Photo by Kim Klement (Imagn)
Florida Football

Freshmen contribute in Florida's blowout victory

September 8, 2019

In a blowout win, young players often find their time to shine.

That was no different for the Florida Gators Saturday night against UT Martin as many players were able to see action, including many freshmen.

In the 45-0 win over the Skyhawks, the Gators were not only able to extend the nation’s longest home-opener winning streak to 30 games, they were able to provide an opportunity to their younger players to shine on a much bigger stage than the practice fields.

This time they did it in front of 80,000 fans.

In fact, of the top six tacklers in the game, four of them were true freshmen.

With CJ Henderson exiting the game in the second quarter with an apparent ankle injury, the contingent of young contributors was led by a trio of true freshmen cornerbacks.

True freshman cornerback Kaiir Elam staood out as a key young performer. For his first career pick he managed to wrangle in the Gator’s first turnover of the season with a leaping interception in the endzone in the fourth quarter.

Fellow freshman cornerback Jaydon Hill played well in his limited snaps with four tackles and a pass break-up in the second quarter on a crucial third down.

True freshman cornerback Chester Kimbrough recorded four tackles, three of which were solo tackles.

Redshirt sophomore linebacker Lacedrick Brunson also had four tackles (one for a loss), and a sack.

Things were no different on the offensive side of the ball. Redshirt freshman wide receiver Jacob Copeland stands out as a young player who showcased his talent. Copeland caught 3 passes for 23 yards and a touchdown, and tagged on a 15 yard run on top of that.

It wasn’t only the fans going wild in the stands, According to Van Jefferson, he tried to run on the field to congratulate Copeland but had to be held back by coaches.

“I mean I thought he had a great game today,” Jefferson said. “ [He] got his first college touchdown. I was running on the field man, trying to run on the field but Coach Savage was holding me back.

Copeland is part of the future for the Gators. According to Dan Mullen, if Kadarius Toney needs to miss games, Copeland will fill that role.

Running backs also received some love in terms of snaps.

True freshman running back Nay’Quan Wright got seven touches, while redshirt freshman Iverson Clement recorded a 41-yard run late in the fourth quarter.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Emory Jones also saw extensive action in the fourth quarter. Jones flashed his athleticism with a 16-yard rushing touchdown to extend the Gator lead to 45 points.

According to Mullen, he tried to get the younger guys in the game more consistently. He says that getting the players in against the opponent’s first defense gives them better quality snaps.

The Gators now look ahead to SEC conference opponent Kentucky. According to Mullen, the team needs to crank up the intensity 10 notches.

“It’s got to really crank up about 10 notches getting into conference play, especially going on the road,” said Mullen.

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