At the beginning of the 2021 season, two Florida teams were ranked in the teens and another was on the cusp of the Top 25 rankings. There were also a number of preseason national and all-conference players hailing from the Sunshine State.
As the season progressed, however, all of those early season expectations came crashing down. In just over a month into the season, no Florida team was included in the AP poll, which was the first time that happened since November 20, 2011. This will also be the first year since 1978 where no Florida team is featured in the final AP Poll. And only three teams clinched Bowl Eligibility as the seven FBS teams combined for a record of 34-51. Unless some real changes take effect across many of the Sunshine state’s campuses, the fear of continued mediocrity for once perennial powerhouses is looming.
That being said, there were a number of players that shined and provided the state some consolation.
Below, I have included the Sunshine State All-State Team, as well as a season MVP, based on their performances during the 2021 season.
QB: Tyler Van Dyke Miami - 74.1 PFF Grade, 202/324 (62.3%), 2931 yards, 25 touchdowns, 6 interceptions. ACC Rookie and Offensive Rookie of the Year
RB: D’Vonte Price FIU - 77.3 PFF Grade, 129 attempts, 682 yards, (5.3 yards/attempt), seven touchdowns, 10 receptions for 83 yards
RB: Dameon Pierce Florida - 92.2 PFF Grade (first in FBS), 87 attempts, 517 yards (5.9 yards/attempt), 12 touchdowns, 18 receptions for 217 yards and three touchdowns
WR: Charleston Rambo Miami - 76.7 PFF Grade, 79 receptions for 1171 yards and seven touchdowns
WR: Tyrese Chambers FIU - 75.3 PFF Grade, 45 receptions for 1083 yards and nine touchdowns
WR: Ryan O’Keefe UCF - 74.6 PFF Grade, 77 receptions, 727 yards, 6 touchdowns, 12 rushes, 164 yards, one touchdown
TE: Kemore Gamble Florida - 57.9 PFF Grade, 30 receptions for 399 yards and four touchdowns
C: Matthew Lee UCF - 74.8 PFF Grade
G: DJ Scaife Jr. Miami - 78.7 PFF Grade, All-ACC Second Team
G: Desmond Noel FAU - 68.5 PFF Grade
T: Zion Nelson Miami - 73.0 PFF Grade, All-ACC Honorable Mention
T: Miles Frazier FIU - 76.6 PFF Grade
DE: Zachary Carter Florida - 77.9 PFF Grade, 31 tackles, 11.5 TFL, 7.5 sacks, 2 passes deflected
DE: Jermaine Johnson II FSU - 81.1 PFF Grade, 70 tackles, 17.5 TFL, 11.5 sacks
DL: Big Kat Bryant UCF - 71.9 PFF Grade, 48 tackles, 13.0 TFL, 6.0 sacks, 3 passes deflected
DL: Gervon Dexter Florida - 70.6 PFF Grade, 41 tackles, 2 fumble recoveries
LB: Tatum Bethune UCF - 78.7 PFF Grade, 101 tackles, 5.5 TFL, 2.0 sacks, two interceptions
LB: Antonio Grier USF - 70.1 PFF Grade, 92 tackles, 3.0 sacks, two interceptions
LB: Daniel Jackson FIU - 71.3 PFF Grade, 76 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 2.0 sacks, 1 pass deflected
CB: Davonte Brown UCF - 81.9 PFF Grade, 29 tackles, one interception, nine passes deflected
CB: Zyon Gilbert FAU - 74.0 PFF Grade, 10 passes deflected, two interceptions, 50 tackles
S: Jammie Robinson FSU - 75.5 PFF Grade, 84 tackles, 7.0 TFL, four interceptions
S: Teja Young FAU - 87.9 PFF Grade, three interceptions, 54 tackles, five passes deflected
K: Spencer Shrader USF - 35/35 XP, 11/13 FG
P: Lou Hedley Miami - 44.7 yards/punt
Ret: Xavier Weaver USF - nine punt returns, 12.9 yards/punt return
Notable Snubs: Kaiir Elam Florida cornerback - 63.0 PFF Grade, 27 tackles, one interception, five passes deflected
MVP: Jermaine Johnson II
There were some strong candidates early in the season at the quarterback position including Miami’s D’Eriq King, UCF’s Dillon Gabriel, and Florida’s Emory Jones. However, due to injuries and some subpar play, it was an unsung hero in Miami redshirt freshman, Tyler Van Dyke, who played at a high quality level down the stretch well enough to be named ACC Rookie and Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Charleston Rambo has quickly grown into Tyler Van Dyke’s favorite target.— Anthony Yero (@AnthonyYero1) October 15, 2021
The two have connected for six receptions for 141 yards. pic.twitter.com/2mHz6Ur0B7
It was Van Dyke’s connection with Miami transfer, Charleston Rambo, that helped for the dominant performance. Rambo earns a spot along with FIU’s Tyrese Chambers, who also appears to be headed to the NCAA Transfer Portal. Chambers featured deep ball prowess as he averaged over 24 yards a catch and broke records held by both TY Hilton and Jonnu Smith. Chambers’ style was a stark contrast to UCF’s Ryan O’Keefe who had 77 catches on the season.
