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 9-10 on each of our two lists.
20 MOST VALUABLE RETURNING CONTRIBUTORS
No. 10-KYLE TRASK
- Position: Quarterback
- Class: Redshirt senior
- Size: 6-foot-5, 239 pounds
- High School/Hometown: Manvel (Manvel, Texas)
Why He’s Important: This ranking might seem a bit low for the starting quarterback, but this is not intended as a slight toward Trask at all. It’s simply a result of Emory Jones proving to be a quality backup quarterback. Trask arguably gives the Gators the SEC’s top returning quarterback for the first time since Tim Tebow in 2009. Despite only starting 10 games, he threw for 2,941 yards and 25 touchdowns, both of which represent the high-water mark at Florida since Tebow. His passer rating of 156.09 was the ninth-best in program history, and he became the first Gator since Rex Grossman to throw for three or more scores against consecutive conference opponents. Despite starting for the first time since he was a freshman in high school, the stage never seemed too bright for him. He looked poised under pressure, and he didn’t let slow starts in a couple of games deter him. He was named Third Team All-SEC after the season, and there’s a decent chance he’ll be selected Preseason First Team All-SEC in July.
Questions to be Answered: One of the things that allowed Trask to enjoy success running what basically amounted to an Air Raid attack last year was his ability to read the coverage prior to the snap and identify the mismatches. However, that got him into trouble at times against teams that did a good job of disguising their coverages. He only threw seven interceptions, but he probably could’ve thrown twice as many if not for some fortunate drops. Can Trask do a better job of reading the defense after the ball is snapped and not pre-determining where he’s going to throw it? His deep-ball accuracy left a lot to be desired as well, as he could never seem to strike the correct balance between distance and arc. Can Trask get better at throwing outside the numbers 20+ yards down the field?
Projection: Trask will be a much-improved player in his second year as the starter. He’ll have a better feel for when and where to move around in the pocket, he’ll do a better job of reading defenses post-snap, and he’ll look more comfortable running the ball now that the knee injury he suffered against Auburn is completely behind him. However, UF figures to improve in the running game, which could lead to Trask’s statistics declining or staying the same. He’ll make an all-conference team after the season and be selected in the middle rounds of the NFL Draft.
No. 9-TREVON GRIMES
- Position: Wide Receiver
- Class: Senior
- Size: 6-foot-5, 214 pounds
- High School/Hometown: St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale, Florida)
Why He’s Important: After playing a supporting role the past two seasons, Grimes will slide into the No. 1 receiver spot. He’s a tall, physical target who does his best work on go-routes and post patterns. He’s caught 59 passes for 855 yards (14.5 yards-per-reception) and five touchdowns at UF. He’ll be expected to come close to matching those statistics this season. He’s the only proven wide receiver on the roster, so Trask figures to go to him a lot in key moments. Grimes will also be expected to uphold the standard of selflessness and hard work that the four seniors established last season and pass it on to the underclassmen.
Questions to be Answered: Grimes has been a bit one-dimensional so far in his career. He’s great at going up and getting it on deep balls, but he doesn’t always run the crispest routes or create great separation on the underneath routes. This is an offense that relies heavily on the short passing game, especially with Trask at quarterback. Can Grimes polish his route-running and become a more well-rounded receiver? Also, Dan Mullen likes to move his receivers around to create mismatches. It was commonplace to see Van Jefferson move to the slot for a few plays every game. Can Grimes adequately replace Jefferson as the Gators’ dependable, do-everything playmaker?
Projection: Grimes will seamlessly transition to the No. 1 receiver role and enjoy a nice season. He’ll catch around 50 passes for a team-best 750 yards and six touchdowns. He’ll put on a show for the scouts at the NFL Combine and Pro Day and work his way into the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft.
20 MOST VALUABLE WHO HAVE YET TO CONTRIBUTE SIGNIFICANTLY
No. 10-DEREK WINGO
- Position: Linebacker
- Class: Freshman
- Size: 6-foot-2, 216 pounds
- High School/Hometown: St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale, Florida)
Why He’s Important: Wingo became the most physically gifted linebacker on campus the moment he enrolled in early June. The No. 63 overall prospect was the Gatorade Florida Football Player of the Year as a senior after racking up 28 tackles-for-loss and 16 sacks. He has excellent speed and quickness and should increase his strength as he gets into UF’s strength and conditioning program. He seems to be an almost perfect fit for Todd Grantham’s system, as he can rush off the edge, cover running backs and tight ends and track down runners on perimeter rushing plays. The outside linebacker position is very thin at Florida right now. James Houston figures to open the season as the starter, but he is unproven and isn’t as athletic as Wingo. Wingo could be a starter by the end of the season if things break right for him.
Questions to be Answered: Wingo is still relatively new to the position. He played quarterback as a sophomore in high school, and he played defensive end as a senior. So, he’s only played linebacker for one season. Can he adjust back to the position quickly and contribute this season? He probably needs to add 15-20 pounds, but that’s going to be hard to do without much of a summer strength program this year. Can Wingo put on the needed strength to make himself a three-down linebacker?
Projection: Wingo will play in every game, mostly on special teams. His playing time on defense will increase as the season goes on, and he’ll make a couple of splash plays that’ll show you why he was so highly regarded in high school. He’ll make 20-25 tackles and a couple of tackles-for-loss.
No. 9-KINGSLEY EGUAKUN
- Position: Offensive lineman
- Class: Redshirt freshman
- Size: 6-foot-4, 294 pounds
- High School/Hometown: Sandalwood (Jacksonville, Florida)
Why He’s Important: After playing in just two games in 2019, Eguakun’s progress this season will play a large role in determining what five players make up the starting unit. Brett Heggie played guard last season, but he’s also capable of playing center, which is Eguakun’s position. If Eguakun steps up his game in fall camp, that could force the coaches to leave Heggie at guard and start Eguakun at center. If he struggles, Heggie will almost certainly slide inside, which would bump Ethan White into the starting lineup. Basically, Eguakun is in a battle for the fifth starting spot with White. Even if he loses that battle, he should be the top reserve on the interior of the offensive line.
Questions to be Answered: He’s only played in two games and he wasn’t rated very highly in high school, so pretty much everything is a question with him. Is he good enough to be a quality starter in the SEC? If Eguakun’s not a starter, it’ll be interesting to see what happens if a starting guard or center gets injured. Would the coaches insert Eguakun at center and move pieces around at guard no matter what, or are there other players in the mix as well?
Projection: Eguakun will begin the season as the first interior lineman off of the bench, but he’ll make a start or two when injuries inevitably start piling up. He’ll hold his own when he’s in the game and assert himself as a solid building block for the future of the UF offensive line.