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11 Gators ready for Tampa homecoming vs. USF

UF has more starters from the Tampa Bay region than any other metro area entering Saturday’s game at Raymond James Stadium.
Florida Gators running back Malik Davis is one of almost a dozen players from the Tampa Bay area on UF's roster. He starred at Jesuit High.
Florida Gators running back Malik Davis is one of almost a dozen players from the Tampa Bay area on UF's roster. He starred at Jesuit High. [ JOHN RAOUX | AP ]
Published Sep. 11

GAINESVILLE — As the buildup for No. 13 Florida’s trip to Raymond James Stadium grew, Gators defensive lineman Zachary Carter got a list of ticket requests from his mom.

She wanted 30.

“That’s not including the people that asked me,” Carter said. “So if I can get 40, I’ll take it.”

Related: Why state games like Florida-USF are in danger of disappearing

Tickets were scarce this week for USF’s biggest non-conference game in years before it sold out Friday.

This matchup is especially important for Carter.

“Homecoming, man,” he said.

Zachary Carter, left, was a blue-chip recruit at Hillsborough High before joining the Gators.
Zachary Carter, left, was a blue-chip recruit at Hillsborough High before joining the Gators. [ Times (2014) ]

The Hillsborough High alumnus is one of 11 players from Hillsborough, Pinellas or Pasco County on UF’s roster. Five of them (Carter, plus offensive linemen Richard Gouraige and Ethan White, running back Malik Davis and linebacker Amari Burney) are starters or co-starters on UF’s unofficial depth chart. No other metro area comes close.

That makes this contest especially sweet for players like Davis, a Jesuit High alumnus.

“I haven’t played back in Tampa in four years,” said Davis, Hillsborough County’s all-time leading rusher. “So it’ll definitely be fun.”

Malik Davis starred at Jesuit High before signing with the Gators.
Malik Davis starred at Jesuit High before signing with the Gators.

The proximity to so many Gators is one reason why UF took the somewhat unusual step to play at a Group of Five program. It’ll be the Gators’ first true road game against a team outside the current Power Five since a 38-13 win at Memphis State in 1989.

Related: How the two-quarterback plans differ for Gators, USF and FSU

Players and their families appreciate the effort, judging by how many calls and texts Gouraige received this week.

“Since this is home for me, everybody wants to come out and support,” said Gouraige, a Cambridge Christian product.

Richard Gouraige was a prized recruit at Cambridge Christian.
Richard Gouraige was a prized recruit at Cambridge Christian.

Saturday will be Carter’s first game at Raymond James Stadium, but he almost earned a trip there growing up. Carter remembers his peewee team, the Bay Area Raiders, losing a championship game. If his team had won, they would have played another local championship team on the Bucs’ field.

“I still remember,” Carter said. “I’m old, but I still remember.”

Related: College football Week 2 gameday guide: Florida-USF and the ACC’s big day

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