Gators freshmen that will play in 2018

Once a student-athlete steps on campus their eligibility clock starts ticking. In Division I you get five years to play four. That allows for a redshirt year, something that often happens during the first year on campus as 17 and 18 year olds acclimate to college life.

The new NCAA rule that will allow freshman to play in four games while maintaining eligibility to redshirt will change the landscape of college football this fall. In the past any playing time would disqualify a student-athlete from securing a redshirt unless they were able to prove an injury was the reason they were unable to play the rest of the season.

It’s a rule Dan Mullen went on record supporting earlier this fall.

“I think the rule helps in a lot of different ways with an opportunity to get somebody on the field and get some game experience,” Mullen said. “I think it keeps them much more engaged when they know they can still get into a game at some point, instead of, ‘hey, I’m redshirting and I just shut it down.’ I think it’s great motivation for guys that have earned the right to get on the field and it doesn’t have to hurt their career and it’s more of a reward for doing things the right way.”

There will be more freshman than ever getting reps across the country thanks to the new rule. Here are seven freshmen that will absolutely play for the Gators in 2018.

Trey Dean
Dean is cousins with former Florida Gators safety Ahmad Black and while Black didn’t insert himself too much into Dean’s recruiting process it certainly didn’t hurt Florida’s chances.

Dean enrolled in the spring and instantly turned heads.

Jeawon Taylor hosted Dean on his official visit and said this of the freshman on Monday after practice. “Trey Dean has really stepped up and he showed that he can also step in and play a role.”

What role will that be? The first depth chart that was released on Monday has Dena backing up sophomore C.J. Henderson but Dean is already the third best cornerback on the roster and should be getting a ton of playing time on defense. He’s going to be on special teams as well. Fans will know the number 21 and the name before long in Gainesville.

Evan McPherson
Eddy Pineiro was a bigger than life character in Gainesville. Pineiro’s childhood friend and teammate Jorge Powell is still on campus and in a battle with the freshman McPherson.

McPherson has the bigger leg and was more accurate from longer distance in camp. Monday Dan Mullen said he wasn’t sure who would be the starting kicker on Saturday. The decision might not be made until the first kick of the game.

“I want to see how they respond getting closer to the game. They haven’t been in this situation where they’re expected to go kick on a Saturday. I mean, that could be something that gets decided as we run out of the tunnel. You know what I mean? All of a sudden, you go in there and you get into pre-game warmups and one guy freaks out,” Mullen said. “I want to see how they react, because they’ve gotta think about it the whole week of possibly being out there and having to go do it live. I wanna see who handles that situation the best.”

Unless McPherson has a panic attack on Saturday expect to see the freshman, who was once committed to Mullen at Mississippi State, to win out the starting kicking job and play this season.

Jacob Copeland
When Copeland first signed with Florida adding him to this list would have been mandatory. Now, with a knee injury and his status to play Saturday officially listed as doubtful and the instant eligibility for Van Jefferson and Trevon Grimes is seems less likely. Still, Copeland will be eligible to play this season. He didn’t early enroll and he missed most of fall camp so he has a lot of catching up to do but he should be able to get on the field at some point this fall. The real question here is how long will he be out with his injury and if it takes a while to get back into playing shape is he someone we would only see for four games or more?

Dameon Pierce
As a running back anytime you’re on a list that includes Hershel Walker, you’ve done something. When your name is ahead of Walker’s you’ve really accomplished something. Pierce did that during his senior season when he surpassed Walker’s career rushing yards in the state of Georgia. He finished his high school career with 6,779 yards and 92 touchdowns.

Pierce has impressed his teammates in Gainesville already.

“He’s tough man. Bowling ball really,” Dameon Pierce about 5’8”, 225, running hard as he can man,” junior Lamical Perine said. “He’s gonna be, he like, he just a freshman so sometimes I just looking at him like ‘dang man that guy just a freshman. He got like 2-3 more years under his belt.’ So man he a very talented dude. He taking in everything fast.”

Pierce has his work cut out for him with Jordan Scarlett, Perine and Malik Davis in front of him but he has a chance. In today’s game you don’t like to redshirt running backs. Most of them won’t be around for four years, as the position becomes less valued in the NFL. Most running backs opt to enter the draft early, try to find a team and get to their second contract as quickly as possible. Pierce is talented enough to get some run this season and he’s playing a position that could see a lot of rotation.

Kyle Pitts
Pitts seems to be the most asked about player and it makes sense. Florida has a bunch of tight ends that haven’t done anything in their careers and he was a big recruit and Under Armour All-American.

He wasn’t listed on Florida’s first depth chart but he’s a talented player that will play this season. Fans need to remember that he’s still a freshman, but I would expect to see Pitts get some game action on Saturday against Charleston Southern, despite how the depth chart looked on Monday.

Emory Jones
Last but certainly not least, the quarterback.

Monday Feleipe franks was named the starting quarterback, Kyle Trask was named the backup and Jones was relegated to third string.

That means nothing.

Jones was a late addition to Mullen’s class and he represents the kind of quarterback that Mullen has been successful with in the past. Jones’ is supremely athletic and mobile. His passing is not where it needs to be, which is why Mullen said he went with Franks to start Saturday.

“As Brian (Johnson) and I sat down, we looked at who would give us the best opportunity to win now. Not projecting where they’re going to be or how they’re going to develop, or how they’ll grow throughout the years. But right now, we head out on the field running our offense, who’s going to give us the best opportunity to win? A lot of it we felt Feleipe and some of the ability to extend plays, some of his athleticism, right now will give us the best opportunity to win games,” Mullen said of why Franks was named the starter.

There have been cases made as to why Jones should play in only four games and maintain a redshirt.

I don’t see this happening.

You have a quarterback in Franks who is a known commodity. He may give the Gators the best chance to win now but he’s not a Heisman contender, he’s not going to be All-SEC, you just hope that with scheme and coaching he can be serviceable. Having Jones ready to play will be big for Mullen and the Gators. He’s not ready to start but he should be playing every week in designed packages and with set plays that he’s comfortable with.

Franks and Trask are willing runners but Jones gives the Gators an additional layer to the offense that the other two simply don’t. He’s not ready to be the guy but fans should expect to see him getting his fair share of time this season. I think you’ll see Jones in way more than four games and he’ll be a weapon for the offense this season.

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Nick de la Torre
A South Florida native, Nick developed a passion for all things sports at a very young age. His love for baseball was solidified when he saw Al Leiter’s no-hitter for the Marlins live in May of 1996. He was able to play baseball in college but quickly realized there isn’t much of a market for short, slow outfielders that hit around the Mendoza line. Wanting to continue with sports in some capacity he studied journalism at the University of Central Florida. Nick got his first start in the business as an intern for a website covering all things related to the NFL draft before spending two seasons covering the Florida football team at Bleacher Report. That job led him to GatorCountry. When he isn’t covering Gator sports, Nick enjoys hitting way too many shots on the golf course, attempting to keep up with his favorite t.v. shows and watching the Heat, Dolphins and Marlins. Follow him on twitter @NickdelatorreGC