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Chomp: No more 1980 jokes 😭, but we got a commit! 😃

Georgia head coach Kirby Smart celebrates after the College Football Playoff championship football game against Alabama Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022, in Indianapolis. Georgia won 33-18. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings) (Darron Cummings, Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

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


Georgia finally broke its 41-year national championship drought and Kirby Smart finally defeated his former boss, Alabama’s Nick Saban, on Monday night in the College Football Playoff title game.

So long, 1980 jokes.

GAME RECAP: Georgia snaps 41-year title drought with 33-18 win over Alabama

Since Smart returned to his alma mater in 2016, Georgia has produced top-five recruiting classes every year except Smart’s first (which, by the way, was still a top-10 class).

Now, Florida is trying to put the emphasis on recruiting in an effort to win another natty like Georgia.

🎉 Etienne commits

As the Gators try to climb the recruiting rankings, they got a big boost on Saturday.

Running back Trevor Etienne, of Jennings, Lousiana, committed to Florida during the All-American Bowl pregame show.

The 247Sports Composite has him as a four-star player and the nation’s No. 15 running back in the 2022 class.

If his name sounds familiar, that’s because he’s the brother of former Clemson and current Jacksonville Jaguars running back Travis Etienne.

The Gators are now 41st in 247Sports’ 2022 team recruiting rankings.

🐊 Former Giants assistant latest staff addition

The additions to coach Billy Napier’s staff have once again continued since our last newsletter.

The latest hire announced was Rob Sale, who was named offensive coordinator and offensive line coach. Sale served as the New York Giants’ offensive line coach in 2021. Before that, he spent three seasons at Louisiana as offensive coordinator and offensive line coach under Napier.

ADDITIONAL DETAILS: Florida hires ex-Giants assistant Rob Sale as O-line coach

In the latest episode of Gators Breakdown, host David Waters and Will Miles, with Read and Reaction, discuss this hire.

Kareem Reid joined the staff in the role of quality control -- defensive line. Reid, a Florida native, spent the 2021 season as the director of player development at UCF. Prior to that, Reid served as a high school head coach and assistant in Florida and Georgia from 2007 to 2019.

Paul Silvestri was promoted to director of sports health - football. Silvestri has been on staff at Florida since 2013 and will continue to oversee the football athletic training room.

Tiger Jones was named director of speed improvement and skill development. He spent last season as an assistant strength coach at was the assistant director of strength and conditioning at Louisiana under Napier from 2018 to 2020.

Alex Watkins will serve on the Gators’ strength and conditioning staff as an assistant. He spent the last two seasons as a strength and conditioning coach at Mississippi State. In 2019, he was the assistant director of athletic performance for football at UAB.

David Doeker was tabbed as the wide receivers graduate assistant. He spent the last three seasons with the Ragin’ Cajuns, and he was in the same role for the past two.

Napier has also added two former Gators to his staff.

Vernell Brown Jr., who played cornerback for Florida from 2001 to 2005, was promoted to senior director of player development and alumni relations. He joined the Florida staff in 2018 as director of student-athlete development.

And Mike Peterson is returning to Gainesville to coach the outside linebackers and serve as an alumni liaison. He spent the last six seasons at South Carolina as an outside linebackers and defensive ends coach. Peterson was a member of the 1996 National Championship team, playing linebacker for Steve Spurrier from 1995 to 1998.

In this episode of Gators Breakdown, David discusses the hiring of Peterson.

🏈 Elam & Pierce declare for NFL draft

Two Gators have declared for the 2022 NFL draft.

Cornerback Kaiir Elam made the announcement first in a video posted on social media.

“Making my decision to come here, I felt like the University of Florida was a no-brainer, honestly. Not even the tradition or anything, I just felt like in my heart I felt like I was making the best decision for my family and I,” Elam said in the video. “Freshman year, definitely one of the funnest years I’ve ever had, coming into the Orange Bowl and making plays. 2020 year, with the pandemic, I feel like I really tested my faith and my love for football, honestly, because there was talk about not even having a season, so for us to even play, I feel like I couldn’t take that for granted. These last three years have been nothing but a blessing, honestly. I wouldn’t trade this for the world. I wouldn’t trade this for anything else because it taught me a lot of learned lessons and it taught me how to keep battling, get up, get up and keep going. Take a lick and keep going. So my family and I were discussing the decision I have to make for next year. We feel like it’s essential for me to forego my season and start preparing for the NFL combine and draft. I’ll forever be a Gator. I’ll forever be grateful for all the fans and all the real people who stuck with us through the ups and downs. Being able to come back to The Swamp is something I will cherish for the rest of my life and being a Gator is something I will cherish for the rest of my life, so I’m forever grateful and forever thankful. Thank you. Cinco out.”

Running back Dameon Pierce has since declared for the draft, as well.

He posted this message on Instagram:

“First off, I would like to thank God because without Him I am nothing. I want to thank every coach, mentor, and all of my friends and family. You all have been a motivational force in my life and have kept me positive throughout my journey. Lastly, thank you Gator Nation for all the great memories in The Swamp and your unconditional support.

“With that being said, I would like to announce that I will be declaring for the 2022 NFL Draft, and putting all my efforts and focus into that. Once again, thank you all, and it’s nothing but love.

“Peezy out.”

🤷 Not much love for Florida in way-too-early 2022 rankings

With the 2021 college football season is officially in the books, media outlets have started to release their “way-too-early” 2022 rankings, and the Gators are nowhere to be found.

Florida was absent from rankings by Athlon Sports, CBS Sports, ESPN and Yahoo Sports. Athlon did have the Gators as one of its teams to watch though.

David and Will react to the rankings in the latest Gators Breakdown episode.

🏀 Florida falls to Auburn

The Gators men’s basketball team lost 85-73 to Auburn on the road Saturday.

The Tigers (14-1, 3-0 SEC) were able to hold off a big second-half surge by the Gators (9-5, 0-2) — which was led by Colin Castleton’s 22 points and 10 rebounds. Anthony Duruji scored 14 for the Gators, and Myreon Jones added 13.

Florida hit just 27.3% of its 3-pointers and missed 13 of its final 17 shots.

Next up: Florida hosts LSU On Wednesday, with tipoff at 7 p.m.

🗓️ Florida-Ole Miss game rescheduled

The Florida men’s basketball team’s game at Ole Miss has been rescheduled.

The game, which was originally slated for Dec. 29 but was postponed due to COVID-19 issues within the Gators program, is now set for 7 p.m. Jan. 24.

The trip to Oxford slots between the Gators’ Jan. 22 home date against Vanderbilt and road game at Tennessee on Jan. 26.

✉️ 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.

🎙️ Listen to more Gators Breakdown

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About the Author:

Jacksonville native and proud University of Florida graduate who joined News4Jax in March 2016.