Florida’s offense already took a hit earlier this month when star tight end Kyle Pitts, who had 770 yards and 12 touchdowns in only eight games this season, announced that he will forgo the Cotton Bowl vs. Oklahoma and prepare for the NFL Draft. Unfortunately, the Gators got more bad news in that department on Monday.
Senior wide receivers Kadarius Toney and Trevon Grimes both announced on Twitter that they will also sit out Wednesday’s matchup vs. the Sooners to shift their focuses toward the NFL Draft. Toney is Florida’s leading receiver with 984 yards and 10 touchdowns on the season, while Grimes is third on the team with 589 yards and nine touchdowns. To compound issues, Jacob Copeland — who was the Gators’ top receiver following the opt outs — will also miss the game after multiple positive tests for COVID-19.
That will put a ton of pressure on star quarterback and Heisman Trophy finalist Kyle Trask, who connected with that trio on 31 of his 45 touchdown passes during his record-breaking season.
So … now what?
William Hill Sportsbook currently has the over/under for the Cotton Bowl set at 71.5, which suggests that the folks in the desert believe offenses will rule the night deep in the heart of Texas. Luckily for coach Dan Mullen, the Gators have plenty of options to help pick up the slack in case this one evolves into a shootout.
Mullen has recent experience replacing Pitts. Junior Kemore Gamble stepped in for Pitts when the star tight end left with a head injury midway through the win over Georgia. He caught nine passes for 147 yards and three touchdowns on the season — all three of which were during Pitts’ absence. Sophomore Keon Zipperer can also be used to provide some insurance behind Gamble.
Replacing Toney and Grimes might require a little bit more creativity, however.
Toney evolved into a star receiver this year but also made an impact on the ground and special teams. He had 161 rushing yards and 139 punt return yards, and added one score in each department in 2020. If Mullen is looking for a replacement, running back Nay’Quan Wright has the agility and speed that can be used to replicate what Toney brought to the table. Wright has 169 rushing yards, two rushing touchdowns and 206 receiving yards, and is the type of Swiss Army Knife-weapon that Mullen likes to use in a variety of ways.
Luckily for Mullen, the Gators have a relatively experienced option to fall back on for Grimes as Justin Shorter will likely serve in the role that Grimes has vacated. The 6-foot-5, 225-pound sophomore has 246 yards and three touchdowns on the season while serving primarily as Grimes’ backup, but has plenty of upside that can be useful not only in this matchup but also moving forward beyond the 2020 season. The former five-star prospect and No. 8 overall player in the Class of 2018 transferred to Gainesville after catching 22 passes and scoring two touchdowns in two seasons with the Nittany Lions.
Florida’s dream season came to a screeching halt with back-to-back losses to LSU and Alabama to close things out heading into the bowl game, but a win over Oklahoma could send the Gators to the offseason with a good taste in their mouth. If that happens, it’ll be with a much different-looking offense than the one that set records during the short 2020 season.
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