20/10 for 2021: Pierce enters camp holding down the top spot

Aug 6, 2021 | 0 comments


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

20 MOST VALUABLE RETURNING CONTRIBUTORS

 

No. 14-DAMEON PIERCE

  • Position: Running back
  • Class: Senior
  • Size: 5-foot-10, 215 pounds
  • High School/Hometown: Bainbridge (Bainbridge, Georgia)

Why He’s Important: He was the lead back in 2020 and it’s hard to imagine that he did anything to lose that job for the 2021 season. He’ll pair with Malik Davis (No. 15 on our list) as the veteran backs in the room. The Georgia native will probably have a chance for more production on the ground as the offense shifts more toward the run and utilizes multi-back sets. He’ll be one of the most veteran players on the offense, something that might be needed with so many new pieces taking the reins at their relative positions.


Questions to be Answered: I think the question of “How much time will he get?” applies to basically every running back. They’re not afraid to share the wealth at all and Pierce is a main advocate for their unselfish mentality. Also, can he up his yards per carry? He averaged 4,7 in 2020 and if he can get back to that 6.1 he averaged as a freshman on a little under half the carries then look out for him and this Gator offense.

Projection: We’ve been hearing Pierce’s name since he was bursting through run gaps in 2018 to close out ballgames. We’ll continue to see a heavy amount of him if he stays consistent and healthy. He’s a likely candidate to be Florida’s leading rusher at the end of the year like he was in 2020.

No. 13-JAYDON HILL

  • Position: Cornerback
  • Class: Junior
  • Size: 6-foot-0, 182 pounds
  • High School/Hometown: Bob Jones (Huntsville, Alabama)

Why He’s Important: He’s the presumed co-starter at cornerback alongside Kaiir Elam as we head toward the season. He started out that way in 2020 before Marco Wilson moved to that position later in the year. Hill is especially important because he’s going to be keyed on the most by opposing offenses with Thorpe Award watchlist Elam playing opposite him on the outside.

Questions to be Answered: Can he win and keep the job? How will he handle the constant attention from offenses? There is a lot of competition in the secondary as always. There are multiple corners gunning for that CB2 job like Jason Marshall Jr. or Avery Helm. So, if he slips up in fall camp or consistently does so to start out the year, fans could see a different second outside corner out there. And part of him keeping the job will definitely depend on how he fares with the attention he’ll get. Another question could be his ability as a tackler. Hill’s not afraid to get physical but he mentioned back in spring how he wanted to improve that skill in the open field.

Projection: Hill’s up to the challenge at the second cornerback spot. He came to campus not even knowing how to draw up anything outside of cover three or how to label an offensive diagram. Now, he’s the favorite to be a starting corner for Florida. Hill knows there’s a target on his back on the field too when it comes to opposing offenses and he welcomes that. If he can perform, then that Gator secondary will definitely improve from 2020.

10 MOST VALUABLE NEWCOMERS/NON-CONTRIBUTORS

No. 7-PRINCELY UNMANMIELEN

  • Position: Defensive line
  • Class: Sophomore
  • Size: 6-foot-4, 260 pounds
  • High School/Hometown: Manor (Manor, Texas)

Why He’s Important: Florida staved off Baylor to get the Texas product. He got a year under his belt as he posted two total sacks in six games in 2020. He’ll act as the backup to redshirt senior defensive end Zachary Carter. And being the backup means he’s responsible for making plays in Carter’s stead at the end position while he gets a blow.

Questions to be Answered: How will we see him? Yes, Florida likes to rotate players to keep them fresh but the Gator defensive front really depends on someone like Carter. It definitely did in 2020. So, it’ll be interesting to see just how much run Umanmielen can get. And when his number is called, how effective can he be? Look, it’s hard to have an impact on every single play you’re in the game. The other teams have guys on scholarship too. But when you get limited time there’s more of an added emphasis on making plays when you get in.

Projection:  In my opinion? Fans don’t have to worry about Umanmielen. He was impressive as a true freshman even with severely limited appearances. He’s got the tools to give the Gators some production with Carter off the field at any time.

Tags: Player

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