FROM: CONNER CLARK
Being able to wear the number 1 jersey at the University of Florida is a big deal.
It goes to those that have truly earned it with not just their play on the field but their leadership in the locker room. Keiwan Ratliff, Reggie Nelson, Percy Harvin, Janoris Jenkins, Tony George, Jon Bostic, and Vernon Hargreaves III are all former Gators who received the honor of being able to wear No. 1 at some point in their Florida career.
It is well known that the Florida Gators haven’t had anyone wear the #1 in quite a few years. You have to go back to 2015 when Vernon Hargreaves was locking down his side of the field in the Swamp to see the last player to don the iconic number. After Coach Dan Mullen was hired at Florida he was asked if we would see the number back on the field for the upcoming season. He responded “You’ve got to be a baller to be No. 1. I don’t know if I have anybody at No. 1 just yet. I don’t know if anyone has done enough in general.”
Well, year one under Coach Mullen is in the books and I think we could finally see it back on the field for year two. Here is my list of players that I think have done enough to earn the right to wear the iconic number:
Henderson was by far Florida’s best DB last year. Now the race probably would have been much closer if Marco Wilson had not gone down with a season ending injury in week 2 against Kentucky. Still, that doesn’t change the fact that Henderson had a stellar year. It was apparent that he was the most important part of the secondary when he went down early in the Georgia game and Jake Fromm seemed to have his way passing the ball.
Van looked to be the veteran leader of the receiving corps despite being in Gainesville for less than a year after transferring from Ole Miss. On top of that, he was Florida’s most consistent receiver throughout the season. Van always seemed to be making plays when the Gators needed it most.
It’s not often you see a running back wear the No. 1 but I would not be surprised to see Perine get the nod. He is probably the most consistent offensive weapon returning for the Gators and will more than likely be one of the team leaders heading into the season.
Toney is probably going to the most popular fan pick because of how exciting he is with the ball in his hands. He plays a role similar to what Percy Harvin did when he was at Florida. You can fine Toney catching quick screens, taking handoffs out of the backfield, and running jet sweeps. Mullen even mentioned half way through the season that he needed to do a better job of getting Toney more involved in the offense.
Steele is on this list because he was one of the nation’s top defensive backs coming out of high school and is already on campus. The need for defensive backs that can play right away and the fact that Mullen said he will get the chance to run with the first team defense in spring ball (due to Marco Wilson’s injury) should give him an opportunity to earn it heading into the season.
If I’m Coach Mullen, I give CJ Henderson the first shot at the number. He is going into his junior season as not only one of the top defensive backs in the Southeastern Conference, but the entire country. CJ has proven himself over the last two years (one under Coach Mullen) when he had to be the leader in the secondary last year. He also proved himself as a true freshman by tying the school record for most interceptions returned for a touchdown in a season (a spot he shares with the before mentioned Keiwan Ratliff) and he earned a spot on the All-SEC Freshman team.