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In recent years, there has been a debate over which school is “defensive back university,” or DBU — essentially, which school produces the most talent at the defensive back position. Though its claim has been weakened after the last couple of seasons, Florida considers itself a contender for that crown.
But how about the rest of the positions on the field? Are there other positions the Gators have been even better at cultivating?
ESPN ranked the top 10 schools at each position based on college success, draft stock and NFL success since 1998, and the Gators cracked several of those lists. Here’s where each individual position stacks up for UF.
Wide receiver - No. 8
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Though Florida receivers haven't been especially productive at the next level, the team has seen a lot of talented players come through in the last two decades. Names that come to mind are Reche and Andre Caldwell, Dallas Baker, Percy Harvin and Louis Murphy from the 2000s, and more recently players like Demarcus Robinson, Van Jefferson and Kadarius Toney have also been successful.
Tight End - No. 4
Florida has produced several NFL tight ends recently, including Aaron Hernandez, Jordan Reed and Trey Burton. But there's one player who's doing most of the work here, and it's the highest-drafted tight end in modern NFL history. Here's ESPN's explanation of Kyle Pitts' impact here.
Kyle Pitts might be the best tight end prospect in years, and he did a lot for Florida's positioning in this year's ranking. After turning in an All-America season, the Atlanta Falcons drafted Pitts No. 4 overall, making him the seventh Gators tight end drafted since 1998. Pitts' success pushed Florida from No. 12 on the 2020 list all the way up to the No. 4 spot this year.
Pitts already has more guaranteed money on his contract than any other tight end in the league, and for good reason. If he can turn in the perennial All-Pro career that's expected of him, Florida will continue to rise on this list.
Linebacker - No. 10
AP Photo/Daniel Kucin Jr.
Though Florida linebackers haven't been particularly successful in the NFL, the team has had a surprising number of them turn in lengthy pro careers. Currently, active Gators linebackers in the NFL include Jon Bostic, Lerentee McCray, Jarrad Davis and Alex Anzalone. Former NFL player Brandon Spikes was a dominant SEC linebacker on Florida's 2008 national championship team, and Jelani Jenkins started in the NFL with Miami for a couple of years, though he's no longer in the league.
Defensive Back - No. 4
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It's the position you've likely been waiting Florida, and though ESPN doesn't give the Gators the DBU crown, a No. 4 ranking isn't bad, especially considering how the defense has struggled the last couple of seasons. Florida's most successful defensive backs have been a bit of a mixed bag in the NFL. Some, like Reggie Nelson, Janoris Jenkins, Keanu Neal and Marcus Maye, have found success. But others — such as Vernon Hargreaves, Teez Tabor and Quincy Wilson — have had difficult runs.
Kicker/Punter - No. 10
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Florida comes in at No. 10 on both the kicker and punter rankings, understandable given the success UF's specialists have had over the years. Evan McPherson, the most accurate kicker in SEC history, was the first specialist off the board in the 2021 NFL draft, and he joins Caleb Sturgis, Eddie Piñiero and punters Johnny and Tommy Townsend and Chas Henry as Gators specialists that have seen opportunities in the NFL.