Florida Football: Three unheralded Gators who will be vital to success in 2024

We all know who the stars for Florida will be in 2024, but there are three under the radar guys who could be the difference makers
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

When Florida Football takes the field this fall, it will take 11 guys acting as a cohesive unit on every play to achieve success. Step one is to make sure 11 guys get on the field in the first place, but step two it to limit the weak links who could sabotage an entire play.

While guys like Tre Wilson and Shemar James will be headliners for the success or failure of the Gators in 2024, there are three other players who haven't been getting as much love who will be just as vital this season.

1. Jake Slaughter

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The offensive line was a massive problem for Florida in 2023 and one of the reasons Graham Mertz had to keep everything short was because he seldom had time to go deep.

And while most of the talk for the 2024 offensive line has revolved around Damieon George moving to guard, opening the door for transfers Brandon Crenshaw-Dickson or Devon Manuel to take over at tackle, the improved play of center Jake Slaughter by the end of the season could be massive if it transfers over into 2024.

Slaughter was stuck behind Kingsley Eguakun last season when Eguakun was healthy. As we know though, that was seldom.

Pro Football Focus has Slaughter has the 8th best returning interior offensive lineman, and if he can live up to that billing it could go a long way in anchoring the line this season.

2. Justus Boone

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One of the more devastating moments for the Gators during the 2023 season happened before the season even started. Defensive end Justus Boone went down with a torn ACL and missed the entire season.

A mid to low four-star coming out of high school as part of the class of 2021, Boone emerged during the 2022 campaign as a solid rotation guy who averaged 21 snaps per game. He was credited with 11 hurries and 19 tackles and had the fourth highest PFF grade on the defense for the Gators among anyone who took at least 200 snaps in 2022.

The torn ACL hurt because 2023 was supposed to be his breakout season.

Boone may not be a household name yet, but if he can get his knee 100% and flash like he did in 2022, he could become the king of the defensive line after the prince left the castle this offseason.

3. Sharif Denson

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Sharif Denson came to Florida last season as a true freshman with mild expectations. We had noted in our freshman profile series that we felt like a guy who was under the radar.

We said about Denson last August that:

"His film in high school showcased a player that wasn’t afraid to lay the boom, even though his listed high school weight was somewhere around 170 pounds.

Listed at 5’11” and 181 pounds now, Denson had great awareness and play recognition to peel off his man to jump a route for an interception. Despite not having imposing size, he still had no issue getting in the face for press coverage of opposing wide receivers."

Denson was used very little until the end of the season when he took 18 snaps against FSU. He looked great in the snaps he got and ended up with the fourth-highest PFF grade along the Gator defense against FSU.

With Jaydon Hill off to Texas A&M, it is expected for Denson to step up into the STAR role.