FIU star WR Tyrese Chambers is in the transfer portal. He broke records previously held by both T.Y. Hilton and Jonnu Smith this season. Should get plenty of looks: https://t.co/uGBOXEMteH pic.twitter.com/Cn2OB87oeU— Andrew Ivins (@Andrew_Ivins) November 30, 2021
For the Sunshine State backfield, Senior Bowl invitee and FIU running back, D’Vonte Price, was a workhorse as he tallied 682 yards in nine games (75.8 yards/game) and is likely headed to the NFL as he has been featured as a prime candidate on ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr.’s running back watchlist. The Gators Dameon Pierce was a touchdown machine out of the backfield as he had 15 total touchdowns on the season. Pierce had the best PFF Grade (92.2) in the entire FBS for running backs but should be the bellcow in a loaded Gators’ running back committee.
We would like to OFFICIALLY welcome @FIUFootball RB D'Vonte Price (@Dre_izzle_24) to the 2022 @Reeses Senior Bowl! #TheDraftStartsInMOBILE™️ #PantherPride #PawsUp @JimNagy_SB @PaniniAmerica #RatedRookie pic.twitter.com/xxXtU7Ps3i— Reese's Senior Bowl (@seniorbowl) November 17, 2021
At tight end, there were slim pickings in the state of Florida, at least statistically, but Kemore Gamble of UF put together the best pass-catching numbers, slightly beating the early season favorite, Will Mallory.
On the offensive line, UCF’s Matthew Lee was the highest graded Center while Miami’s DJ Scaife Jr. stepped in after key injuries to Jalen Rivers and earned all-ACC Second Team honors at Guard. FAU’s Desmond Noel also had a strong season at the guard position. Along with Scaife, Zion Nelson earned all-ACC Honorable Mention honors even though his year did not live up to the offseason expectations. Rounding out the offense at tackle, FIU’s Miles Frazier had the second best PFF Grade (76.6) among tackles in the state but the 6-5, 304 pound player has entered the NCAA Transfer Portal.
WR Charleston Rambo named All-ACC Second Team; OL DJ Scaife and P Lou Hedley also honored https://t.co/XyceJUVt3q— Christopher Stock (@InsideTheU) November 30, 2021
On the defensive line, Georgia transfer, Jermaine Johnson II, went from a rotational player to a full-time starter at FSU. Johnson II was a beast as he amassed 70 tackles, 17.5 for loss, and 11.5 sacks and earned the ACC Defensive Player of the year. Based on this season alone, Johnson II appears primed to be an early round pick, similar to Jaelan Phillips’ meteoric rise last year. The Gators had two defensive lineman with strong season led by Zachary Carter and defensive tackle, Gervon Dexter. It was another transfer at the interior defensive lineman position in UCF’s Big Kat Bryant, who played well in Guz Malzahn’s defense.
At linebacker, UCF’s Tatum Bethune battled some injuries but was a tackling machine as he led the state with 101 tackles. USF’s Antonio Grier was close behind with 92 tackles and FIU’s Daniel Jackson amassed 76 tackles and 4.5 for loss.
It was another transfer at FSU that earned all-ACC First Team Honors as safety, Jammie Robinson, had 84 tackles, 7.5 for loss, and four interceptions as he appears ready for the NFL. UCF’s Davonte Brown and FAU’s Zyon Gilbert tallied 10 and nine pass deflections, respectively, at the cornerback position. Lastly, FAU’s Teja Young helped Gilbert with three picks and five more deflections. The notable snub on the defense was Florida’s Kaiir Elam, who left a lot to be desired in both his tape and statistically this season, but should still anticipate a fairly early draft grade next April.
Nole Nation It was a Great ride ❤️ Definitely learned a lot from this year pic.twitter.com/0UIC4Mpbxm— jammie robinson (@JayRob_7) November 28, 2021
On special teams, USF’s Spencer Shrader was nearly perfect at kicker as Miami’s Lou Hedley remained consistent with 44.7 yards per punt en route to second team All-ACC Honors. USF’s Rashad Weaver was the state’s best punt returner as he averaged 12.9 yards a return.