Chomp: Gators RBs have to be leaders; Gonzalez returning to Gainesville; Date of Florida-Utah game set

FILE - Montrell Johnson Jr. #2 of the Florida Gators scores a touchdown during the seconnd quarter of a game against the South Florida Bulls at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on September 17, 2022, in Gainesville, Florida. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images) (James Gilbert, 2022 Getty Images)

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

Hi, Gators fans!

Spring football practice took a pause during spring break, but the Gators are back at it.

🏟️ Florida’s season opener against Utah scheduled for Aug. 31

First off — we now know that Florida’s 2023 season opener against Utah will take place at Rice-Eccles Stadium on Thursday, Aug. 31.

Kickoff time and TV information will be announced at a later time. Pac-12 television contracts, which govern Utah’s home games, will determine time and broadcast information.

It is the second game of the home-and-home series and marks the first game played in Salt Lake City between the Utes and the Gators.

Florida owns a 2-0 all-time record against the Utes after defeating them 29-26 in the Swamp last year to open the Billy Napier era. In the first meeting between the two teams, the Gators got a 36-29 win in 1977 in Gainesville.

🏈 Running backs have to be leaders

In the world of college football, every season is a fresh start for teams and players to improve upon their past performances. This year, the Gators are no exception. With running backs Trevor Etienne and Montrell Johnson returning, leadership is now the focus of the dynamic duo.

Johnson said, as the veterans in the group, he and Etienne are pushing the new running backs like freshman Treyaunn Webb from Trinity Christian in Jacksonville to learn the playbook and be comfortable on the field.

“He’s playing fast, and he’s eager to learn,” Johnson said of Webb. “And I remember like my time as a freshman, I messed up a lot, and I was obviously eager to learn, and that’s what I see in him.”

Running backs coach Jabaar Juluke noted that it makes a difference that Webb enrolled early in January.

“Biggest transition for high school running backs is pass protection, OK? those guys don’t do a lot of pass protection. Not that he’s afraid to hit someone, knowing who to hit or knowing who to pick up, and when the game is moving fast on a young guy, we got to try to slow down as best we can and make sure he understands the game, right? Because high school is, ‘Hey, K, take the ball and go.’ But sometimes it’s not as complicated as college. That’s the biggest transition that I think he has to make. And he’s learning. He’s getting better. He’s a very smart kid — 4.2 grade point average coming out of high school,” Juluke said. “So he understands. He understands football, and I think once he gets the grasp of it, he’ll be a lot better at doing it.”

As for how many carries Webb will get in the fall, it’s going to depend on how much production the Gators are getting out of Etienne and Johnson, as well as running back Cam Carroll. But some of this will be on Webb to demand carries by his production.

In an episode of Gators Breakdown, host David Waters discusses the importance of the running back room taking on a larger role within the offense.

🐊 Gonzalez returning to Gators

A familiar face will be on the sidelines in 2023 with Napier hiring Billy Gonzalez as the wide receivers coach to replace the departed Keary Colbert.

Gonzalez spent the 2022 season as the wide receivers coach for Florida Atlantic after leaving the Florida football program in 2021 following the departure of Dan Mullen.

In another podcast episode, David chats with Gators Breakdown Plus members about their reactions to Gonzalez making his return to Gainesville.

🗓️ Gators Pro Day set for March 30

The Gators will hold their Pro Day on Thursday, March 30.

Coverage is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. on SEC Network.

Eleven draft-eligible Gators from the 2022 roster will have the opportunity to showcase their abilities in front of NFL general managers, coaches and scouts. Pro Day events will include weight room weigh-ins, bench press, vertical jump, broad jump, 40-yard dash, 60-yard shuttle and position workouts.

🏀 Men’s basketball season ends with loss to UCF in NIT

Florida men’s basketball season came to an end this past Wednesday.

The No. 4 seed Gators lost 67-49 to UCF at Exactech Arena at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in the first round of the NIT.

“I thought our energy was OK, especially, we’re pressing, trying to speed up the game a little bit but not to the standard that we expect, necessarily. These games in the postseason, you know, you have a goal of making the NCAA Tournament for so long, and it’s something that you’re focusing on and talking about,” coach Todd Golden said following the game. “Obviously, when that doesn’t happen, you have to find a way to rally.

GAME RECAP: UCF beats Florida 67-49 in NIT

Florida lost eight of its last 11 games. senior writer Chris Harry says the second offseason under Golden figures to include another roster makeover, with guards Kowacie Reeves and Niels Lane entering the transfer portal and Florida also losing three fifth-year seniors — forward Colin Castleton and guards Kyle Lofton and Myreon Jones.

✉️ 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