20/20 for 2020: Where will Forsythe, Heggie lineup?

Jul 6, 2020 | 0 comments


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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 7-8 on each of our two lists.

20 MOST VALUABLE RETURNING CONTRIBUTORS

No. 8-STONE FORSYTHE

  • Position: Offensive lineman
  • Class: Redshirt senior
  • Size: 6-foot-7, 329 pounds
  • High School/Hometown: West Orange (Winter Garden, Florida)

Why He’s Important: Forsythe started all 13 games in 2019 at left tackle. Like the rest of the beleaguered offensive line, he experienced his share of struggles, but he was probably the most consistent performer. He’s as large as a mountain and his length gives him an advantage over most defenders. Unlike most of the other linemen, he seemed to excel more in the running game than in pass-protection. With Richard Gouraige’s progression throughout last season, Forsythe could flip to right tackle this season, a position that seems to fit his skill set better. For the Gators’ offense to make the jump from good to great, the offensive line will have to take major strides. As a swing tackle, a lot of responsibility falls on Forsythe to make that happen.

Questions to be Answered: While Forsythe is massive, he’s not the most fleet-footed lineman, which hurt him against the better speed-rushers he faced last year. While moving to right tackle could help that issue some, smart defensive coordinators will find a way to put him in one-on-one matchups against their fastest lineman. Can Forsythe improve his quickness and footwork this season, or is this as good as it gets for him? His aggression level also left something to be desired at times. Too often, it seemed like he was content to wait for the defenders to come to him instead of attacking them as soon as the ball was snapped. Can he play with a little more fire and a larger sense of urgency this season? Finally, will he move to the right side or stay at left tackle?

Projection: Forsythe will start every game at right tackle, and he’ll be much more effective at that position. He’ll continue to be one of UF’s best run-blockers, and he’ll have more help in pass-protection from tight ends and running backs. He’ll help the Gators rise from 13th in the league in rushing to seventh or eighth. An NFL team will take a chance on him because of his size in the later rounds of the NFL Draft.

No. 7-BRETT HEGGIE

  • Position: Offensive lineman
  • Class: Redshirt senior
  • Size: 6-foot-4, 330 pounds
  • Hometown: Mount Dora (Mount Dora, Florida)

Why He’s Important: Heggie is the most experienced lineman on the team and one of the most talented. He’s extremely strong, and he plays with the “mean streak” that you like to see in an interior lineman. He emerged as perhaps Florida’s top lineman in 2017 before missing the final three games with a severe knee injury. He battled through a couple of nagging injuries to play a key reserve role in 2018, and he played well in his limited opportunities. His regression in 2019 was surprising and one of the biggest factors in the offensive line’s struggles. He started 12 games, but he seemed lost and let his man get past him easily far too often. He could move to center this year. A big bounce back year from him would go a long way toward the offensive line’s improvement.

Questions to be Answered: Heggie played center in high school, and he’s practiced at the position some throughout his college career. They just simply haven’t had to play him at center because they’ve had other options. However, Nick Buchanan’s eligibility expired, and the only other legitimate option at center this season seems to be redshirt freshman Kingsley Eguakun. Will the Gators move Heggie to center as many expect, or will they roll the dice on Eguakun? You also have to wonder how much of a toll his various injuries have taken on his body. He hasn’t been the same player since midway through the 2018 season. Can Heggie get back to his 2017 form?

Projection: Heggie will start every game at center and be an upgrade at the position. The last two centers at UF, T.J. McCoy and Buchanan, were undersized and limited physically. That will not be the case with Heggie. Heggie’s biggest struggles last season seemed to come on pulls, as he would sometimes block the wrong guy and watch the guy he should’ve blocked blow past him and into the backfield. He won’t be asked to pull much, if at all, at center. He’ll have a good season and win SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week honors once.

20 MOST VALUABLE WHO HAVE YET TO CONTRIBUTE SIGNIFICANTLY

No. 8-XZAVIER HENDERSON

  • Position: Wide receiver
  • Class: Freshman
  • Size: 6-foot-4, 192 pounds
  • High School/Hometown: Columbus (Cutler Bay, Florida)

Why He’s Important: The Gators need some young receivers to emerge following the departure of four seniors, and Henderson has the chance to be one of them. The top-70 recruit has the ideal combination of size and speed, as he finished second in the state in the 200 meters as a senior. He played in the All-American Bowl and made an impressive grab on a deep ball late in the game. He could give the Gators another option in the vertical passing game to complement Trevon Grimes. Given his height, he should develop into a dependable blocker as he increases his strength under Nick Savage. With little depth behind Grimes and Jacob Copeland, Henderson will have a chance to make an instant impact.

Questions to be Answered: Though he was ranked highly and projects well athletically, he wasn’t all that productive in high school, catching just 52 passes for 823 yards and seven touchdowns in 22 varsity games. Now that he’s a football player full-time, can Henderson polish his route-running skills to become a highly productive receiver? While the depth chart is favorable, he’ll still face competition from older and more experienced teammates such as Rick Wells, Jordan Pouncey, Ja’Markis Weston, and Justin Shorter (if eligible). Can Henderson rise to the top and earn some significant snaps right away?

Projection: Dan Mullen seems to take a cautious approach with his freshmen on offense, so it’s unlikely that Henderson will contribute a ton this season. However, because of the lack of depth, he’ll avoid a redshirt and catch 10-15 passes for 200 or so yards. His size and speed will also prove useful on special teams. He’ll enter 2021 as a potential starter.

No. 7-CHESTER KIMBROUGH

Position: Defensive back

Class: Sophomore

Size: 5-foot-11, 172 pounds

High School/Hometown: Warren Easton Senior (New Orleans, Louisiana)

Why He’s Important: The Gators have uncertainty at STAR, and Kimbrough could be the solution. The Trey Dean experiment at the position couldn’t have gone much worse last season, and, with CJ Henderson off to the NFL, they need Marco Wilson to play outside this season. There have been rumors of Amari Burney playing STAR in 2020, but he’s more of a linebacker than a defensive back. That leaves Kimbrough, who practiced at the position last season. He’s a quick and agile defensive back who seems to have good instincts for the position. His emergence would allow Dean to move to safety, Wilson to stay at corner and Burney to focus on linebacker. He could be a big key to making the defense more consistent.

Questions to be Answered: His size isn’t ideal, and he was clocked at just 4.74 seconds in the 40-yard dash prior to his senior year of high school. Can he overcome his physical limitations to become an effective defensive back in the SEC? Also, UF asks its STARs to make a lot of open-field tackles. Given his background as a cornerback and his size, that has to be a major concern with him if he’s going to play STAR. Can Kimbrough hold his own as an open-field tackler against the opposition’s quickest receivers and running backs?

Projection: Kimbrough will play a lot more than he did as a freshman, when he only saw extensive defensive action in three games. He won’t be the starter at STAR, but he’ll platoon with Burney. Burney will play outside linebacker/STAR in base packages, while Kimbrough will sub in for nickel and dime packages. He’ll break up three passes and make around 20 tackles.

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