July 21, 2024
The Florida Gators are making progress in restocking their talent ranks with eight players selected to Phil Steele’s All-SEC teams.What do we know about the 2022 Florida Gators so far? - Alligator Army

Eight Florida Gators football players have been selected for preseason All-SEC honors by Phil Steele, the publication announced this week.

Punter Jeremy Crawshaw and running back Montrell Johnson made up the Gators’ first-team selections. Johnson is coming off of three-straight 800-yard rushing seasons, two of which have been with the Gators.

After Trevor Etienne’s transfer to Georgia, Johnson became the clear-cut No. 1 back for the Gators entering his final collegiate season.

“You know, for a young man to be able to play three years of college football, to have the production he has as a part-time rusher, leading runner,” said UF running backs coach Jabbar Juluke of Johnson during the Gators’ spring camp. “He split the backfield for three years. Just think if he was getting more carries, what he’d do. So I’m excited about what he’s going to be able to do as a leader.”

Meanwhile, Crawshaw enters his fourth season after earning AP All-SEC second team honors in 2023. His punting average of 48.9 yards per attempt set a new program record, and his all-time average of 46.7 yards per attempt set another UF record. Four true freshmen that could make a significant impact in 2024 |  GatorCountry.com

Additionally, linebacker Shemar James, defensive back Jason Marshall Jr. and long snapper Rocco Underwood were selected to the second team.

James returns to the field after a knee injury against Georgia prematurely ended his 2023 sophomore season. Despite the midseason injury, James managed to finish second on the team with 55 tackles and 5.5 tackles-for-loss.

With a new position coach and a slew of newcomers on the roster, James is seen as the leader in the linebackers room. It was something he wanted to improve on while injured during spring camp.

“Just being more of a vocal leader,” James said. “I kind of came in thinking I’m going to lead by example but sometimes guys need to hear that you mean business. Taking a step forward to be more of a vocal leader.”

Marshall Jr., meanwhile, enters his fourth and final year with the program, turning down a chance to declare for the NFL Draft in favor of playing one more season in Gainesville. His career-high 10 pass breakups in 2023 led the team.

Phil Steele also selected offensive lineman Austin Barber and kicker Trey Smack to its third team and safety Jordan Castell to its fourth team.

Barber’s return to Florida makes him the only remaining starting offensive lineman from Billy Napier’s first season in 2022 and has 13 career starts after battling injuries last season. Despite missed time, Barber is widely-considered one of the top returning offensive linemen in the SEC.

PFF recently ranked him in its top-10 returning linemen in the conference.

Meanwhile, Smack begins his third year as both the place kicker and kickoff specialist after he took over place-kicking duties midseason from Adam Mihalek. He finished the year perfect in PATs (29-29) and made 17 of his 21 field goal attempts, two of which came from 54 yards and was a Lou Groza Award semifinalist.

Castell, meanwhile, shined in his first collegiate season after being thrust into a starting role after Florida’s season-opening 24-11 loss to Utah last season. His 60 total tackles and 30 solo stops and 660 total defensive snaps played were all team-highs. What do we know about the 2022 Florida Gators so far? - Alligator Army

ESPN and College Football News both named Castell to their Freshman All-SEC and Freshman All-America teams.

“It’s a blessing for sure, you know, it kind of slowed the game down for me, like, I feel way more comfortable out there now, so, it’s a great experience,” Castell said during spring camp of his early playing time.

As Florida enters a critical year three of the Napier-era, and with the nation’s toughest schedule ahead of them, all eight players will be crucial if the Gators are to snap its streak of three-straight losing seasons.

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