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Florida Football

20/19 for 2019: It's Grime Time

June 17, 2019
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FLORIDA FOOTBALL & RECRUITING COVERAGE
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The summer is flying by and the Florida Gators 2019 campaign is approaching quickly. As the players and coaches prepare for their August 24 kickoff against Miami, here at Inside the Gators we take stock of the roster to break down our list of “20/19” players for the 2019 season.

It will go like this: the 20 most valuable returning players with considerable game experience and then the 19 most valuable players who have yet to appear for the Gators and/or make a significant contribution in game play 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 to two upcoming players each time. Today we dive in with players 11-12 from our Top 20 list and players 10-11 from our Top 19 list.

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20 MOST VALUABLE RETURNING CONTRIBUTORS


No. 12-BRAD STEWART

  • Position: Safety
  • Class: Junior
  • Size: 6-foot-1, 200 pounds
  • High School/Hometown: McDonogh High (New Orleans, La.)

Why He’s Important: The Gators have two safeties who are good against the run in Jeawon Taylor and Shawn Davis, while Donovan Stiner excels more against the pass. Stewart is the closest thing UF has to a complete player at the position. He started seven games in 2018 and recorded 41 tackles, two interceptions, two pass breakups and a forced fumble. He produced arguably the biggest highlight of the season – offense or defense – with his 25-yard pick-six that sealed the win over LSU. He seems to make the fewest big mistakes of Florida’s safeties, and he’s likely locked down one of the starting spots heading into fall camp. He has a high upside, and he showed flashes of the type of player he can be last fall. Now, the Gators need him to play like that all of the time.

Questions to be Answered: Like the rest of the Gators’ safeties, consistency is the biggest concern. Stewart played well in the bigger games: He made a diving interception against Tennessee to go with the play against LSU. But, against some of the weaker conference opponents, he struggled at times. Can he put together a consistent season in 2019? Communication and chemistry are important parts of playing safety, and the other starting spot is still up for grabs entering fall camp. Who will start next to him, and how will that affect Stewart’s performance this season?

Projection: Stewart will start every game this season unless he gets injured or suspended again. He’ll make Second Team All-SEC and turn in a solid season that’ll give him the opportunity to turn pro if he wants to. He’ll also become the secondary’s vocal leader following Chauncey Gardner-Johnson’s departure. He won’t quite reach his full potential this season, but he’ll play well enough that fans can turn their attention to the other safety spot.

No. 11-TREVON GRIMES

  • Position: Wide Receiver
  • Class: Junior
  • Size: 6-foot-5, 210 pounds
  • High School/Hometown: St. Thomas Aquinas High (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)

Why He’s Important: With his combination of size and speed, Grimes should be the Gators’ best deep threat, and redzone option, and complement Van Jefferson and Josh Hammond, who are more of possession type of receivers. He only totaled 26 catches for 364 yards and two scores in 2018, but he finished the season strong. Against Florida State, he caught five passes for 118 yards and a touchdown. His size and leaping ability should make him a perfect target for jump balls in the end zone, something UF lacked a season ago.

Questions to be Answered: Grimes started the year hot, making three catches for 50 yards and the first score of the Dan Mullen era against Charleston Southern. He finished strong with the breakout game against Florida State. He essentially disappeared in the middle of the season. He got the start in the Peach Bowl against Michigan and caught just one pass for negative-two yards. Which player will Florida get in 2019: the one who shredded FSU’s secondary or the one who was a non-factor for most of the season? The biggest problems that seemed to hold him back last season were drops and inconsistent route-running on anything other than go-routes. Has he cleaned up these issues this offseason?

Projection: The guess here is that Grimes will have a big season, with 40 catches for about 700 yards and seven or eight touchdowns. He’ll haul in multiple deep balls. He’ll have a big decision after the season: leave as a mid-round draft pick or come back as a senior on a team that will lose a lot of receivers after this season and try to improve his draft stock?

19 MOST VALUABLE WHO HAVE YET TO CONTRIBUTE SIGNIFICANTLY

 

No. 11-VENTRELL MILLER

  • Position: Linebacker
  • Class: Redshirt Sophomore
  • Size: 6-foot, 229 pounds
  • High School/Hometown: Kathleen High (Lakeland, Fla.)

Why He’s Important: Outside of the offensive line, linebacker depth is arguably the Gators’ biggest weakness entering fall camp. David Reese and Amari Burney seem to have locked up starting jobs, and they could become one of the SEC’s better linebacking duos. But, Vosean Joseph’s decision to declare for the NFL Draft following the 2018 season and the offseason transfers of Kylan Johnson and Rayshad Jackson left UF with no backups with significant experience. Miller appeared in all 13 games last season, primarily on special teams and in garbage time. He made 15 tackles, including two tackles-for-loss, and one sack. Against Idaho, he returned an interception 82 yards for a score, the ninth longest return in program history. He appears to have the necessary athleticism; he just needs some snaps to continue developing. This is a crucial year for him, as he’ll likely battle for a starting job in 2020.

Questions to be Answered: Florida signed one of the nation’s highest rated linebacker classes, led by top-100 prospect Tyron Hopper. Miller also faces competition from classmate James Houston IV. Can he fend off Houston and the freshmen and find playing time? Miller played outside linebacker in the spring. Is he versatile enough to play both linebacker spots if needed, or is he strictly an outside linebacker? Can he help solve UF’s problems with covering tight ends?

Projection: Miller will be the first linebacker off the bench, but he still might struggle to find significant playing time. He’s probably best suited outside right now, and, if Burney breaks out the way a lot of people expect him to, it’s going to be hard to take Burney off of the field. Still, Miller will provide much needed depth and play a key role on special teams. He’ll get plenty of playing time against the two FCS opponents on Florida’s schedule. Who knows, maybe he’ll house one from 90 yards out this time.

No. 10-KYLE PITTS

  • Position: Wide Receiver
  • Class: Sophomore
  • Size: 6-foot-6, 246 pounds
  • High School/Hometown: Archbishop Wood High (Abington, Pa.)

Why He’s Important: The big and freakishly athletic Pitts is a mismatch waiting to happen. He was the No. 5 ranked tight end in high school, and he spent his freshman season at the position. Buried on the depth chart, he caught just three passes for 73 yards and a touchdown. The Gators moved him to wide receiver in the spring to better utilize his receiving skills. He stood out throughout the spring, culminating with a four-catch, 56-yard performance in the spring game. Who do you try to cover him with? He’ll overpower defensive backs and outrun linebackers. Like Grimes, he’ll provide quarterback Feleipe Franks with a jump ball target in the red zone. Despite receiver being the deepest position on the team, his unusual combination of size and athleticism should earn him a role.

Questions to be Answered: Pitts suffered a memorable drop in 2018. With Emory Jones in at quarterback against Idaho, the Gators took a shot deep with Jones’ throw landing perfectly in his arms, but he couldn’t hold on to it. Can Pitts become more sure-handed this season? As a newbie to the position, how is his route-running? How will defenses try to cover him?

Projection: Pitts will catch a lot more than three passes this year. Hauling in 20-25 passes for 300 yards seems like a reasonable projection for him. He’s going to have a hard time getting passes thrown his way with his newness to the position and all of the weapons around him. But, he’ll make steady progress throughout the year and put himself in position to enter a starring role in 2020.

 
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