Florida defensive back Duke Dawson Jr. announced he will be returning to the Gators for his senior season in 2017.
After a 30-3 win over Iowa in the Outback Bowl on Monday, things appear to be trending upward for Jim McElwain’s Gators.
They’re making strides on the recruiting trail, including being the top choice for 5-star offensive guard Tedarrell Slaton. Landing Slaton may be a bigger need than previously thought as junior offensive tackle David Sharpe announced on Tuesday that he’d declare for the 2017 NFL Draft, releasing the following statement regarding his decision:
“I just want to thank the University of Florida for everything they’ve done for me and three years of life-changing experiences. I will forego my senior season and declare for the NFL Draft! I appreciate the support throughout the years, and I’ll always love Gator Nation.”
While Florida will look to replace Sharpe in the trenches, it did receive some positive news from junior defensive back Duke Dawson, who released a statement of his own to announce he’d be returning for his senior season.
“Boy, boy, boy… after sitting [down] with my parents and coaches, this was one of the toughest decisions in my life at this point. After having a great season, and many more to come, I will be returning for my senior season.”
Having Dawson penciled into the starting lineup next season is huge for the Gators. They’re likely going to lose Teez Tabor to the NFL, and on Tuesday Quincy Wilson announced his intent to go pro. Both are projected as first-round picks.
Jim McElwain’s staff will be welcoming in some young, talented defensive backs like Shawn Davis, Elijah Blades, and Marco Wilson, Quincy’s younger brother.
Dawson in place to help mentor the young recruits and provide some stability will be a key for Florida, who could end up losing as many as seven defensive starters from its 2016 roster.
In many ways, defensively, the Gators will look much like they did in the 2014 season following the departures of Loucheiz Purifoy, Jaylen Watkins, Dominique Easley, Michael Taylor, Cody Riggs and other experienced defenders.
The 2017 Florida defense will be young but talented. Having a veteran presence like Dawson in the locker room will go a long way.