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5 most valuable college football players on Florida teams in 2021

From Miami to Tallahassee, these players will be counted on this season
Miami Hurricanes QB D'Eriq King speaks to media after practice, Aug. 31, 2021
Posted at 10:41 AM, Sep 01, 2021

These Sunshine State players are likely to have the most impact on the fate of their teams this season.

D'Eriq King, QB, Miami, senior

Miami Hurricanes QB D'Eriq King vs. Oklahoma State in 2020 Cheez-It Bowl
Miami quarterback D'Eriq King looks for a receiver as Oklahoma State defensive tackle Sione Asi rushes during the first half of the Cheez-It Bowl, Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020, in Orlando, Fla.

King is back after passing for 2,686 yards and 23 touchdowns while rushing for 538 yards and four scores before suffering a knee injury in Miami's 37-34 loss to Oklahoma State in the Cheez-It Bowl. The Houston transfer's decision to return for a sixth season of college eligibility not only gives the Hurricanes a competitive edge, but it also enabled him to take advantage of the new name, image and likeness rule, inking deals with South Florida's professional hockey team and commanding a $2,000 price tag for public appearances.

Dillon Gabriel, QB, UCF, junior

UCF Knights QB Dillon Gabriel looks for open receiver vs. Cincinnati Bearcats in 2020
Central Florida quarterback Dillon Gabriel looks for a receiver during the first half of a game against Cincinnati, Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020, in Orlando, Fla.

The Hawaii native loses his coach and top receiver from last season, but he still knows how to throw. Gabriel has thrown for more than 3,500 in each of his first two seasons and is on pace to become Central Florida's all-time record-holder in several statistical categories. His 61 passing touchdowns are fifth-most in school history and his 7,223 career passing yards ranks sixth all-time at UCF. His 32 touchdowns last year were also good enough for second on the single-season list.

McKenzie Milton, QB, FSU, senior

Florida State Seminoles QB McKenzie Milton at 2021 ACC media day
Florida State quarterback McKenzie Milton answers a question during a news conference at the Atlantic Coast Conference media days Thursday, July 22, 2021, in Charlotte, N.C.

Milton hasn't played in a game since November 2018, when he suffered a gruesome knee injury that required nine surgeries. Milton was impressive in the spring game, completing six of 11 passing attempts for 96 yards and a touchdown. Prior to the injury, Milton was 27-6 as a starter at UCF. In three seasons at UCF, Milton accounted for 9,760 yards of total offense and 92 touchdowns. He's won his last 24 starts, including leading the Knights to a 13-0 season in 2017.

RELATED: 2021 college football preview

D'Vonte Price, RB, FIU, senior

FIU Panthers running back D'Vonte Price in 2019
FIU running back D'Vonte Price prepares for a play during a game against Western Kentucky, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019, in Miami.

The fifth-year senior was among the nation's top 10 rushers in 2020, carrying the ball 85 times for 581 yards and four scores in just five games as a result of the pandemic-shortened season. But Price still managed to break single-season school records for most yards per game (116.2) and most yards per rush (6.84). Just imagine the yardage he could rack up with a full season.

Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida, junior

Florida Gators cornerback Kaiir Elam vs. Kentucky Wildcats in 2020
Florida cornerback Kaiir Elam looks to stop Kentucky quarterback Terry Wilson during the first half of a game Saturday, Nov. 28, 2020, in Gainesville, Fla.

Although the Florida defense was historically bad last season, Elam was the exception. The Benjamin School product has accumulated 20 passes defended, five interceptions and 50 tackles in 25 career games, including 39 tackles, 11 passes defended and two picks a season ago. Elam is projected to be a first-round pick in next year's draft.