Our panel takes a crack at predicting which Gators will excel on the football field in 2023. Florida enters the season with low expectations as the odds makers set the team’s over/under for wins at just 5.5.
Do our prognosticators have more faith in Billy Napier’s second team at UF? Find out in the 2023 roundtable predictions.
Now, onto the predictions. The four will predict which players will standout on the statsheet before predicting the Gators’ win-loss record for the season.
Leading Rusher (Yards):
Carson – Montrell Johnson Jr. will once again lead the Gators rushing attack this year. He is coming off a season where he averaged 5.4 YPC and should get plenty of opportunities in a run-heavy scheme this year.
Alyssa – Trevor Etienne because he is explosive on the field and if the ball is out into his hands most of the time it’s a guaranteed touchdown.
Hugh – Trevor Etienne. He showed incredible explosiveness and agility last season as just a freshman.
Brian – Trevor Etienne. As a true freshman, Etienne exploded onto the scene. He racked up 719 yards and averaged a (RB) team high 6.1 yards per carry. He and Johnson make a dynamic duo, but I believe Etienne is going to separate himself and force Billy Napier to give him the bulk of the carries.
Leading Receiver (Yards):
Carson – Ricky Pearsall will be relied heavily on in the slot this year for the Gators and should lead the team in receiving. Rob Sale’s scheme and a run-heavy offense should open up defenses and allow Pearsall to get open on play action shots.
Alyssa – I believe Ricky Pearsall will be the leading receiver for the Gators. He is a standout player and after just one season with Florida he has proven that when he gets the ball he will make it worthwhile.
Hugh – Ricky Pearsall. After watching some videos from practices, it looks like he and Mertz have a good connection.
Brian – Caleb Douglas. Pearsall is phenomenal, but he will likely be covered by the opposition’s best player each week. That should open things up for a player like Douglas (or one of the talented freshmen). Douglas averaged 17.5 yards per catch and scored two touchdowns in 2022. I think he’s primed for a big season in 2023.
Sacks Leader (defense) :
Carson – With the injury to Justus Boone, Princely Umanmielen will carry a heavy load and lead the team in sacks again. Umanmielen was PFF’s highest returning edge rusher in the SEC for the upcoming season and could jump up draft boards with a productive year.
Alyssa – I’m going to say Princely Umanmielen, with his stats last season it’s hard to compete. However, I think we could see some potential in the upcoming season from many of the freshmen.
Hugh – Princely Umanmielen. He led the team in sacks last season, and we lost some of our other sack leaders from a year ago.
Brian – Princely Umanmielen. This seems like the obvious answer since he led the team in sacks a year ago. Umanmielen really turned on the boosters in the second half of the season following the dismissal of Brenton Cox.
Tackles leader (defense) :
Carson – Ohio State grad-transfer Teradja Mitchell is a heavy-hitter up the middle and should get a lot of opportunities to stop the run. Mitchell recorded 45 tackles in 2021 for Ohio State.
Alyssa – Chris McClellan to some people might seem like a long shot, but I think Napier’s decision to have him play in every game last season is a sign to not overlook McCellan.
Hugh – Kamari Wilson. He showed some bright signs last season as a freshman and will most likely get lots of playing time in 2023.
Brian – Shemar James. The top returning tackler from the 2022 defense is now-sophomore Shemar James. James finished 2022 with 47 total tackles and two sacks. The talented linebacker was injured early in camp but has bounced back and was listed as a starter in the depth chart the team released Monday evening.
Interceptions leader (defense) :
Carson – Miguel Mitchell will look to have a breakout year at safety. Mitchell played baseball in high school and has great ball skills. This, paired with his ability to read the field, should lead to a few INTs.
Alyssa – Jason Marshall, Jr. because his record last season is unmatched, and he made pivotal interceptions against teams where getting the ball back was crucial.
Hugh – Jason Marshall, Jr. He had one interception and a team-leading eight pass breakups last season.
Brian – Jordan Castell. OK, I did this because I want to see the freshman succeed on this kind of level. Many were surprised when Castell was named the starting safety, but he has impressed in both spring and fall camp. Seeing Napier start a true freshman over an upperclassmen feels like a step in the right direction and promotes accountability in the program. So, why not?
Florida’s final regular season record; with losses to:
Carson – 8-4. Losses to Utah, Tennessee, Georgia and LSU. The Utah game will be a tough road-battle for the young guys and Cam Rising’s status is still up in the air for the Utes but their roster will be just enough to hold off the rebuilding Gators. Josh Heupel’s high-octane offense and Joe Milton’s arm will give the Volunteers the edge in a close one. Georgia will be looking to three-peat this year. Billy Napier isn’t on that level, yet. Death Valley is one of the ultimate tests in CFB and Brian Kelly will have his team ready to go for that one.
Alyssa – 8-4. Lose to Tennessee, LSU, and Georgia. These teams can score a lot of points and have proven they can against Florida and several other teams time after time. The three teams above have recruited some of the best players in the country and have had great seasons to where the Gators, I think need time before they can show out like some of the top teams. Mertz will do good for the Gators, and they will have a successful year, I believe.
Hugh – 7-5. Losses to Tennessee, South Carolina, Georgia, LSU and Florida State. Joe Milton will have a big game for Tennessee. South Carolina will be a letdown game like Vanderbilt last season. Georgia is too good. LSU is very hard to beat in Death Valley. FSU will be a close game but I think they edge out the Gators in the fourth.
Brian – 7-5. Losses to Utah, Kentucky, Georgia, LSU, Florida State. To start, I don’t believe in Joe Milton and Tennessee, especially not in the Swamp. Transfer QB Devin Leary and the Wildcats get Florida in what will be a tough atmosphere in Lexington. UGA and LSU are just too good right now. Florida would have to pull off a massive upset to win either game. Right now, the Seminoles are a slightly more talented team and a more veteran team, at that. Florida will be really good in a year, but for now, the Gators are a year away. Let the younger players develop, and this team can be something special in the future. That could start with a surprise win in one of those five games I listed.
What do you think, Gator Nation? What will Florida’s final record look like and who will lead the team in the statistics listed?