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.
20/10 for 2021 Series
- Part I: Gamble set to take over for Pitts
- Part II: Braun will help anchor the interior of the line
- Part III:
20 MOST VALUABLE RETURNING CONTRIBUTORS
No. 16-ETHAN WHITE
- Position: Offensive lineman
- Class: Junior
- Size: 6-foot-5, 319 pounds
- High School/Hometown: Calvary Christian (Clearwater, Florida)
Why He’s Important: Similar to Braun, he’ll be needed to anchor the interior of the offensive line. Hevesy hinted in the spring at him or Stewart Reese playing center. Gator fans have mostly seen him at guard and clamored for the player he could be when he stepped on campus. This year, a completely new physique since that time, White will have the opportunity to showcase what everyone’s been hoping to see for so long on a weekly basis.
Questions to be Answered: That’s the thing though. Like several Gators on this list, it’ll be his first time in the No. 1 slot on the depth chart at whatever position he plays. He’s been effective in the time he’s seen but that’s not a whole lot. So, it’s the same question as the other guys we highlighted so far like Torrence, Braun and Johnson along with the ones still left on this list: can he stay a consistently productive player for this team week-in and week-out? Especially because if this offense is set to be more run-oriented, the Gators will need that from White.
Projection: That’s a lot of doubt cast just to say White will be a significant part of this offensive line just like Josh Braun. As said before, the strength of this running game has to come from the interior linemen and White is up to the job. He was one of the three Hevesy mentioned about having on the inside. Expect him to be a mauler in the trenches.
No. 15-MALIK DAVIS
- Position: Running back
- Class: Redshirt senior
- Size: 5-foot-10, 207 pounds
- High School/Hometown: Jesuit (Tampa, Florida)
Why He’s Important: He and Dameon Pierce provide a veteran presence in an absolutely stacked running back room. Davis was used more as a receiving option for an incredibly pass-heavy offense that struggled to run the ball. He actually finished fifth on the team in receiving yards and catches. With that top three gone, Davis is actually the second-leading receiver and first in catches when it comes to the returners. In an offense undergoing a major overhaul in terms of personnel, a steady veteran duo with him and Pierce in the backfield should be able to assist Emory Jones and Dan Mullen.
Questions to be Answered: How will he fit in the potential new offensive style for Florida? Will he get more rush attempts or primarily be a passer catcher? He had 40 fewer carries than Pierce and just two more than Kyle Trask in 2020. It’s hard to believe Jones wouldn’t get the same number of, if not more, attempts. In 2018, Feleipe Franks only had 24 fewer carries than lead back Lamical Perine! Thus, it’ll be interesting to see how many runs he’ll get and what he can provide. Albeit, we could see more two-back sets with less emphasis on the passing game expected and that’ll provide plenty of opportunity for Davis.
Projection: Davis will be a steady contributor and versatile option for the Gator offense. Honestly, you could make a case for him to be much higher on this list. He can run the ball. We saw that in 2017 for seven games before a knee injury cut his season short. And 2020 showed he can catch it too. Barring injury or a complete lack of production, expect Davis to be very active in this offense whether out of the backfield or split out wide or in the slot.
10 MOST VALUABLE NEWCOMERS/NON-CONTRIBUTORS
No. 8-MORDECAI MCDANIEL
- Position: Safety
- Class: Sophomore
- Size: 6-foot-1, 191 pounds
- High School/Hometown: St. John’s (Washington D.C.)
Why He’s Important: If the Gators continue their safety rotation from the last few years, McDaniel will be part of it. He’ll step into one of the holes left by Shawn Davis, Donovan Stiner, and Brad Stewart Jr. The former track athlete has plenty of speed to play downhill and be a presence from the safety spot. An athletic safety can be an asset for a team that lacked any kind of turnover production from the secondary.
Questions to be Answered: Can he put together the athleticism part and the scheme part? He didn’t get much run at safety in 2020. So, he’s in need of more game reps and an opportunity to apply the playbook in-game. Everyone knows he’ll be able to fly around the field given his physical traits. But can he be in the right position, know his job and effectively communicate in the defense?
Projection: McDaniel will be a good rotational piece in the Gators’ backend. Yes, he’s inexperienced but so is a good portion of the other reserves. That’s the theme of this year’s secondary. The coaching staff will likely give him an opportunity to secure a role in the safety rotation in fall camp and he’ll take advantage.