Dooley’s Dozen: 12 members of Florida football who must get better

There seems to be a consensus among Gator fans that, a) they like the roster, and b) the schedule is too difficult to know if progress is being made in 2024.

I disagree with the latter. I think you will be able to tell if Florida is better and it’s not like the back end of the schedule – which is crazy hard – is unsurmountable.

Just take it one game at a time. And hope that the guys living it up in that new facility are putting the work in.

Because for Florida to be great again, Dooley’s Dozen brings you 12 guys (at least) who have to step up. Just so you know, this does not include transfers and true freshmen.

Jordan Castell

Syndication: The Knoxville News-Sentinel
Syndication: The Knoxville News-Sentinel

Early in last season, I was a big fan of Castell, especially considering he was a freshman. It turned out that the defense of the first five games of the season was built on mediocre opposing offenses and struggled mightily down the stretch.

That went for Castell, too, who struggled with the physicality of the game. But he has a chance to be really good.

Caleb Banks

Matt Pendleton/Gainesville <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Sun;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Sun</a>
Matt Pendleton/Gainesville Sun

As every Gator fan knows, the interior defensive line has been a problem for a long time. Florida keeps trying to fix it through the portal without much success.

Banks had flashes a year ago, but when you start 11 games and your only sack was against Charlotte, you have to get better.

Florida needs a push up the middle.

Jason Marshall Jr.

Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports
Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Most guys who lead the team in pass break-ups would be considered among the most talented players on the team. And he is.

But there were also plays where you were befuddled by what he was doing. And remember the old days when Florida corners used to get two picks in a game?

Marshall Jr. had zero point zero last season, even though he started every game.

Austin Armstrong

Matt Pendleton/Gainesville Sun
Matt Pendleton/Gainesville Sun

And some of that can be laid at the feet of the defensive coordinator for playing such soft coverages. There is no doubt that the heat is on Armstong, who brought in two defensive coaches he trusts.

Look, until Florida has a big year on defense, Gator fans will replace third-and-Grantham with fourth-and-Armstrong.

That Missouri game is not a resume builder.

Treyaun Webb

Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports
Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports

With one-half of Florida’s dual-threat backfield gone elsewhere, Webb will have a chance to be the second back in the system Napier likes to use. Last season he had 141 yards in two games against McNees and Vanderbilt, but only eight carries for the rest of the year. Webb is a big back who can break tackles.

He’s going to get a chance in a crowded backfield.

Damieon George

James Gilbert/Getty Images
James Gilbert/Getty Images

Any time Florida’s offensive line had a bad game, fans would point to George’s gut as the reason. I don’t think he would have started 11 games if that was a concern.

But that certainly doesn’t mean he can’t get better. A lot better. He needs to have quicker feet and ideally Florida could settle him in at one position instead of moving him around.

Kahleil Jackson

Matt Pendleton/Gainesville Sun
Matt Pendleton/Gainesville Sun

Now, wait, are you going to be critical of a former walk-on, a Jackson who is wearing No. 22 just like his dad, father and uncle — a Gator legacy?

And a guy who had 21 receptions last year?

Not critical. I just think he can get much better. He has the size of his dad and just has to eliminate the drops. We have seen some amazing catches so we know what he can do.

Tyreak Sapp

Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports
Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports

I liked Sapp last year but then he would go invisible at times during games. He needs to become the kind of dominant defensive end that every great defense needs.

This is a big year for him and he’s facing a lot of dudes who like to throw the ball.

Billy Napier

James Gilbert/Getty Images
James Gilbert/Getty Images

Record-wise, there is no doubt he has to get better. But we know that Florida can’t go through some of the embarrassing situations of last year.

Napier will not get the “hire a play caller” crowd off his back if there is an internal lack of organization that bleeds onto the field.

Napier talked about looking in the mirror this offseason. He saw 11-and-14.

Everything about this organization needs to get better.

Mannie Nunnery

Matt Pendleton/Gainesville Sun
Matt Pendleton/Gainesville Sun

I’m not sure Nunnery, who had three starts last year, needs to be any more than. A special teams player and there is going to be extra competition at the linebacker position.

But he is in his fifth year and Florida needs a veteran to rally this young defense and pull it together.

Also, drop a little deeper on fourth-and-17.

Arlis Boardingham

Doug Engle/Gainesville Sun
Doug Engle/Gainesville Sun

I’m not saying he could be the next Kyle Pitts, but he could play in the NFL if he can take the next step.

Last season was both spectacular and frustrating with drops and unreal catches. He’s got a chance to really be special.

Four touchdown catches last season is not too shabby for a redshirt freshman.

The special teams guys

Matt Pendleton/Gainesville Sun
Matt Pendleton/Gainesville Sun

Look, I don’t care how you want to do it. If you want to tale Joe Houston and put him the the stands, OK. If you want Chris Couch to coach from his couch, that’s a coach’s prerogative.

But it has to get better. Whatever plan is devised, make sure there are always 11 players on the field and none of them are wearing the same number.

Just like that, you’ve improved special teams. You’re welcome.

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