Saturday November 22, 2014; 12 Noon ET
Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Florida Field
TV: SEC Network (alternate)
Twenty-four seniors will participate in the ceremonies before the game on Saturday. Flowers trotted out to their loved ones and they will raise their hands to the crowd one last time as they exit the tunnel. Tears fill flow from moms and dads, from some of the players, maybe a few coaches, and some fans in attendance. There was a lot of blood, sweat, and tears poured into this culminating moment to their football career at home and certainly some things to be proud of.
They won’t be celebrated as one of the winningest groups, but they will have the memories to cherish and they can always say they are Florida Gators. They played and practiced through some of the toughest adversity of any four year group at Florida in modern times. For that they will learn and will grow into their professional careers wherever their degrees or skills will lead them.
Here are some things to know about this group of young men moving on into the world beyond college…
Fullback Gideon Ajagbe is from South Florida and Coconut Grove. He came to Florida as an athlete and a linebacker at first while they tried to figure out what to do with him. He made the transition to fullback in 2013 and got off to a good start scoring a touchdown on a little flare pass that we thought might lead to bigger things. That didn’t happen, but he got his moment to celebrate as a Gator.
Linebacker Neiron Ball may have had the best season of any linebacker this year. I will remember Ball for his courage from coming back from a neck and head physical issue that would have forced most to give up the sport. Instead he fought through it and became a dangerous pass rusher for Florida this year. Unfortunately his season has been derailed and we won’t see him finish, but he will leave with some highlights from the 2013 and 2014 seasons.
Running back Mack Brown will leave with his college degree and as one of the most unselfish players in recent memory. Urban Meyer landed Brown after hard battles with Georgia and Florida State and he was the top back on the board for the Gators in 2010. He will finish his career with a little over 800 yards rushing and four touchdowns, not what we all imagined when he signed. Still, he was there when the injury bug hit the Gators a few times and he played well when he was called upon. This young man also has the biggest smile on the football team.
Offensive tackle Trenton Brown is the most massive player I can remember at Florid since max Starks. He worked hard to get himself in shape after he arrived and has been a big positive when healthy and on the field since he saw game action against Tennessee in 2013. Many JuCos don’t work out, but this one was a real winner for Florida.
Tight end Clay Burton is the younger brother of Trey Burton. Clay moved around positions as well, starting as a defensive end when he arrived on campus and moving in the spring of 2012 to tight end. He will leave the Gators with about 25 starts to his name, something not many if any believed would happen when he signed.
Punter Kyle Christy will be remembered as key ingredient to a very successful 11-2 season, the best by far in the Muschamp era. As a sophomore that year Christy had an All-American season averaging an SEC best 45.8 yards per punt. Christy struggled as a junior and was benched while he dealt with head games. Finally, he returned as a senior to take the job back and is currently ranked fourth in conference at 43.7 yard per punt.
Holder Kyle Crofoot (walk-on) not much to say here, but he has been the starting holder on field goals and the backup long snapper for the past two seasons. He certainly has had his hand in a lot of points for these Gators in the last two years.
Defensive tackle Darious Cummings is yet another junior college success for the Gators. The best memory for Cummings would be the interception and funny return in the Tennessee game in 2013. It was the best win of the season that year and that was a big part of it. He has been the starter all year this year when healthy.
Receiver Andre Debose will be considered a disappointment in future talks about recruits that didn’t pan out. But this disappointment leaves with the most kick returns for touchdowns in Gator history. Even when not returning he was a weapon this year as teams kicked away. He had big roles in a few games this year.
Receiver Quinton Dunbar was maligned for dropping the ball earlier in the year, but before the season he was a guy that made a lot of tough catches. He set a Gator record for the most games in a row with a catch. In fact Dunbar has made several very difficult catches in his time at Florida and those of the big yardage variety. He fought through some head games this season to contribute again over the last two games.
Long snapper Drew Ferris (walk-on) is a four year starter at the position for both punts and kicks. That we haven’t heard his name much is a testament to the job he has done over the years. This guy will be missed and nobody realizes it.
Canter Max Garcia transferred from Maryland three years ago and has started the last two years on the offensive line. He’s been regarded the best lineman on the unit for two seasons and started a year ago at guard before moving to center this year. He has snapped very well this year in his first stint ever ate position and quickly became the glue for an offensive line unit that is likely the best since the Pounceys played for the Gators.
Safety Jabari Gorman is in his first year of starting and played his best action in the Georgia and Vanderbilt wins. He had to handle a lot as the only senior in the secondary this year and held up through a tough season.
Offensive tackle Chaz Green flipped from Tennessee as a prospect and has been a mainstay on the offensive line for the last few years. Green has been unselfish and is a part of this year’s best unit in recent years.
Tight end Hunter Joyer is playing out of position now that the Gators don’t use a fullback. A big part of special teams this season, Joyer has done a good job in the past as the lead blocker for the Gator offense as a fullback.
Quarterback Ryan McGriff (walk-on) is part of the McGriff family that has been such a prominent part of gator history. The son of Mark McGriff, Ryan has been an integral part of the scout team at Florida during his time on campus.
Receiver Michael McNeely was a walk-on that received a scholarship before the season and gave the Gators maybe the most memorable play of the season and one that started the onslaught of points against Georgia in the biggest win in head coach Muschamp’s tenure. Inserted as the holder on a field goal attempt, McNeely took the snap and took off running for the first Gator score in a game that netted 35 points on the day.
Fullback A.J. Mobley (walk-on) served in the Marines before coming to Florida. He’s been on the team for three years now and hasn’t contributed in any games, but has provided a tough presence on the scout team in his time in Gainesville.
Receiver Ryan Parrish (walk-on) has been a vital member of the scout team at Florida during his time with the Gators. He moved from defense in 2012.
Defensive back Ben Peacock (walk-on) has been another valuable member of the scout team during his time on campus.
Quarterback Christian Provancha (walk-on) another member of the Scout team and one of the main sideline guys sending signals in to the quarterbacks on the field during the games.
Linebacker Michael Taylor has been a mainstay on the Gator defense for the last two years and the main starter at middle linebacker during this senior season. A hardnosed guy he is a team leader on that side of the ball.
Kicker Frankie Velez received a scholarship to start the season and was the key kicker to finish the season a year ago when the starter struggled at the beginning. Velez has gone 18 for 22 in the last year and a half and has been a very solid kicker for the Gators.
Tight end Tevin Westbrook isn’t used much in the passing game but has been effective at times. He has eight catches for 81 yards on the season including two touchdowns. Like Burton, Westbrook started on defense before moving to offense in 2012.
So, it will be an emotional day with all of the above saying their farewells. These Gators are trying to secure bowl eligibility with the win knowing that a win next week in Tallahassee might be pretty tough to come by. They also want to win for their coach who has been dismissed but is coaching through the end of the season.
The Gators should physically outmatch Eastern Kentucky who is not good on defense ranking 78th in the FCS division of football. Teams are averaging 254 yards passing and 155 yards rushing against the Colonels. Their best trait is taking the ball away and blocking kicks and punts.
On offense they run the ball well, putting up 243 yards per game, but are miserable through the air and very adept at turning the ball over. Basically, these Gators have to stop the running game and they should win comfortably.
Run defense has been the strong suit for most of the year. I will take the Gators 31-6 in the game.
Below you will find all of our coverage for this game from the week…