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Phil Steele places 8 Florida Gators on Preseason All-SEC teams

On3 imageby:Zach Abolverdi06/12/24

ZachAbolverdi

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Eight Florida Gators football players have been selected to Phil Steele’s 2024 Preseason All-SEC Teams, the publication announced Wednesday. Two Gators were named to the first team with three on the second, two on the third and one on the fourth.

Returning for his senior season, Montrell Johnson Jr. was named to the first team as he led Florida in rushing yards (817) for the second straight season, averaging 5.4 yards per carry and 68.0 yards per game last year. He has recorded six 100-yard rushing game as a Gator and enters this fall with 2,496 career rushing yards with three consecutive seasons of 800-yard plus yards.

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The other offensive player tabbed was offensive lineman Austin Barber to the third team. He started eight games at left tackle a season ago and ranks 10th in by PFF in the highest-graded returning offensive tackles in the SEC for the 2024 campaign.

Three notable omissions on the offensive side of the ball were wide receiver Eugene Wilson III, center Jake Slaughter and quarterback Graham Mertz. PFF ranks Wilson as the fourth highest graded returning SEC receiver, Slaughter as the third highest graded returning SEC interior offensive linemen and Mertz as the seventh highest graded returning SEC quarterback.

Three Gators on the defensive side earned honors with linebacker Shemar James, cornerback Jason Marshall Jr. on the second team and safety Jordan Castell to the fourth team. Last season, Marshall started all 12 games for the second straight year and led the team with a career-high 10 pass breakups. James started the first eight games before a season-ending injury, but still finished second on team in tackles (55) and tackles-for-loss (5.5).

Castell emerged in his freshman season, earning Freshman All-SEC and All-American honors by ESPN and CFN. He played in all 12 games, starting the last 11 straight at safety. He led the team in tackles (60) and solo tackles (30) while playing the most defensive snaps (660). Castell earned a PFF grade of 75.7, which ranked fifth among FBS true freshmen and second in the SEC behind Alabama’s Caleb Downs, the SEC Freshman of the Year.

Florida’s starting special team unit of punter Jeremy Crawshaw (first) long snapper Rocco Underwood (second) and kicker Trey Smack (third) all collected recognition. In addition, Crawshaw and Underwood also earned preseason All-American honors by Phil Steele.

Crawshaw owns the all-time program record of average yards per punt in a career (min 90 punts) with 46.7 yards per punt. He finished with 42 punts last season and set the single-season program record average of 48.9 per attempt with seven punts 60-yards or more, a career-best 21 50-yards or more, 15 inside the opponent’s 20-yard line and a long of 68 yards. This season he enters as the FBS leader in yards per punt (46.7).

Smack took over as the starting kicker after week three en route to being named a Lou Groza Semifinalist. He was named the player of the week for the award and the SEC twice. Smack was a perfect 29-29 on extra points and made 17-of-21 field goal attempts with two from 54 yards. He tied the program single-game record with five made kicks vs. Charlotte. Out of his 70 kickoffs, 56 were knocked for touchbacks for an average of 63.4 per kick.

Underwood appeared in all 12 games in 2023, serving as Florida’s primary long snapper and making every single long snap (94 total) on the year. Underwood is on a current streak of 24 consecutive games as the Gators primary long snapper, and 26 consecutive games played.

Florida Gators on Phil Steele’s 2024 All-SEC

First Team

Jeremy Crawshaw
Montrell Johnson Jr.

Second Team

Shemar James
Jason Marshall Jr.
Rocco Underwood

Third Team

Austin Barber
Trey Smack

Fourth Team

Jordan Castell

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