The Gators’ 20201recruiting class arrived with sky-high expectations and a lot of intrigue. They were Dan Mullen’s third, and final, full class as he attempted to elevate the program from good to great. The 23 freshmen (22 signees and one transfer) that made it to campus were part of a class that ranked No. 12 in the country according to the 247 Sports Composite.
Of those who stuck around, as usual, they’ve been a mixed bag so far. Some of them have played a lot, while others have been used sparingly. Some look like burgeoning stars, while others make you scratch your head and wonder what the coaching staff saw in them. Of course, some are still a complete unknown.
With the season in the rearview mirror, before our attention turns to the 2022 season, here is our assessment of the 2021 class after their first season in the Orange and Blue.
- Jason Marshall
- Donovan McMillon
- Desmond Watson
- Diwun Black
- Demarkcus Bowman
- Chief Borders
- Nick Elksnis
- Scooby Williams
- Austin Barber
- Marcus Burke
- Jordan Young
- Justus Boone
- Corey Collier
- Gage Wilcox
- Daejon Reynolds
- Jake Slaughter
- Christopher Thomas
- Rocco Underwood
- Carlos Del Rio-Wilson
- Jalen Kitna
- Dakota Mitchell
- Yousef Mugharbil
- Tyreak Sapp
Freshman of the Year – Jason Marshall
He was the only member of this class to start a game – actually, five of them. After getting off to a bit of a rocky start, where his way too physical approach to the position made it appear that he was better suited to safety – he settled in down the stretch and played well for the most part.
Most Surprising – Desmond Watson
It wasn’t at all surprising that he was able to contribute early. He is not only a mountain of a man, he has naturally heavy hands and a surprising burst for someone that big. What is surprising is that after Mullen stood in-front of the media back in August and said that Watson would see the field until after he was under 380-pounds, Watson played in ever game this season.
Most Disappointing – Diwun Black
It feels like Gator Nation has been waiting on this former five-star’s arrival – literally and figuratively – for years now. Next season he’ll be a senior, and they’re still left waiting. He played in 10 games in 2021, mostly on special teams. Black recorded four tackles to start the season and then played seven straight games without recording a statistic. To this point, he has been a man without a position, and what normally happens is that when you are a jack-of-all-trades, you become a master of none. You can blame it on the staff, or whatever else you want to, but if you’re saying that this is the level of contribution that you expected from him, you are likely lying to yourself.
Future Star – Nick Elksnis
You wouldn’t judge him as a future star if you’re going off of his actual ‘in-season’ production – where he didn’t record a single catch in limited reps spread out over the first four games of the season. However, if you go back to preseason camp he was the talk of the town. Coach after coach, player after player bragged on Elksnis. And it wasn’t just hearsay. Whether it be during the portions of practice where Florida live-streamed on Instagram or the videos released via Twitter, you saw him make multiple big plays, only to be held out this season for whatever reason.
Most Intriguing – Chief Borders
He only played in four games, and his lone tackle came in the season-ending bowl game loss to Central Florida, but he was still a freshman many upperclassmen and coaches talked about. He has the speed and athleticism to drop into coverage, but he played BUCK for the previous staff. Even at 240-plus pounds, he looks like he could easily add another 20-25 pounds to his 6-foot-4 frame.
2022 Projected Impact Player – Demarkcus Bowman
Recording but 14 carries over the five games in which he played – mostly in mop-up duty – seems like a waste of a season. However, though none of the three backs ahead of him have his big play, home run ability, you can rationalize why he didn’t see the field more than those experienced backs ahead of him in the rotation. That certainly shouldn't, and won’t be the case next season. If he is healthy, there’s no reason he shouldn’t be either the starter or at the very least heavily in the rotation.