Chomp: QB Miller named Las Vegas Bowl starter; Napier comments on Kitna arrest; Elite 2024 QB commits to Florida

The Florida Gators will take on the Oregon Beavers in the Las Vegas Bowl.

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

Hello, Florida fans.

As we often say, there’s never a dull moment in Gator Nation, and we have a lot of news to cover in this edition of Chomp.

🐊 Lagway commits to Gators

Florida picked up one of their biggest commitments in quite some time with the pledge of elite 2024 quarterback DJ Lagway.

Lagway is from Willis, Texas, and is a five-star prospect by the 247 Sports Composite and a four-star by the On3 Consensus.

In an episode of Gators Breakdown, host David Waters breaks down the importance of Lagway’s early pledge.

The Gators get one of the top players in the class of 2024. (Copyright 2022 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

And Florida has hosted many big-time recruiting targets the last few weekends, and the reviews have been great.

In the most recent episode of the podcast, David and Will Miles are joined by Bob Redman, with the Gator Collective, to go inside the visits and look at the commitments of Lagway and former Louisville defensive lineman Caleb Banks, who has three years of eligibility remaining.

The early signing period for the 2023 recruiting class begins next Wednesday.

🏈 QB Miller to start bowl game

Coach Billy Napier announced Thursday that Jack Miller III will start at quarterback in Florida’s matchup against No. 14 Oregon State in the 2022 SRS Distribution Las Vegas Bowl.

The announcement was made following the dismissal of backup quarterback Jalen Kitna and starting quarterback Anthony Richardson declaring for the 2023 NFL draft and forgoing the bowl game.

Miller, who transferred from Ohio State last December, was slotted to be Richardson’s backup during training camp before injuring his right thumb in August and needing surgery.

“He has been participating in practice for a number of weeks,” said the Gators’ first-year coach. “He’s perfectly healthy. ... While he was rehabbing, we were very intentional about keeping those guys engaged. He’s traveled with us. He’s went through the process of prepping each week, watching the cut-ups, all those things at the end of the week from a test and tips standpoint.

“So he’s been through the prep for a game. Obviously, the volume of work will be a little bit different for him. That’ll be the biggest challenge.”

FULL STORY: Florida turns to ex-Ohio State QB Jack Miller to start Vegas Bowl

Ohio State quarterback Jack Miller drops back to pass during the Buckeyes' spring NCAA college spring football game in Columbus, Ohio, on Saturday, April 17, 2021. (AP Photo/Paul Vernon) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Miller will be without a couple of offensive starters since the Gators (6-6, 3-5 Southeastern Conference) had four players opt out of the bowl: Richardson, offensive lineman O’Cyrus Torrence, wide receiver Justin Shorter and linebacker Ventrell Miller.

Defensive tackle Gervon Dexter Sr. turned pro but will stick around for the Vegas trip. Several teammates who either already entered the transfer portal or considered skipping Florida’s bowl also agreed to play the season finale, some of them surely because of the destination.

At last check, according to FanDuel Sports, the Beavers (9-3, 6-3 Pac-12) are 10 ½-point favorites over the Gators.

The Las Vegas Bowl will now kick off at 2:30 p.m. ET Saturday — five hours earlier than originally scheduled — at Allegiant Stadium and will air on ABC.

In a news release, Florida said that the kickoff time was altered due to the Las Vegas Raiders’ home game on Sunday against the New England Patriots being flexed to an earlier time, leaving a shorter window to prepare Allegiant Stadium for the NFL game following the Las Vegas Bowl.

🗨️ Napier opens up about Kitna arrest

Napier on Thursday also made his first public comments since the arrest of backup quarterback Jalen Kitna on child pornography charges.

During Thursday’s virtual news conference, Napier was asked how is he helping the football players and staff members following the incident.

“Obviously, it’s a sad, tragic event for all the people involved here. I think, really trying to help all the people involved. You know, obviously, Jalen is going to have to move forward. But it’s a challenge — and it’s one that I appreciate our leadership, and certainly, we’ve done everything we can do to help our players and staff,” he said. “We are turning the page and moving forward.”

READ MORE: Florida Gators coach Billy Napier opens up about arrest of Jalen Kitna on child porn charges

Napier was also asked about when he found out about the allegations against Kitna.

“We found out mid-morning, the day that it all went down — literally as it was happening,” he responded.

Kitna, 19, was arrested last month on two charges of distribution of child exploitation material and three charges of possession of child pornography.

🏆 Torrence earns consensus All-American honors

O’Cyrus Torrence became the first offensive guard in Florida history to earn consensus All-American honors.

The transfer from Louisiana who followed Napier to Gainesville was selected to three first-team All-America selections — the Associated Press, Walter Camp Football and Sporting News.

Torrence is the 34th consensus All-American in Gators history, and the first since Kyle Pitts was a unanimous All-American in 2020. He joins Lomas Brown (1984), Jason Odom (1995), Mike Pearson (2001), and Maurkice Pouncey (2009) as the only Gators offensive linemen to be named a consensus All-American to earn the honor.

Torrence has also been named an All-American by the Athletic, CBS and Pro Football Focus — which are not official selectors recognized by the NCAA for unanimous or consensus awards.

Other Gators who have earned accolades following the regular season include running back Trevor Etienne and linebacker Shemar James, both of whom earned Freshman All-SEC honors and were named College Football News Freshman All-American honorable mentions.

😢 Florida joins college football community in mourning death of Leach

The college football community is mourning the sudden death of Mississippi State coach Mike Leach.

Leach, 61, died Monday evening following complications from a heart condition, the university said.

Leach was one of the most influential football coaches and was known as a unique character in the sport who had a passion for pirates and would give his unfiltered thoughts on everything from marriage advice to candy. He helped revolutionize football from high school to the NFL with the Air Raid offense. In 21 seasons as a head coach at Texas Tech, Washington State and Mississippi State, Leach went 158-107.

RELATED: Mississippi State football coach Mike Leach dies at 61

Mississippi State coach Mike Leach talks with Mississippi coach Lane Kiffin before an NCAA college football game in Oxford, Miss., on Thursday, Nov. 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis) (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Following Leach’s death, Napier tweeted a statement from both him and Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin:

“We are deeply saddened by the passing of Mississippi State football head coach Mike Leach. Our game has lost a legend, but his legacy and impact on the countless individuals throughout the ranks of college football will remain long-lasting. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Sharon and their family, and with the entire MSU community.”

🏀 Florida men’s basketball team to take on Ohio in neutral site game

Tonight, the Florida men’s basketball team will face Ohio at Amalie Arena in Tampa.

The neutral site showdown between the Gators (6-4) and the Bobcats (5-4) is set to tip off at 7 p.m., and the game will be on ESPN 2.

The Gators are coming off a 75-54 loss at home to UConn.

✉️ 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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