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: Davis will be counted on to be a duel threat
- Part IV: Pierce enters camp holding down the top spot
- Part V: Shorter's time to take over
- Part VI: Diabate becoming a difference maker
- Part VII: Cox could be a terror off the edge
- Part VIII: Newkirk brings SEC experience to the defensive line
20 MOST VALUABLE RETURNING CONTRIBUTORS
No. 4 – ZACHARY CARTER
- Position: Defensive lineman
- Class: Redshirt senior
- Size: 6-foot-4, 285 pounds
- High School/Hometown: Hillsborough (Tampa, Florida)
Why He’s Important: He could’ve gone to the NFL early but he felt there was some unfinished business left at Florida. Carter worked his way up the ladder as a defensive lineman. He went from redshirt to reserve and special teamer then rotational piece/backup to Jabari Zuniga now to a key figure on the defensive front. This season is his first at defensive end exclusively after he filled in at defensive tackle when Kyree Campbell missed the first few games in 2020. Carter is a leader on the defensive unit, the Gators will need him to help set the edge and rush the passer opposite the BUCK position. He showed some versatility in 2020 by playing both inside and outside and still led the team in sacks and tied for first in tackles for loss. Now, we get to see what he can do living on the edge.
Questions to be Answered: How can him playing more at defensive end help the Gators in run defense? It’s been mentioned several times, the Gator front had struggles against opponents’ rushing attacks as the team finished 71st in the country with over 170 yards allowed per game. But, can Carter playing at his natural position help improve that number? He’ll have more opportunity to shed blocks and either make plays on the edge or force a runner back inside this season. Can he win against double teams? Double teams/combo blocks are designed to keep guys from winning at the line of scrimmage. The only man I’ve seen beat them at a high rate is Aaron Donald and that man looks like he was grown in a lab. But if Carter can beat double teams or combo blocks with a little more frequency then that will make this Gator front much more disruptive. Not to mention, if he’s eating blocks at the line of scrimmage that provides more freedom and opportunity for the linebackers to make plays.
Projection: I expect Carter to have a big year and that’s probably the consensus among other people too. The man could be taking snaps in preseason games right now but instead, he’s back at Florida. Carter already had expectations thrust upon him this year with a preseason First Team All-SEC nod. He came back seeking things like an SEC title, a degree and an All-America brick. Hard to see that kind of motivation not result in a big year. All-America will take a special kind of season for Carter, but I firmly believe he’ll live up to that All-SEC first-teamer hype.
No. 3 – EMORY JONES
- Position: Quarterback
- Class: Redshirt junior
- Size: 6-foot-2, 211 pounds
- High School/Hometown: Heard County (LaGrange, Georgia)
Why He’s Important: Gee, answering why Emory Jones is important to the Gators is like answering why the sun is important to the earth, in that the answer’s kind of obvious. Jones is the presumed QB1. He’s been waiting for this chance since he signed with Florida and now 2021 is his first shot at it. For years the quarterback position held the Gators back. After bucking that trend recently, Jones now has the opportunity to keep it moving in the opposite direction. He has the tools to be a great player in this offense. As he goes, the offense goes. Plus, if he can’t cut it or gets hurt Anthony Richardson, Carlos Del Rio-Wilson, or Jalen Kitna will have to grow up really quick.
Questions to be Answered: There have been so many questions asked about Emory Jones this offseason and in the past but it all boils down to this: is he the guy? Can he make the throws, not turn the ball over and have the Gator offense firing on all cylinders? The answer to whether or not he's “the guy” can almost certainly answer most of the more specific questions people have about him.
Projection: Jones has been preparing for this since he first set foot on campus. He doesn’t need to be Kyle Trask, Tim Tebow, Feleipe Franks, or anyone else. He just needs to be Emory Jones. With three years as a backup, while still having enough talent to earn playing time in the heat of battle, Jones feels ready to take the mantle. He’s QB1 and, barring anything catastrophic, the Georgia native will hold that position all year. If he plays well, the Gator offense won’t skip a beat from last season.
10 MOST VALUABLE NEWCOMERS/NON-CONTRIBUTORS
No. 2 – JEREMY CRAWSHAW
- Position: Punter
- Class: Redshirt freshman
- Size: 6-foot-4, 198 pounds
- High School/Hometown: ProKick Australia (New South Wales, Australia)
Why He’s Important: “Jake, what are you doing? A punter? This high? Come on.” Well, he’s this high considering Florida for several years prior to last season relied on great punting to flip the field and set up a strong defense in order to protect itself from offensive struggles. Not to mention, he’s the only scholarship punter on the team. Former walk-on Jacob Finn transferred to Virginia And no disrespect to Jacob Watkins but he's the only other punter on roster and he didn’t do much at Valdosta State. Crawshaw comes from a program in ProKick Australia known for producing Ray Guy Award winners and NFL punters. Thus, Dan Mullen and Co. brought him on to give them an edge on special teams.
Questions to be Answered: Well, is he any good? He has the pedigree coming from a program that produced Michael Dickson, Max Duffy, and Tom Hackett. But that doesn’t mean much if he can’t show it on the field. He’s only appeared in one game and punted only twice. Crawshaw made his debut in the Cotton Bowl against Oklahoma where boomed a 48-yarder downed inside the Oklahoma 15-yard line and a 50-yarder that put OU on the 21. Can he produce similar or just below similar numbers like that throughout the season?
Projection: Punting has been a weapon for Dan Mullen since he got on campus whether it’s used to pin teams deep, pick up first downs on fakes, or create turnovers utilizing the coverage team. The Gators are confident Crawshaw can fill that role as a special team's weapon. I’m not sure if he’ll be a Chas Henry or Johnny Townsend type of punter but the Aussie definitely has the opportunity to show he can be. If the offense is humming then who knows how often we’ll see him but he’ll contribute when his number is called. If he keeps booming punts like he did twice in the Cotton Bowl, he’ll be in the Ray Guy Award conversation.