FLORIDA FOOTBALL & RECRUITING COVERAGE
Florida football players have returned to campus for voluntary workouts, and optimism abounds that the 2020 Gators football season will begin as scheduled on Sept. 5 against Eastern Washington. So, with the light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel in sight, it’s time to look ahead at who the key performers will be for the Gators this season.
Here’s how it goes: the 20 most valuable returning players with considerable game experience and the 20 most valuable players who have either never played for the Gators or haven’t contributed significantly. Keep in mind that this is a list of the most important players, not necessarily the best players. Florida’s depth and skill-level at certain positions makes some players more valuable than others.
This is a 10-part series that will take a look at two returning players and two unproven players each time. We continue today with players 17-18 on each of our two lists.
20 MOST VALUABLE RETURNING CONTRIBUTORS
No. 18-AMARI BURNEY
- Position: Linebacker/Defensive Back
- Class: Junior
- Size: 6-foot-2, 224 pounds
- High School/Hometown: Calvary Christian (St. Petersburg, Florida)
Why He’s Important: Burney entered the 2019 campaign as a breakout candidate at outside linebacker. However, injuries limited him to eight games, and he only made 37 tackles and one interception. He’ll be on breakout alert again this season. Prior to spring practices getting shut down due to COVID-19, rumors swirled that he would move to STAR this season. It’s likely that the Gators will play more in a 4-3 formation this season, so the STAR position will probably become more of a strong-side linebacker than the nickelback that it’s been used as the past two seasons. Burney seems to be the ideal fit for such a role. He has good size for a linebacker, and he began his college career at safety, so he has the speed to cover tight ends and running backs. His productivity and health would allow the Gators to keep cornerback Marco Wilson outside and help mask some of their depth issues in the secondary.
Questions to be Answered: The biggest question surrounding Burney is his health. He played sparingly in the season-opener against Miami and then missed nearly a month with an undisclosed injury. After the Georgia game, he was shut down for the rest of the regular season with a knee injury, although he returned in the Orange Bowl defeat of Virginia. Was last season a fluke, or is he an injury-prone player? His role on the defense is also uncertain. Will he play outside linebacker or more of a true nickelback position? If it’s the latter, how will he hold up in coverage?
Projection: Burney will officially be listed as the starter at STAR, although his actual role will reflect more of a strong-side linebacker position. He’ll stay healthy this season, finish second on the team in tackles and force multiple turnovers. If he is as good as advertised, he’ll prove extremely beneficial against spread, pass-first offenses like LSU and South Carolina that gave the Gators trouble last season.
No. 17-JEREMIAH MOON
- Position: BUCK
- Class: Redshirt Senior
- Size: 6-foot-6, 228 pounds
- High School/Hometown: Hoover (Hoover, Alabama)
Why He’s Important: Moon is by far the most experienced returning player at BUCK, and he’ll compete with Brenton Cox and Mohamoud Diabate for the starting job in fall camp. His length and quickness give him a high ceiling at the position, and he started to tap into his potential last season, recording career highs in tackles-for-loss (6.5) and sacks (3). He’s better at stopping the run than rushing the passer, something that can’t be said for any of the other players in contention for playing time at BUCK. He’ll have a major role again this season.
Questions to be Answered: We’ve seen this movie before with Moon. Every offseason, he receives a lot of hype because of his physical attributes and because he apparently turned the corner in offseason workouts. Then the season starts, and it’s the same underwhelming play from him. Will he finally live up to his sky-high potential in his final season? One of Moon’s worst habits is his tendency to leave his gap and over-run plays at times. He showed improvement in this area last season. Can he continue that progress this season? Finally, he missed the final four games of 2019 with a foot injury. Will he be healthy and ready to go at the start of the season?
Projection: Moon will lose the starting BUCK job to Cox, but he’ll still play a significant role, as the Gators like to rotate two or three players at the position. He’ll finish the season with 4.5 sacks and eight tackles-for-loss. He’ll do a much better job of staying disciplined against the run and prove valuable against run-first teams such as Tennessee and Kentucky.
20 MOST VALUABLE WHO HAVE YET TO CONTRIBUTE SIGNIFICANTLY
No. 18-KHRIS BOGLE
- Position: BUCK
- Class: Sophomore
- Size: 6-foot-6, 216 pounds
- High School/Hometown: Cardinal Gibbons (Fort Lauderdale, Florida)
Why He’s Important: Bogle is part of a long list of highly regarded young pass-rushers at UF. He’s an extremely lengthy speed-rusher who needs to add another 20 or 30 pounds. Despite being buried on the depth chart in 2019, he turned in a pair of standout games, including five tackles and a sack against UT Martin and a sack against Tennessee. With Jonathan Greenard gone and Moon and David Reese coming back from injuries, there is an opportunity for Bogle to work his way into the rotation this season. He should also factor in on special teams.
Questions to be Answered: It’s a testament to the way the Gators have recruited at BUCK that a top-100 prospect like Bogle will likely have a tough time finding playing time as a sophomore. He’ll start the year behind Cox, Moon, Diabate and possibly Reese. Can Bogle earn significant playing time this season? Bogle needed to add a bunch of muscle this offseason to become more of a three-down player, but doing so became much more difficult amid the pandemic. What will he look like when fall camp starts? Will he be up in the 230-pound range?
Projection: It’ll be a similar season as 2019 for Bogle. There’s simply too much talent and depth ahead of him for him to climb the depth chart this season, unless there’s an unusual string of injuries. He’ll pick up two or three sacks in garbage time and perhaps use his freakish length to block a kick on special teams. Most significantly, he’ll use this as another developmental year to get his body right heading into 2021, when he’ll be expected to compete for playing time.
No. 17-JEREMY CRAWSHAW
- Position: Punter
- Class: Freshman
- Size: 6-foot-3, 190 pounds
- High School/Hometown: ProKick Australia kicking camp (Emu Plains, New South Wales, Australia)
Why He’s Important: Crawshaw will likely be tasked with replacing the most beloved punting family in school history. Add in Australia’s reputation for churning out elite punters over the past decade or so, and the pressure will be ramped up on Crawshaw right away. He actually graduated high school in December 2018 and spent 2019 training for a chance to punt in the U.S. Whereas a lot of Australian punters utilize the end-over-end, on-the-run rugby punt, Crawshaw specializes in the traditional American spiral punt. He enrolled at UF in January and began acclimating to his new home across the world.
Questions to be Answered: While he appears to have the leg to punt at the SEC level, he’s never punted in a game before. How will he respond to the bright lights, crowds, and defenders rushing toward him? He also hasn’t won the starting job yet. Redshirt senior walk-on Jacob Finn challenged Tommy Townsend for the starting job prior to the 2018 season and has averaged 45.5 yards-per-punt on his two career punts. Can Crawshaw beat out Finn for the starting job?
Projection: Crawshaw will win the starting job in fall camp, and he’ll keep the good times rolling for the Gators at punter. He’ll average around 44 yards-per-punt with a couple of 55+-yarders. Just under half of his punts will be downed inside the opponents’ 20-yard line.