In the past, if a freshman saw the field for even one play, they were no longer eligible for a regular redshirt, and instead, if they played in only two games in the first third games of the season, they could apply for a medical redshirt.
Then, in 2018, the rules changed.
A player can now play in up to four games, at any time during the season, and still receive a redshirt.
According to Florida's official roster, of the 22 signees from the 2020 signing class, 11 received redshirts, while the other 10 are listed as true sophomores, and one (Jahari Rogers) transferred.
With just a week to go, the 2021 football season is almost here. For some of the freshmen, that means they’re only days away from their debut. For others, they’ll have to wait a year before seeing the field.
Even at this stage in the fall, it’s not always easy to forecast which freshmen will play this season. While talent plays a factor, returning depth at the position, an unexpected injury – or suspension – and a freshman’s preparedness also have to be considered. With that in mind, Inside the Gators predicts which freshmen will suit up for Florida this season.
Today, it's time to break down the group on offense.
(Note: Players are listed alphabetically in each category)
TIME TO SUIT UP
If they remain healthy, these six signees are all but assured to be a part of the action this season.
- Diwun Black – First of all, he is a true junior rather than a freshman like the others on this list. You don’t sign a prospect from JUCO with the plan of redshirting them regardless. Even with that being the case, by all accounts Black has had a good summer and fall camp. I wouldn’t expect him to start, but he will be in the rotation. He has been moved all over, but lines up at Star in Florida’s Heavy Package.
- Marcus Burke – Though he has only been on campus for a short period of time after arriving for Summer A, he is already showing he has the ‘wow’ factor that led him to being ranked No. 1 on our list of the Great Eight Signees. He could still use some added bulk, but he has height and speed and a great catch radius.
- Nick Elksnis – At this point, the question isn’t whether or not he will play, but could he possibly even work his way up to making a couple of starts too. Vastly underrated coming out of high school, he quickly became the talk of offseason workouts and fall camp. Already blessed with size, speed, now under the guidance of the strength and conditioning staff he has added enough muscle to be counted on as an effective blocker as well.
- Jason Marshall – I can't remember the last time I saw a Florida football player be transformed so quickly. Coming out of a June 1 workout, I posted on the We Chomp Chat how huge he had gotten. Not only does he have the size, but going by the reports coming out of fall ball, he has the skill-set as well. One thing we have been told, as a freshman he tends to bite on moves and can be beaten deep, but improvement there will come with coaching and experience.
- Donovan McMillon – The former wrestler came in with the reputation of being physical for his size and he has lived up to that billing. McMillon could be at the very worst a rotational player and may actually be a second stringer when the first depth chart is released next week.
- Rocco Underwood – I’ll be honest, I don't know what the depth chart at long-snapper looks like, but with Underwood being the only scholarship player on the team at the position, I would assume that automatically puts him on the two-deep at the very least.
ON THE BUBBLE
Whether or not these six play or not could still go either way depending on injuries and other factors.
- Justus Boone – We were told by defensive line coach Louis McLeod back in May that Boone was seeing some time as a BUCK, but with his size, they were also moving him over to the strongside. He was in the 260s back then and is likely bigger and stronger today. So, whether it be as a BUCK or behind Zach Carter, and others, on the opposite side, there’s still no clear path to playing time without some injuries taking place.
- Chief Borders – The talent is definitely there, but is the opportunity? Lining up at BUCK he is behind the likes of Brenton Cox, Andrew Chatfield, Khris Bogle, Jeremiah Moon, and Princely Umanmielen can all play the position, and then you have Lloyd Summerall, who has been coming on. His chances of seeing the field during year one would be as an outside linebacker able to drop into coverage.
- Daejon Reynolds – He was getting rave reviews during and after spring ball, but then I didn't hear as much about him during summer workouts or fall camp. Even with that being the case he still flashed enough ability in the spring and without a doubt he has the size to contribute as a freshman.
- Christopher Thomas – Coming in, he carried 300-pounds about as well as any prospect I have seen in the recent past. However, he needed to add muscle to his frame, in place of baby fat. He has been getting spot snaps with the second team, but I wouldn't expect him to get anything other than a few snaps here and there as they pick their spots for him.
- Jeremiah Williams – He could see the field because of his versatility of being able to line up at a couple of different spots, but the problem is there are already established players in front of him at all of those spots. I still expect to get some action early in the season and then we'll see if it is enough, or he handles it well enough, to avoid a redshirt.
- Jordan Young – After flashing back in the spring, he’s been much quieter during fall camp. With the cornerback position as unsettled as it is behind Kaiir Elam, if the coaches have enough confidence to put him out there for a few snaps here and there, he could build on that.
WAIT UNTIL NEXT YEAR
These 10 need a year of development before they are ready for primetime.
- Austin Barber – According to the coaches Florida has eight offensive linemen that they feel comfortable playing this season and are working on getting that number to 10. None of the three true freshmen are currently on the two-deep as we reported in our Scrimmage Insider Notes.
- Corey Collier – While the talent may be there, he simply doesn't currently have the size to stand up physically to the rigors of college football.
- Carlos Del Rio – When he reported he looked like he was above what should have been his reporting weight, but looks like he is in much better shape now, down at least 10 or more pounds. If Emory Jones and Anthony Richardson are healthy, they aren’t going to burn a redshirt on a third quarterback, and if one is needed, does walk-on Jack Anders, who showed off a big arm in the spring, get the call because of his year headstart on the two freshmen?
- Jalen Kitna – He arrived with a great pedigree, being the son of former NFL quarterback Jon Kitna, but I haven’t heard much about him as a player so far. He is in the same situation as Del Rio-Wilson, in that if the top two remain healthy, the staff isn't likely to burn a redshirt season on at best a third or fourth-string quarterback.
- Dakota Mitchell – WIth practices closed off, of course, I haven't seen anything of him. However, unlike others who are making an early impression, I haven't heard a single thing about Mitchell to date, which all but screams redshirt year.
- Yousef Mugharbil – He came in as the highest-rated of Florida's three offensive line signees, and has college-level size already, but again, he isn't on the two-deep at the moment, so unless there is a rash of injuries, I wouldn't expect him to be called upon this season.
- Tyreak Sapp – This is perhaps the easiest one to do. He reported earlier this month, there's no way he is anywhere near ready for college ball as a defensive lineman.
- Jake Slaughter – Physically, from seeing him last August during at a high school practice to seeing him back in July during Friday Night Lights, he has become much more solid across the arms and chest. Even with that being the case, he is still going to need this year and then an offseason to get to where he can contribute along the line in the SEC.
- Desmond Watson – The good news is, for both the fans and his own personal health, Nick Savage has been able to work his magic – helping whip Watson into much better shape. The bad news is he is still north of 400-pounds, and Dan Mullen said this week that is still too much to get him into games, before adding he wants him to be down to at least 380 before he plays him. I know what you’re thinking, just let him play a couple of snaps a game. Which could happen in non-league games, but when you set your 70 man roster for an SEC game, you have to be able to depend on everyone on it to be able to go the distance in case of injury. Watson isn't able to do that now.
- Gage Wilcox – He doesn’t land down here because I’ve heard anything bad about his play to this point, but simply because Florida returned three tight ends to go with Elksnis, who has been here since the spring. If they all remain healthy, does the fifth tight end see enough action to justify foregoing a redshirt?