Ask members of Florida Gators’ football team what they plan to do this summer, and the answer will likely be the same: get better.
While that will be at the forefront of many of the Gators’ summer plans, there are a few guys who are poised to be big contributors in their roles if they make the most of the summer and fall camp.
Malik Davis might have been Florida’s lead running back if injuries had not kept him off the field for so long.
Davis earned a medical redshirt after breaking his left foot just three games into the 2018 season.
Before that, he was Florida’s best option in the backfield. As a freshman, he led the team in rushing with 526 yards on 6.7 yards per carry through seven games before sustaining a season-ending knee injury against Georgia on Oct 28, 2017.
The running back by committee seemed to work for coach Dan Mullen’s team last year, particularly late in the season, as Lamical Perine and Jordan Scarlett each had his fair share of touches.
With Scarlett now a Carolina Panther, and Perine the clear No. 1 guy for the Gators, that No. 2 spot is still open for Davis or sophomore Dameon Pierce.
Davis’ burst and decision-making give him the potential to return as a key contributor. He just needs to be available to do it.
Trey Dean was quickly forced into a prominent role at cornerback as a true freshman last year.
He replaced cornerback Marco Wilson in Game 3 against Kentucky after Wilson sustained a season-ending anterior cruciate ligament injury.
He experienced early growing pains but grabbed attention as one of Florida’s best players in the secondary as he grew more comfortable.
Now, Dean has learned a new role and has done well in it this spring. He was moved to the star position to fill the vacancy left by Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, who was drafted by the New Orelans Saints.
The safety position remains a question mark heading into fall camp.
Brad Stewart appears a likely starter, and Donovan Stiner is another option.
But with nothing completely set at the close of spring, there’s still room for someone else to take that spot. And John Huggins might have done enough this spring to be that person.
Huggins moved to the star position along with Dean, and his production turned the heads of his coaches and teammates.
“He’s a big ballhawk,” quarterback Emory Jones said of Huggins. “He’s one of those guys ‘see ball, get ball.’ He’s fast, and he can hit, too. That’s what you want right there.”
Huggins made the most of a vanilla defensive scheme during the spring game, returning an interception of quarterback Kyle Trask for a touchdown, and he said he will continue to take advantage of his opportunities this summer by learning formations and working on man coverage.
Feleipe Franks separated himself as the clear favorite for the Gators heading into the season.
But Emory Jones can still use the summer and fall to stand out and possibly solidify his role as backup.
With four more years of eligibility, the redshirt freshman is the best option to be the No. 2 guy and a good replacement for Franks moving forward, as Trask has just two years of eligibility left.
Jones is a proven threat on the ground, shown in UF’s scrimmages this spring, where he was among the leaders in rushing and in his spring game performance. He led the Blue team with 38 rushing yards on six carries.
And even though he needs more development as a passer, he did enough this spring to show he has taken the necessary steps since arriving on campus a year ago.
“He’s gotten better in everything,” quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson said of Jones. “He’s been more comfortable … He’s progressing at the rate, and everyone is progressing at the rate we expect them to.”