The summer is flying by and the Florida Gators 2021 campaign is approaching quickly. As the players and coaches prepare for their September 4 kickoff against Florida Atlantic, here at Inside the Gators we take stock of the roster to break down our list of “20/10” players for the 2021 season.
It will go like this: the 20 most valuable returning players with considerable game experience and then the 10 most valuable players who have yet to appear for the Gators and/or make a significant contribution in gameplay 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 new player each time.
20 MOST VALUABLE RETURNING CONTRIBUTORS
No. 18-RASHAD TORRENCE II
- Position: Safety
- Class: Sophomore
- Size: 6-foot-0, 205 pounds
- High School/Hometown: Marietta (Atlanta, Georgia)
Why He’s Important: Well, like Tre’Vez Johnson, this young safety saw a good amount of time as a freshman. Now he’ll see a possibly significant chunk of time in the safety rotation for 2021. He appeared in nine games with three different starts. It probably would’ve been more if he hadn’t missed the final three games with an injury. But those starts must show the coaching staff’s confidence in him in being the readiest coming out of high school. He loves the physicality of the game and takes in pride in tackling which is evident in his 25 total tackles in 2020.
Questions to be Answered: It’s kind of similar to Johnson in the respect that what will happen with the uptick in playing time? His PT was sporadic throughout 2020. A ton of snaps here then not so many there. Will the prolonged exposure show deficiencies or allow him to make a significant impact on the game?
Projection: Torrence will be a starting safety for Florida. The attributes he had coming out of high school made the staff comfortable at playing him early on so he’s only going to get better given his driven nature and desire to do things as correctly as possible all the time. Like Johnson too, hard to believe he won’t be trusted with significant time.
No. 17-JOSH BRAUN
- Position: Offensive lineman
- Class: Sophomore
- Size: 6-foot-6, 342 pounds
- High School/Hometown: Suwanee (Live Oak, Florida)
Why He’s Important: With the likes of Brett Heggie and Stone Forsythe gone, Florida’s offensive line will likely feature some shifts and new faces. Florida will see a brand-new center and one or two new guards plus Richard Gouraige at tackle given his reps there this spring. Offensive line coach John Hevesy mentioned how he’d like some combination of Ethan White, Stewart Reese, and Josh Braun along the interior as it could benefit the run game. Braun’s taken most of his snaps at guard. His old high school coach Kyler Hall called him a mauler. A move to a more run-oriented style will likely play into the Suwannee product’s hands.
Questions to be Answered: Which guard position will he play? Is he more suited for a left or right guard assignment? It seems like a given Braun is a candidate for major time on the interior. It’s just a matter of where and can he hold up in it facing the nose guards and defensive tackles of the SEC week in and week out?
Projection: Josh Braun is going to be a key part of any offensive success on the ground for Florida. Whether he’s a pulling guard or blocking down on a stretch play, Braun should be in the middle of the fray for the Gators in the trenches. He might even grab some conference accolades along the way.
10 MOST VALUABLE NEWCOMERS/NON-CONTRIBUTORS
No. 9-JACE CHRISTMANN
- Position: Placekicker
- Class: Graduate
- Size: 6-foot-1, 200 pounds
- High School/Hometown: Memorial (Houston, Texas)
Why He’s Important: “Jake, a kicker? Are you serious right now?” Yes, I am serious. First off, he’s one of literally two placekickers on the roster for Florida. He’s played under Dan Mullen and has a ton of experience kicking in the SEC. The only other kicker on the roster is Chris Howard so a guy with some experience is needed. He’s a career 80 percent field goal kicker and one of the best in school history at Mississippi State.
Questions to be Answered: What will his role be? Can he win the job? At what distance can he be trusted? Clearly, there will be a competition to see who the starting placekicker is. Howard has more kickoff attempts than Christmann so that could leave the transfer to just perform field goals and extra points. Christmann has a career-long of 51 yards but that one make is his only attempt. He’s only missed one fewer field goal in his career between 40 and 49 yards than former Gator Evan McPherson at 10/16.
Projection: Christmann will be the starting kicker for Florida. He’ll likely be leaned on for most of the field goal and extra point duties if that’s the case. But I don’t expect him to be nailing 50+ bombs given his lack of experience in it. However, he will provide a steady presence in the kicking game for the Gators.