running back Nay’Quan Wright
  • Offensive lineman Michael Tarquin

Two games

  • Offensive lineman Kingsley Eguakun
  • Wide receiver Dionte Marks
  • Linebacker Jesiah Pierre
  • Defensive end/linebacker Lloyd Summerall III
  • Wide receiver Ja’Markis Weston
  • Wide receiver Trent Whittemore

One game

  • Offensive lineman Will Harrod
  • Defensive lineman Jaelin Humphries
  • Offensive lineman Riley Simonds

Top Five Freshmen

  • 1) Kaiir Elam
  • Position: Cornerback
  • Size: 6-foot-2, 187 pounds
  • High School/Hometown: The Benjamin School/Riviera Beach, Florida

The scoop on Elam: He was the highest-ranked member of the class after fellow cornerback Chris Steele’s transfer to USC after spring camp, and he lived up to the billing. He received significant playing time off of the bench for most of the season before moving into the starting lineup against Missouri. He’s been a lockdown corner, and he’s fourth on the team with two interceptions and tied for second with three pass breakups. His length allows him to jam receivers at the line of scrimmage, and he is fast enough to make plays on the ball.

  • 2) Mohamoud Diabate
  • Position: Defensive end/linebacker
  • Size: 6-foot-2, 213 pounds
  • High School/Hometown: Auburn High School/Auburn, Alabama

The scoop on Diabate: As the injuries piled up along the defensive front, Diabate became an important piece of the rotation. He had his breakout game against Vanderbilt, recording three sacks and tying a career-best with four tackles. The rest of the season, he combined for one sack. The biggest key for him is to find consistency. That likely will mean adding some significant weight to his lean frame to make him a more effective three-down lineman.

  • 3) Khris Bogle
  • Position: Defensive end/linebacker
  • Size: 6-foot-6, 216 pounds
  • High School/Hometown: Cardinal Gibbons High School/Fort Lauderdale, Florida

The scoop on Bogle: He did most of his damage early in the season, with both of his sacks and his 3.5 tackles-for-loss coming in September. His length, explosiveness and athleticism are apparent to anyone who’s watched him practice. Like Diabate, he needs to hit the weight room hard before he can become a key contributor at perhaps UF’s deepest position.

  • 4) Ethan White
  • Position: Offensive line
  • Size: 6-foot-5, 370 pounds
  • High School/Hometown: Calvary Christian High School/Clearwater, Florida

The scoop on White: He seemed destined for a redshirt before the midseason transfer of Christopher Bleich rushed him into action. He made his first start against South Carolina and played a few series against Missouri and Florida State. He’s a very aggressive run-blocker who’s still getting a feel for the college game. As he continues to get his body right and learns the nuances of the position better, he has a chance to develop into an All-SEC-caliber guard.

  • 5) Chester Kimbrough
  • Position: Cornerback
  • Size: 5-foot-11, 172 pounds
  • High School/Hometown: Warren Easton Senior High School/New Orleans, Louisiana

The scoop on Kimbrough: He was the second-string nickelback in the portions of fall practice open to the media, and his teammates raved about him. “He’s going to be really good,” receiver Van Jefferson said of him in August. Most of his action has come on special teams, but he’s played well on defense when given the chance. He’s not the biggest defensive back, but he makes up for it with quickness and physicality. Depending on the attrition Florida’s secondary experiences, he could be the starter at ‘Star’ in 2020.

Superlatives

Freshman of the Year – Kaiir Elam

Not only was he the Gators’ most advanced freshman, but he was arguably their most consistent defensive back as well. He should be a lock to make the Freshman All-SEC Team and possibly the Freshman All-American Team as well. He was recently named Third Team All-SEC by Pro Football Focus, an analytics-driven website. He has all the makings of the next star cornerback at UF, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him get selected very early in the 2022 NFL Draft.

Most Surprising – Ethan White

White was a huge surprise in several respects. First off, he arrived on campus in January weighing nearly 400 pounds. In August, offensive line coach John Hevesy said he was down to 337 pounds, a testament to the amount of time he put in over the summer in the weight room and his commitment to a dietary change. Second, prior to the season, he seemed like perhaps the most likely of the freshmen to redshirt. Instead, he was a key member of the rotation over the final three games. Even if Bleich hadn’t transferred, White likely would’ve still avoided a redshirt because of his rapid progress and the status of the rest of the line. When he got in games, he showed a tenacity and aggression that the rest of the line had lacked all season. He was viewed as a long-term project when he signed with Florida; as it turned out, it took less than a year to turn him into a serviceable guard.

Most Disappointing – Ja’Markis Weston

According to his 247Sports profile, the only other major offers he had as a three-star prospect were Penn State and Tennessee. Mullen and receivers coach Billy Gonzales saw something in the 6-foot-3, 217-pounder from Clewiston, Florida, that most others didn’t. Whatever it was, he hasn’t shown it yet as a Gator. In the brief portions of practice open to the media in the fall, he struggled with drops on the Jugs machine and looked clunky and unsmooth while running routes. He was behind some of the walk-ons in the pecking order. Like White, he figured to be more of a long-term developmental project than a plug-and-play guy. However, with the amount of talent that’s walking out the door after the bowl game, the Gators could really use him to take major strides over the offseason.

Future Star – Keon Zipperer

At 90 percent of the programs around the country, Zipperer likely would’ve been a major factor this season. Unfortunately for him, there’s a guy ahead of him on the depth chart named Kyle Pitts that’s pretty good at this football thing. Top reserve Lucas Krull announced his intention to transfer earlier this week, which could open the door for Zipperer to receive more playing time in 2020. Pitts will almost certainly enter the draft after next season barring injury, which should allow Zipperer to take the reigns in 2021. Whenever his time comes, his combination of size and speed should allow the Gators to stretch the field similar to the way they have with Pitts this season.

Tags: Recruit

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