Chomp: Mike White bolts for rival Georgia; 4 most important defensive players to watch this spring

FILE - Florida head coach Mike White looks on during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Texas Southern, Monday, Dec. 6, 2021, in Gainesville, Fla. (AP Photo/Matt Stamey) (Matt Stamey, Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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

Hello, Gators fans.

Let’s get straight into the big news that broke yesterday.

😮 White heading to Georgia

Coach Mike White has been at the center of one of the most controversial discussions among Gator Nation.

There are some fans who wanted him out for a while, pointing to stretches of play that his teams would go without scoring and the fact the Gators only made it past the second round once out of their four NCAA Tournament appearances under White. There are other fans who mentioned that, before this past season, White had only once failed to lead the Gators to an NCAA Tournament appearance (his first season at Florida, 2015-16) and that Billy Donovan’s success -- including two national titles -- at a football school like Florida couldn’t be matched.

Regardless of what side you were on, it’s a moot point now because White is now bolting for Georgia. The fact that it is Florida’s biggest rival is somewhat of a bitter parting gesture from White to the Gators and the fanbase.

GEORGIA ON HIS MIND: White leaving for Bulldogs

Florida finished 19-13 this season and just 34-23 over White’s final two seasons. He was 142-88 overall in his seven seasons with the Gators after being hired away from Louisiana Tech to replace Donovan.

“Mike White informed me this afternoon that he was accepting another job. It’s been a pleasure having Mike, Kira and the White family with us in Gainesville, and we wish them well. They are a wonderful family who always represented the Gators in a first-class manner,” Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin said. “The search for the next Gator men’s basketball coach has already begun, and I look forward to identifying a leader who will embody the UAA’s vision of providing a championship experience with integrity.”

White will replace Tom Crean, who Georgia fired after a disastrous 6-26 season. He was 47-75 in four seasons with the Bulldogs.

🏀 Men’s hoops to host 1st-round matchup in NIT

As predicted, the Gators men’s basketball team will not be going to the big dance this year, but the team will be participating in the National Invitation Tournament.

The Gators enter the NIT as a No. 3 seed and will host Iona in the first round. Tipoff is at 9 p.m. Wednesday.

With White gone, associate head coach Al Pinkins will serve as interim head coach.

Meanwhile, the Florida women’s basketball team is going dancing for the first time since the 2015-16 season. The team was selected as a No. 10 seed in the NCAA Tournament and will face No. 7-seeded Central Florida at 3:30 p.m. Saturday in Storrs, Connecticut.

👀 Most important defensive players to watch in spring practice

With spring practice set to begin tomorrow for coach Billy Napier and the Florida football program, Gators Breakdown host David Waters takes a look at the top four most important defensive players to keep an eye on.

VIDEO: David spotlights the top 4 most important players for Florida’s defense | ICYMI: David highlights the top 4 most important players for Florida’s offense

Top 4: Most important defensive players to watch this spring

4. Rush end Brenton Cox Jr.

“This is his last chance, last go-around at Florida. Look, in 2020, the entire defense was bad. Last year, 2021, he played injured all season long,” David said. “This spring is about playing healthy, becoming a more well-rounded player.”

3. Linebacker Derek Wingo

“Have to find another linebacker to help Ventrell Miller with him coming back for one more season for the Gators. He’ll anchor the middle, but Florida needs to find their No. 2 linebacker,” David said.

2. Safety Trey Dean III

“He has all the tools to be a successful safety, just hasn’t been able to put it together consistently,” David said.

1. Cornerback Jason Marshall Jr.

“Taking over for Kaiir Elam will not be easy as No. 1 cornerback for Florida,” David said. “But they need that second spot. That second quarterback spot will be a great competition for Florida to get two top-notch DBs on the field. That only happens if Marshall is out there.”

🎓 Tebow to speak at UF commencement ceremony

Former Gators quarterback Tim Tebow will serve as the University of Florida’s commencement speaker this spring.

Tebow graduated from UF in 2009 with a bachelor’s degree in family youth and community sciences after winning two national championships and becoming a Heisman Trophy winner. He is a four-time New York Times best-selling author, speaker, football analyst and the founder of the Tim Tebow Foundation, whose mission is to bring faith, hope and love to those needing a brighter day in their darkest hour of need. The Christian-based organization serves people in more than 70 countries.

STORY: Tebow to speak at UF’s 2022 spring commencement

“Tim Tebow is known as much for his hard work, character and commitment to service as he is for his many achievements. And for those reasons, I know the class of 2022 will benefit greatly from his message and perspective,” UF President Kent Fuchs said. “Whether it be in athletics, philanthropy or in his broader life, Tim sets an example for all of us on what it means to be a leader.”

The spring all-university commencement ceremony is scheduled for 7 p.m. April 29 and is open to the public. UF Board of Trustee member Bill Heavener will introduce Tebow, who will address at least 6,500 graduates and 45,000 additional guests.

More information about UF’s spring commencement can be found here.

✉️ 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

You can catch up on previous episodes of Gators Breakdown at or click one of the following to tune in: Megaphone | Apple Podcasts | YouTube | Google Podcasts | Stitcher