ATLANTA, Ga. -- Some of the decisions have already been made. Florida linebacker Jarrad Davis said after the game that he will return for his senior season while cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III said he will likely enter the NFL Draft. Wide receiver Demarcus Robinson said he remains uncertain about what he will do next year.
The Hargreaves news isn’t a surprise, but the Davis news could be. The linebacker is second on the team with 94 tackles, adding 11 tackles for a loss, six quarterback hurries and one forced fumble, which came against Heisman Trophy candidate running back Derrick Henry.
The Gators will lose Antonio Morrison to graduation while Alex Anzalone seems destined for a redshirt after a shoulder injury in the second game of the season. Behind that, there is nothing but question marks. That’s what makes Davis’ decision so important to Florida.
Davis made the decision because of the pain that came from Saturday’s 29-15 loss to Alabama in the SEC Championship Game.
“I felt something I’ve never felt before out there in the Championship Game. I feel like we can make another run at this next year. I’m coming back. For sure.”
Hargreaves will likely be a first-round selection in the 2016 NFL Draft. His statistics have taken a backseat to sophomore Jalen Tabor this season, but the junior cornerback has three years of film that should impress the NFL teams.
Robinson said he hasn’t put much thought into his future and would talk it over with his mother, uncle and coaches.
SPECIAL TEAMS UP AND DOWN
The inconsistency of the Florida special teams units has frustrated Jim McElwain since the beginning of the season. The punt return and punt coverage units have been among the best in the country while the kickoff return and field goal units have struggled.
Outside of Antonio Callaway’s 85-yard punt return for a touchdown, almost the entire unit struggled on Saturday. The freshman continued to be one of the few bright spots with the ball in his hands, adding a 46-yard reception early in the game.
“He's a great player,” McElwain said. “I'll tell you what, I'm so happy that he's here. He's a guy, from just personally, a guy that truly lights up a room with his smile, the warmth of his heart. He's a guy I love to be around. He's one that effects the people around him, including the coaches, in a positive way. This guy's got a couple of really good years left for the Gators.”
The rest of the special teams was mostly negative.
Alabama overloaded on one side of Florida’s offensive line protecting punter Johnny Townsend and blocked one for a safety in the first quarter. McElwain said the team worked that look multiple times in practice but didn’t execute it on the field.
The kicking struggles continued. Austin Hardin had a 40-yard field goal blocked in the first quarter, his third kick blocked of the year. He continues to struggle getting the ball high enough off the ground that the opposing players can’t get to it easily.
“We'll get working on this kicking thing, and somebody will get it up over the line far enough that maybe somebody doesn't block it with their armpit,” McElwain said.
TAYLOR’S QUEST FOR 1,000
Kelvin Taylor came into Saturday 23 rushing yards short of 1,000. He had seven carries for eight yards on Saturday against an Alabama defense that overwhelmed the Gators up front, allowing almost no holes for Taylor to hit.
When the Gators fell behind and had to throw to get back in the game, it was too late to get Taylor involved. McElwain said the inability to block Alabama’s stout defensive front was the reason.
“Shoot, guys, they won the line of scrimmage,” McElwain said. “That's what big, strong, highly-recruited guys do. That's why we're getting on the road as soon as we leave right now.”