Ridaught: Gators chomp locally, Media Days next

Buchholz's Kendall Jackson (8) recently committed to the University of Florida.
Buchholz's Kendall Jackson (8) recently committed to the University of Florida.
Photo by C.J. Gish

It’s been a big week for the University of Florida athletics program.

Trenton native Wyatt Langford was the No. 4 overall pick in the Major League Baseball Draft, the Gator men’s program finished No. 1, and Buchholz’s Kendall Jackson committed to play football at Florida.

On Sunday, Langford held a draft party at the home of his future father-in-law, former Trenton baseball and softball coach Todd Bryant. He was selected fourth overall by the Texas Rangers in the MLB draft.

The Texas Rangers selected Trenton native and UF star baseball player Wyatt Langford (center on couch) with the No. 4 selection in the Major League Baseball Draft on Sunday.
Photo by C.J. Gish The Texas Rangers selected Trenton native and UF star baseball player Wyatt Langford (center on couch) with the No. 4 selection in the Major League Baseball Draft on Sunday.

Colby Halter became the sixth Gator to be drafted
 on Tuesday. He gave thanks to Gator Nation on Wednesday.

The University of Florida baseball’s runner-up finish in the College World Series elevated the Gators from 14th to the top of the final 2022-23 Men’s Capital One Cup standings. They finished with 91 total points and ahead of No. 2 Stanford (83).

The Gators won national titles in men’s golf and outdoor track and field, earning 20 points for each sport, while the baseball team’s No. 2 finish put them at the top with 36 more points.

As the men’s winner, Gators Athletics receives a donation of $250,000 from Capital One for athletic scholarships.

“Gator Athletics is proud to earn the 2020-23 men’s Capital One Cup,” said Florida Athletics Director Scott Stricklin. “Such an amazing year with five men’s top-10 finishes, including national titles for both golf and outdoor track & field. This is a testament to the hard work of our student-athletes, coaches and staff as they strive to represent this University at collegiate athletics’ highest levels.”

On Wednesday, Buchholz defensive end Kendall Jackson decided to stay home and committed to the Gators.

“Kendall is one of the most talented players to ever wear the black and gold,” said first-year Buchholz head coach Chuck Bell, who was the Bobcats’ defensive coordinator last year. “His production speaks for itself over the past two seasons and he has set himself apart as one of the best defensive linemen in the country.”

Jackson was quoted on Swamp247, “They see me being both [JACK and ‘F’] with my athleticism. I think it (edge rusher) fits me because of how athletic I am.”

Bell concurred.

“As Kendall has stated in other interviews, I think he fits that mold perfectly because it’s exactly how we’ve used him in our defense at Buchholz,” he said.

It’s great to see some of these local kids representing the area.

The fact that two top five picks in the MLB Draft and the NFL Draft (Gainesville Eastside/UF quarterback Anthony Richardson) are from this area is a testament to how good high school sports is in North Central Florida.

Media Days is next week for high school football and the Gators.

Buchholz, which has advanced to back-to-back state semifinal appearances, will lead off the day on Tuesday for the one-day event at Spurrier’s Gridiron Grille.

“Very humbled for the opportunity,” Bell said. “Proud that I’ve been trusted to lead the program. For me, being head football coach at Buchholz is a dream come true.”

Although Jackson will spearhead the defense, Buchholz loses several Division-I signees from last year’s offense, including Mr. Football Creed Whittemore (Mississippi State) and wide receivers Jacarree Kelly (Delaware University) and Jaren Hamilton (Alabama).

“Obviously, we lost some very talented and productive players from last fall’s team, but as we showed in the varsity portion of the spring game against Bradford (Starke) last May, we’ll be ready to compete against anybody in this state again this fall,” Bell said. “I would be lying if I said we don’t feel pressure to make it back to the Final Four this fall, but as the famous motivational speaker Inky Johnson said recently, ‘pressure is a privilege.’ At Buchholz, we’ll always be expected to be great and to be the best team in our area. We thrive off pressure at Buchholz, we don’t shy away from it.”

Other high school football headlines heading into the unofficial kickoff of the high school football season include defending state champion Hawthorne, first-year head coach Ian Scott and Gainesville High, and new P.K. Yonge head coach Willie Jackson.

Hawthorne celebrates with their first football state championship following a 13-2 win over Northside on Dec. 10.
Photo by C.J. Gish Hawthorne celebrates with their first football state championship following a 13-2 win over Northside on Saturday.

We’ll have plenty of prep coverage leading up to the high school football season, which begins on Monday, July 31, with the first practice date (non-contact).

The first regular season football game is on Friday, Aug. 25.

The Southeastern Conference will hold a four-day football media day event at the Grand Hyatt in Nashville, July 17-20, to discuss the 2023 college football season. LSU, Missouri, and Texas A&M take the stage on Monday.

Florida football players Kingsley Eguakun, Jason Marshall Jr. and Ricky Pearsall will represent the Gators at SEC Media Days along with head coach Billy Napier at 1 p.m. ET on Wednesday, July 19, along with Alabama, Arkansas and Kentucky.

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The SEC Network will have a record 47 hours of coverage for the 2023 SEC Kickoff Presented by Regions.

Eguakun, who played at my alma mater (Jacksonville Sandalwood), is a Redshirt-Junior. The two-year starter at center helped anchor an offensive line that was the third-most productive offense in the nation and best in the conference in yards per carry (5.84) last season.

Florida ran the ball for an average of 213.7 yards per game in 2022, which ranked 16th in the FBS and third in the SEC. Eguakun and the line only allowed 13 sacks in the regular season, tied for second-fewest in the SEC and 16th in the FBS.

, a junior from Palmetto (Miami) who played in all 26 games with 19 starts, led the Gators with nine pass breakups and did not allow a touchdown in 336 coverage snaps last year.

The preseason All-SEC cornerback (Athlon and Phil Steele), who was considered the top prospect in Florida’s signing class according to ESPN and 247Sports coming out of high school, was recently projected to be a first-round pick in the 2024 NFL draft by ESPN.

, who transferred from Arizona State (2019-21) and is now a fifth year senior, played in all 13 games (10 starts) last year and led the Gators in receiving yards (661) and touchdowns (5).

The 2022-23 SEC First Year Academic Honor Roll member also led the SEC in the yards per catch (20.0), which ranked 4th in the FBS and is third all-time in program history in a season.

One of his best games was at No. 16 Florida State when he caught five passes for a career-high 148 yards and two touchdowns. Pearsall had another 100-yard game at No. 11 Tennessee.

Napier and the Gators kick off their season at Utah on a rare Thursday night (Aug. 31) at 8 p.m. on ESPN. Florida’s first four football games will be played at night.

Are you ready for some football?

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