Billy Napier and his new staff made it a priority to improve some areas that heavily lacked production at times in 2023. After multiple transfer departures defensively, the Gators’ secondary and front-seven will look different in 2024. The Gators have currently added 11 total transfers with notable names like Trikweze Bridges, Brandon Crenshaw-Dickson, Devon Manuel, Chimere Dike and Joey Slackman all choosing the Orange and Blue.
Former Tulane defensive back DJ Douglas has recorded 81 total tackles (54 in 2023), four interceptions and three passes defended so far in his career. The former three-star prospect has enormous upside and should play a crucial role for the Gators in 2024.
“DJ Douglas is a player that we’re excited about, the safety from Tulane. He’s impressed so far. He’s got a temperament about him. He’s a leader, He’s a good communicator. Think there’s some continuity in the system he played in and he’s an alpha and he’s a worker,” Napier said on Douglas. “His work ethic has impressed so far. He’s 6-foot, 205, came from Thompson High School in Alabama, which is a really good football program. And then certainly playing at Tulane for Coach Fritz, there’s a ton of respect there in terms of the type of program that they run. So, I had a couple of my former players that were on that team that knew DJ and they spoke highly of his behalf.”
The Tampa native Jameer Grimsley also has a chance to make an early impact for the Gators if injuries persist in 2024. The incoming freshman couldn’t get released from his NLI with Alabama but was able to transfer and went on to sign with the Gators over Corey Raymond and LSU.
“Grimsley, we all know is 6-foot-2 and change. He’s like 190 pounds. He’s a two-way player, a guy that played receiver as well. But big, long corner, heavy handed, balls skills, was a little bit banged up as a senior, but I think we feel really good about the skill set there. Certainly, keeping a player from the state of Florida at home,” Napier said on Grimsley. “And Jameer is a Gator. He grew up dreaming of playing for the Gators and we were able to get that done.”
The former four-star cornerback and two-way player recorded 356 receiving yards and three touchdowns as a senior with six total tackles, one pass defended and an interception. Grimsley also ran for a personal-best 21.79 in the 200-meter dash and owns a personal-best 52.12 in the 400-meter dash.
As a safety, Former Washington Husky Asa Turner was one of Florida’s biggest additions from this transfer portal cycle. The 6’2, 208-pounder was injured for most of his final season with the Huskies, but totaled a whopping 146 total tackles, six interceptions, seven tackles for loss and two passes defended in his five seasons played.
“Asa Turner, 26 starts, 6-foot-2 and change. I think he’s 208, productive, good tackler, leader on the team. Had a voice. I think we really went for high character, leadership traits, production in the portal,” Napier said on Turner. “That was kind of the theme of the year. Like OK, if we’re going to add players at this point in their career, they need to really be team oriented and high character, bring some things to the team other than just the production on the field. So, I think we’ve learned that a little bit over time. I think it’s so far so good in that regard.”
Turner is someone who I expect to earn a starting position in the back end and contribute heavily in 2024.
On the defensive front, George Gumbs is a player who will add solid depth for the Gators next season with Princely Umanmielen leaving for Ole Miss. The former Northern Illinois edge rusher recorded 34 total tackles, 3.5 sacks and two forced fumbles last season for the Huskies. The former South Carolina linebacker Grayson Howard was almost a Gator around the 2023 recruiting cycle until he slipped right through the Gators’ fingers and signed with the Gamecocks. Howard recorded 18 total tackles last season and was South Carolina’s highest-graded tackler given the number of snaps.
The former four-star prospect should play a big role for the Gators at linebacker this upcoming season.
“I think the new players George Gumbs, Gumbs is 6-4, he weighs like 242, unique story right started as a walk on, Chicago, Simeon HS, started as a walk on receiver, moved to tight end and then last year made the move to pass rusher, and then kind of took off and had a great year. So, we’re getting a two-year player that’s got some traits there, maybe could help us on third down,” Napier said. “I think his best football in terms of being a defensive football player is in front of him so, good there. To get Pup Howard back, I think with Pup we were really close, like one phone call away, in the beginning. I think Pup, Pup walking around here at 6-foot-4, 240 inside backer, you know and just the intelligence, that he brings, the character, the work ethic. I mean the guy is wired right, he’s what you want, so, we need more of that, we’ve got to keep the good players in our state at home and it’s a good win for us to get him back.”
Former Texas signee D’Antre Robinson was a player who was able to get out of his NLI unlike Gators’ defensive back Jameer Grimsley. Robinson was always high on the Gators as they originally finished runner-up in his recruitment.
“D’Antre is the same way, grew up a Gator, kind of a unique dynamic with the defensive line coach felt like we were really close the first time, and then able to get him back, 6-3, 315 pounds, lean, twitchy, could play on all three downs. I think he’s got good things in front of him and a lot of work to do,” Napier said on Robinson.
The incoming freshman and Orlando native recorded an impressive 216 total tackles, 42 tackles for loss, 21 total sacks and an interception in his high school career.
At the quarterback position, former Colorado State quarterback Clay Millen is a guy who completes Florida’s quarterback room with the departure of Max Brown and Jack Miller. The former Ram completed 169 of his passes for 1,910 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2022.
“It was a big piece especially for the future and spring practice and development of our team but we’re getting a guy who started the whole year, a ton of production, got injured last year. Dad playing the National Football League and just a confident player, and a guy that spins it really well, understands football, can communicate, really did a nice job of articulating what his offense was doing, and he’s moved the team quite a bit in his career. I’m excited to watch him,” Napier said on Millen. “I think he will continue to get bigger, stronger, too, as he goes.”
The Gators did better than many fans expected them to do in the transfer portal this offseason landing 11 total players. With the portal opening back up in the spring, I expect the Gators to continue adding some depth at some major positions of need in order to compete in 2024.