GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Florida coach Dan Mullen will finally provide a peek into his program next week, just a few days before the team’s season opener at Ole Miss.
Mullen will release a 2020 roster for the first time along with a depth chart and any injuries sustained over the last six weeks. He has kept all those details as top secret as his playbook during the coronavirus pandemic.
He’s likely trying to create some surprises for the Rebels while keeping the fifth-ranked Gators focused amid their highest expectations in a decade.
This much is clear: Florida will rely on a number of newcomers — some transfers, some freshmen — as it tries to dethrone rival Georgia in the Southeastern Conference’s East Division. Here’s a look at seven players expected to make immediate impacts (assuming they’re healthy and still on the team):
A five-star recruit at Georgia in 2018, Cox left the Bulldogs in August 2019 and landed in Gainesville a few days later. The NCAA denied his waiver request to play right away, so he ended up sitting out last season under transfer rules.
The 6-foot-3, 250-pound pass rusher had 20 tackles and a sack as a freshman while playing in 13 of Georgia’s 14 games. The Gators are hoping he has the kind of impact that Louisville transfer Jon Greenard (SEC-leading 9½ sacks) did last season.
“The thing I like about the guy is he likes to play ball,” defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. “I’m just pleased with the guy’s work ethic, his demeanor and really glad he’s on our team.”
Mullen went Down Under to find his next punter. The 6-foot-3 Crawshaw graduated from high school in Australia in December 2018 and spent a year training for an opportunity to play in America like many of his fellow countrymen have in recent years
Six of the last seven winners of the Ray Guy Award, given annual to college football’s top punter, hail from Australia.
“He hasn’t played in live game situations or live football situations where people are coming, running at you to try to block the kick,” Mullen said. “But he certainly has a lot of talent in there.”
The 6-6, 294-pound defensive tackle is Mullen’s first five-star signee in three years in Gainesville. He also may have been Mullen’s easiest sell.
Dexter visited only one school — Florida — before signing day. He grew up about 50 miles south of Orlando in Lake Wales and always dreamed of playing for the Gators. He had 103 solo tackles as a senior, with 35 of those coming behind the line of scrimmage. Eighteen of those were sacks.
The younger brother of Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback CJ Henderson, the ninth overall pick in the NFL draft, could be the fastest player on Florida’s roster. That kind of speed usually gets on the field, and the 6-4 receiver should have a chance after the Gators lost Van Jefferson, Freddie Swain, Tyrie Cleveland and Josh Hammond to graduation.
Henderson caught 37 passes for 503 yards and seven touchdowns last year at Columbus High.
“He been showing a whole lot of talent,” tight end Kyle Pitts said.
The former Miami running back landed in Gainesville in January and was granted immediate eligibility four months later. He likely will share carries with returners Dameon Pierce and Malik Davis.
The 6-foot, 200-pound Lingard played in six games as a freshman with the Hurricanes, running 17 times for 136 yards and two touchdowns before sustaining a knee injury. He was a five-star recruit coming out of high school in Orlando, where he had 4,478 yards rushing and 69 touchdowns.
Reese started 34 games at Mississippi State before moving to Florida as a graduate transfer. He has familiarity with Mullen’s scheme from their time in Starkville, immediate eligibility and enough experience to help the Gators right away.
Florida returns four starting offensive linemen, so the 6-foot-6, 350-pound Reese will at the very least provide competition or be a quality backup.
“I think it’s coming back to him pretty quickly, which is great and a little different than a regular grad transfer because it’s a guy who has played in the system before,” Mullen said.
After losing leading tackler David Reese, who led the team with 94 stops last season, the Gators have concerns at linebacker. Juniors Ventrell Miller and James Houston are expected to get the first crack at starting roles.
But there should be playing time available for the 6-1, 230-pound Wingo, the state’s Gatorade player of the year from football factory St. Thomas Aquinas.
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