UTAH UTES

An Early Look At Utes’ 2023 Football Opponents: Florida Gators

May 3, 2023, 11:38 AM

SALT LAKE CITY – Spring ball is over, and the summer months are upon us making it a great time to take an early look at Utah football’s 2023 opponents.

First up, we’ll take a look at the Florida Gators since the Utes will be playing host to the SEC dwellers in the season opener at Rice-Eccles Stadium the end of August.

In 2022, No. 7 Utah opened on the road against Florida at the Swamp, but victory literally evaded the Utes on the very last play, 29-26. The game was tabbed as one of the most entertaining of opening weekend, but naturally, being “entertaining” isn’t as satisfying as winning.

The Utes left Gainsville (hours and hours later) with a bad taste in their mouth that they will hope to avenge this fall and will likely be laced with a ridiculous amount of “altitude” smack-talk for good measure.

The When And Where Of Florida Vs. Utah

When: Thursday, August 31

Where: Rice-Eccles Stadium, Salt Lake City, Utah

Time: TBD

Network: TBD

 

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Quick Hits On The Gators From The Headlines

Before last season, Utah and Florida had only played each other once before, 45 years ago in 1977. The Utes lost that first contest, 38-29, before losing the 2022 contest, 29-26. 2022 was also the first time Florida had played a Pac-12 team since 1989, 33 years ago, against Washington in the Freedom Bowl where the Gators lost, 34-7.

The last time Florida made a trip out west for a game ironically enough was last season to play the Oregon State Beavers in the Las Vegas Bowl. The Gators lost that game, 30-3, and finished the year with a 6-7 record under first-year coach Billy Napier.

 

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The Hotseat? Already?

Interestingly enough, there is already talk of Napier being on the “hotseat” after only one year as the head coach of the Florida Gators.

Working in sports on any level is highly competitive, but working in the SEC in football is on a completely different level altogether. Losing just is not an option. Especially when you see the recent rise and successes of hated rivals Georgia and Tennessee and know you’re playing catch up.

This article by the Gators Wire posted just after Florida’s spring game isn’t singing the best tune for Napier and the Gators. Of course, it is early, and we haven’t seen any real game results 2023 just yet, but it seems Gator Nation is getting a little restless already and looking toward a different future.

 

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Replacing Key Talent For Florida

Despite just an “ok” season in 2022, the Florida Gators represented well in the 2023 NFL Draft with six players selected. 

Quarterback Anthony Richardson, defensive tackle Gervon Dexter, offensive guard O’Cyrus Torrence, linebacker Ventrell Miller, receiver Justin Shorter, and linebacker Amari Burney will all have to be replaced for the Gators in 2023 as they move on to the pros.

Perhaps the biggest question surrounding Florida is who and how will they replace Richardson at quarterback? There was, admittedly, a lot of drama this past winter surrounding the Gators and potential quarterback replacements.

 

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Redshirt freshman quarterback Jalen Kitna was dismissed from the team in December after an arrest related to child pornography charges. According to an article written on March 9, 2023, on NPR by Troy Myers, the case is likely months away from being resolved after Kitna’s lawyer waived his right to a speedy trial.

Florida later ran into troubles trying to sign 2023 quarterback prospect Jaden Rashada after an NIL deal didn’t come through. Rashada was released from his letter of intent with the Gators and now resides in Pac-12 country with ASU.

This has left Wisconsin transfer Graham Mertz or Ohio State transfer Jack Miller III to battle it out for Florida’s starting signal caller spot.

Additionally, the Gators have a few other spots with question marks including safety, interior lines, and general playmakers that they will continue to address until kickoff in four months.

All Eyes On The Transfer Portal For The Gators

It’s safe to say all eyes will be on Florida, Napier, and the NCAA Transfer Portal over the next four months leading up to kickoff against Utah in Salt Lake City.

From the sounds of it, the Gator’s spring game left more questions than answers, and the Florida staff needs to hit the portal to address some holes in the roster before the season starts. It will be interesting to see how Napier and his staff use the spring portal, and what kind of difference it could make toward easing some of the questions still in front of the Gators.

Key Returning Talent For Florida

While Florida has some questions to continue addressing in preparation for the 2023 college football season, they also have some key returning talent to be excited about too. USA Today put out a list of Florida’s top returning talent that may be a shoo-in for the 2024 NFL Draft and there are a few familiar names from last year’s matchup on it.

 

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Cornerback Jason Marshall Jr., wide receiver Ricky Pearsall, defensive end Princely Umanmielen, running back Montrell Johnson Jr., and left tackle Austin Barber are all returning for Florida and bringing valuable experience in Napier’s second season at the helm.

Michelle Bodkin is the Utah Utes Insider for KSLsports.com and host of both the Crimson Corner Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and The Saturday Show (Saturday from 10 a.m.–12 p.m.) on The KSL Sports Zone. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram: @BodkinKSLsports

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An Early Look At Utes’ 2023 Football Opponents: Florida Gators