The 25th-ranked Florida Gators on Monday released their depth chart for Saturday’s season opener against UMass. Here’s a position-by-position breakdown of the team heading into Week 1:
Redshirt sophomore Luke Del Rio is the starter and Purdue graduate transfer Austin Appleby is his backup. This was to be expected. UF’s scholarship freshmen – Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask – are still battling for the No. 3 spot. UF coach Jim McElwain said on Monday that he hopes to give both reps early in the season, if possible. “Obviously we have to have an established third at some point,” McElwain said. “We'll kind of see where it goes from there. We haven't made a definitive decision there on that and yet that's something that we need to look down the road at, no doubt about it."
The starting spot is still up for grabs. On the depth chart, UF has the No. 1 back listed as either sophomore Jordan Scarlett OR junior college transfer Mark Thompson OR sophomore Jordan Cronkrite, with redshirt senior Mark Herndon and true freshman Lamical Perine at Nos. 4 and 5, respectively. Cronkrite looked to be the frontrunner during the limited portion of practice the media is allowed to see, but he was “banged up” early last week and missed a pair of practices, allowing Scarlett and Thompson the opportunity to gain traction in the battle. During the Gators’ media day earlier in the month, McElwain viewed the running back group as “being as strong as anything on our football team.” All five have an opportunity to receive playing time in the early going of the season before McElwain decides whether to go with a feature back or use a by-committee approach.
The Gators have junior Brandon Powell and sophomore Antonio Callaway lined up as the starting outside receivers and junior college transfer Dre Massey as the starter in the slot. This is intriguing, as all three provide versatility and speed to the field. However, what they bring in versatility, they lack in size (Callaway is the biggest of the three at 5-11 and 197 pounds). Behind them are the quartet of senior Ahmad Fulwood, junior C.J. Worton and freshmen Josh Hammond and Freddie Swain. Tyrie Cleveland and Rick Wells -- another pair of freshmen -- are suspended for the season opener and therefore not on the depth chart.
With redshirt sophomore C’yontai Lewis suspended, junior DeAndre Goolsby has sole possession of the starting spot for Saturday. He’s the only eligible tight end with valuable playing experience (21 games, six starts). Behind Goolsby are redshirt sophomore Moral Stephens and true sophomore Camrin Knight, a pair which has shown flashes throughout camp but will likely be relegated to spot roles during the season.
The starting five from left to right are as expected: Junior David Sharpe, sophomore Martez Ivey, redshirt junior Cam Dillard, sophomore Tyler Jordan and sophomore Fred Johnson. They are the five most experienced offensive linemen McElwain has at his disposal. Backups to watch out for are redshirt sophomore tackle Kavaris Harkless and freshman Jaawan Taylor. Guard Antonio Riles is out for the year with a torn ACL.
Florida’s listed starting defensive line Bryan Cox Jr. (end), senior Joey Ivie (nose tackle), redshirt junior Caleb Brantley (defensive tackle) and redshirt junior Jordan Sherit (end). Don’t expect the group to stop there, however. With redshirt sophomore Taven Bryan, sophomores CeCe Jefferson and Keivonnis Davis and redshirt freshman Jabari Zuninga in the mix, there will be a continuous battle for playing time along the defensive line. One surprising note: True freshman Antonneous Clayton, the No. 2 ranked defensive end and 26th-best player in the 2016 recruiting class according to 247sports, was not listed on the depth chart.
Florida’s lone three linebackers with playing experience top the chart. Senior Jarrad Davis is in the middle, redshirt junior Alex Anzalone is on the strong side and senior Daniel McMillian is starting on the weak side. Behind them are redshirt freshman Kylan Johnson (a high school quarterback turned safety turned linebacker) and a trio of true freshmen in David Reese, Jeremiah Moon and Vosean Joseph. Expect to see the freshmen receive a heavy dose of playing time early in order to get acclimated to college ball before SEC play.
With All-SEC corner Jalen Tabor suspended for the season opener, junior Duke Dawson is slated to take his place on the outside opposite Quincy Wilson. Dawson, however, is also listed as the starting nickel corner, so if the Gators go with three corners, JuCo transfer Joseph Putu could get some opportunities for extensive playing time. At safety, redshirt senior Marcus Maye has solidified one of the two spots. The second is still up for grabs with redshirt juniors Nick Washington and Marcus Maye vying for the position. Freshman corner Chauncey Gardner should see some playing time early in the year as well.
Basically, the starting spots are as expected here. Eddy Pineiro is the kicker. Johnny Townsend is the punter. The combination of Powell, Massey and Callaway will be used on kickoff and punt returns. One player to look out for: Kicker Jorge Powell, who McElwain said will be utilized for onside kicks.