Chomp: Florida’s final test this year comes against in-state foe UCF

FILE (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) (Jonathan Bachman, 2018 Jonathan Bachman)

This story first appeared in Chomp, our Gators football newsletter. Subscribe here.

First off, happy holidays to all of you Gator fans out there!

The season is nearing the end, and who would have guessed it would be coming to a close with a new coach in place?

So while we’re looking to the future, this team still has a game to play this week...

🏟️ Gators staying in-state for Gasparilla Bowl

The Gators are traveling to Raymond James Stadium in Tampa again this year. This time, they’ll be taking on Central Florida in the Gasparilla Bowl on Thursday, but they’ll still be hoping for the same result as when they faced South Florida: a win.

UCF is led by former Auburn coach Gus Malzahn, who’s wrapping up his first season with the Knights. Florida head coach Billy Napier is not coaching in the bowl game, and special teams coordinator and running backs coach Greg Knox will serve as the interim coach. He previously served in that role for the Gators’ win over Florida State this season and for Mississippi State’s victory over Louisville in the 2017 TaxSlayer Bowl.

While defensive end Zachary Carter, who’s opted out to begin NFL draft preparations, and quarterback Anthony Richardson, who underwent a procedure on his right knee, won’t be playing, quarterback Emory Jones, who plans to enter the transfer portal, and wide receiver Jacob Copeland, who is transferring, will. Cornerback Kaiir Elam also plans to suit up despite being the team’s highest projected draft pick.

GAME PREVIEW: Florida, UCF battle for bragging rights in Gasparilla Bowl

This will be the third time that the Gators (6-6, 2-6 Southeastern Conference) and the Knights (8-4, 5-3 American Athletic Conference) match up in what will be the first-ever neutral site and postseason meeting between the teams. The Gators currently own a 2-0 record against UCF.

Thursday’s game, which marks Florida’s first appearance in the Gasparilla Bowl, will also serve as a prelude to a three-game series beginning in 2024 that the two programs agreed to earlier this year.

In the latest episode of Gators Breakdown, host David Waters previews the matchup with Brandon Helwig, with

The game kicks off at 7 p.m. and will be televised on ESPN.

🏈 Ohio State QB transfers to Florida

With Jones planning to enter the transfer portal, the Gators are welcoming a new quarterback.

Ohio State transfer Jack Miller has committed to Florida. Miller, a four-star player in the 2020 signing class, played in four games as red-shirt freshman in 2021, completing seven of 14 passes for 101 yards.

In addition to Jones and Richardson, Florida’s quarterback room currently includes Carlos Del Rio-Wilson and Jalen Kitna.

🐊 Napier announces more hires

Napier continues to fill out his staff.

The most recent hire announced by Napier is Karmichael Dunball II, who will serve as an assistant on the strength and conditioning staff. He held the same role the last three seasons at Louisiana.

Ashour Peera was named assistant director of football operations, logistics and analytics. Peer was the director of player engagement at Louisiana from 2019 to 2021 under Napier.

Doug Domingue was appointed as the director of recruiting innovation. He spent the last four years at Louisiana, where he was promoted to director of digital strategy in 2020.

Joe Danos will serve as director of player athletic development. He spent the last nine years working in two different professional sports leagues, serving as the head strength and conditioning coach for Inter Miami Futbol Club in from 2020 to 2021 and as performance manager and strength and conditioning assistant coach for the New York Giants from 2013 to 2019. Before that, Danos was an assistant strength and condition coach at Florida from 2010 to 2012, served on Southern Methodist’s strength staff from 2007 to 2009 and spent two years as an assistant strength coach at LSU.

And Napier announced Jacob LaFrance will serve on his staff as director of player personnel. LaFrance also worked under Napier at Louisiana, where he spent the last three seasons.

🏀 Florida men’s basketball to begin SEC play next week

The Gators men’s basketball team defeated Stony Brook 87-62 at home on Wednesday afternoon.

Phlandrous Fleming Jr. had his best game at Florida with four 3-pointers and 20 points.

Last week, Florida defeated South Florida 66-55 in the Orange Bowl Classic. Colin Castleton scored 12 points with 11 rebounds, his fifth double-double.

Next up: Florida, now 9-3, is on the road at Ole Miss on Dec. 29 for the Gators’ first SEC game of the season.

✉️ Send us your Gators thoughts & questions

David and I want to hear from you. Do you have any thoughts or questions about the Gators football program? Agree or disagree with something we’ve said? Let us know here, and we’ll share our responses to your questions.

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