A day after the conclusion of the 2018 Southeastern Conference Media Days, the University of Florida football team was selected to finish third in the SEC’s Eastern Division this season, while coming in fifth in the voting for the SEC champion.
Individually, UF had eight players selected to the All-SEC Team on Friday. The list of eight Gators was comprised of two first-team members, two second-team members and four third-team members.
The selections were voted on by those in attendance at the conference’s annual weeklong event, the unofficial start of the new football season each season.
Florida Selected to Finish Third in SEC East
The Gators were picked to finish third in the SEC Eastern Division with four first-place vote and 1,441 total points, ranking behind South Carolina and Georgia. The Bulldogs were predicted to finish first in the division with 1,977 points and 271 first-place votes.
UF enters 2018 after finishing fifth in the Eastern Division last season, posting a 3-5 record in SEC play. Prior to 2017, the Gators were the two-time defending Eastern Division champion with a 13-3 record in conference games.
Alabama was tabbed to win the SEC Western Division with 263 first-place votes and 1,971 points. The Crimson Tide were also picked to win their 26th SEC title, the fifth in the last eight years, collecting 193 points in the voting process.
Just six times since 1992 has the predicted champion at SEC Media Days proceeded to win the SEC Championship. Media in attendance have correctly predicted the eventual champion two of the last five seasons.
EASTERN DIVISION (1st Place votes in parenthesis)
Georgia (271) 1977
South Carolina (8) 1535
Florida (4) 1441
Kentucky (1) 874
Tennessee (1) 704
WESTERN DIVISION (1st Place votes in parenthesis)
Alabama (263) 1971
Auburn (19) 1664
Mississippi State (2) 1239
Texas A&M 1091
Ole Miss 578
South Carolina 4
Mississippi State 1
Gators Place Eight on Preseason All-SEC list
Florida’s two first-team members were senior offensive lineman Martez Ivey and senior defensive lineman CeCe Jefferson, while the defensive backs Chauncey Gardner-Johnson and CJ Henderson were named to the second-team. Garnering third-team All-SEC accolades are running back Jordan Scarlett, linebacker David Reese, defensive back Marco Wilson and athlete Kadarius Toney.
Ivey, a senior majoring in African-American studies, played and started in all 11 games last season. He started the first nine games at left tackle and the final two contests of the season at left guard. He was only one of two Gators offensive linemen to start every game. The Apopka, Fla. Native was named to the Second Team All-SEC by the league’s Coaches and the AP, while garnering Third Team All-SEC honors by Athlon sports.
Jefferson, a three-year starter, choose to return for his senior season at UF after being. The African-American studies major played in all 11 games and recorded eight starts at defensive end. Overall, the Glen St. Mary, Fla. native recorded 47 tackles, which ranked fourth on the team. He led the team in tackles-for-loss (13.5 for 38 yards) and sacks (4.5 for 14 yards). He earned SEC Defensive Player of the Week honors for his career-best 1.5 sack performance against Kentucky. He also recorded one pass breakup and six quarterback hurries, which ranked second on the team.
Gardner-Johnson, played and started in all 11 games last season. The African-American studies junior played safety all season following a preseason injury to Marcell Harris. With his 58 tackles, two interceptions, seven pass breakups, six tackles-for-loss and one sack, the Cocoa, Fla. Native ranked third on the team in passes defended and second on the team in tackles.
Henderson, a social and behavioral sciences major, gathered Second Team All-SEC honors by the AP, Third Team All-SEC accolades from Phil Steele and Freshman All-SEC honors by the league’s coaches. He appeared in all 11 games of his freshman season and started five contests. The Miami, Fla. Native totaled 22 tackles, four interceptions (two returned for a touchdown) and four pass break-ups. He tallied his interceptions returned for a touchdown against Michigan and Tennessee in the first two games of the season and became the only true freshman in UF history to return an interception for a touchdown in consecutive games. In addition, Henderson is the only player in school history to accomplish that feat in records dating back to 1965. Since 1996, he is the only true freshman in the nation to have returned interceptions for touchdowns in consecutive games. He was also tied for second in the nation overall with his two interceptions returned for touchdowns and was one of 13 true freshman to have recorded at least one pick-six during the season. Finally, he is now tied for first in program history for most interceptions returned for a touchdown in a season, with the all-time record for a career sitting at four. His four interceptions tied for team lead and ranked 29th in the nation and third in the SEC.
Scarlett, a redshirt junior majoring in African American studies, last played for the Gators in 2016 but earned his place on the watch list once again. He led the 2016 Gators’ rushing offense with 889 yards and six touchdowns on 179 carries. With his 889 yards, the Fort Lauderdale, Fla. native became the first freshman or sophomore to garner that high a number since the 1995 season. He recorded three 100-plus yard games in 2016, including a career-high 134 yards against South Carolina. He was credited with 48 missed tackles last season, putting him atop the SEC and 16th nationally in that category. Scarlett eclipsed 1,000 rushing yards for his career in the 2016 Outback Bowl victory against Iowa, putting up 94 yards on the ground.
Reese, a sports management major, did not miss a start last season after returning from surgery on both wrists. The Farmington, MI. native led the team in tackles (102) and finished second on the team in tackles-for-loss (10). He also tallied 1.5 sacks, one interception and one quarterback hurry in 2017. Reese became the third Gators linebacker to record 100-plus tackles in a season since 2007 and only the second since 2010. He surpassed the 100-tackle mark when he posted a career-best 14 tackles against Florida State. He led the team in tackling in 10 out of the 11 games and became the first Gator linebacker to intercept a pass since 2017. Reese enters his junior season with 23 games played, 151 tackles, 12 tackles-for-loss and one defensive PAT.