Florida Football 2014 Spring Wrap Up
By all accounts the Gators had a great spring practice, but I think the strengths and questions marks of the team are nearly the same they’ve been since the end of Urban Meyer’s reign as head coach.
Quarterback, offensive line, defensive line, wide receiver, linebacker are all positions that we’ll watch closely as fans for various reasons.
Is Jeff Driskel finally in the right offense? Will the offensive line give him the time he needs to do his thing? Will the defensive line produce what we’ve expected them to? Is Andre Debose’s return from a torn ACL going to boost the receiving core? Who is going to take over as the leader on the defense?
Those are all questions that we’ll need to get answers to if the Gators are going to have a successful season. I’m sure there are a few more too, but the sooner those are answered the better.
Does Driskel count? Of course we’ve been waiting for him to have a breakout season for a few years now, but I’m not sure he’d count.
Tight end DeAndre Goolsby had a great spring and he looks primed to emerge as legitimate heir to Jordan Reed. Jarrad Davis hopes to breakout out linebacker along with Neiron Ball and Alex Anzalone.
Kelvin Taylor is expected to get the bulk of the carries at running back as he looks to join his father Fred as 1,000 yard running backs for the Orange and Blue. The only problem is that the Gators have a few other running backs on the roster (Mack Brown and Matt Jones, to name two of them) who aren’t going to let Taylor take over the role of featured back all that easily.
As for receiver, Ahmad Fulwood is my pick to have a breakout year. He’s got all the tools to be that quality possession receiver whose job it is to move the chains and catch the jump balls.
Dante Fowler Jr. is one of the best BUCK position players in the country, much to the chagrin of Florida State fans. He’ll be ready to go this year for a defense that is going to need leaders.
QB) C I’ll go with the average here, as the position for the Gators could be a letter grade better or worse. The depth behind Driskel is iffy at best as there are a couple of contenders for the role of backup.
RB) B- While Kelvin Taylor is expected to get the bulk of the carries, the depth behind him is either unspectacular or coming back from injury. Brown and Jones have each had their moments of both good and bad, but a fully healthy Jones changes things a little bit.
TE/WR) C This is the toughest group to grade, by far. Whether their struggles as a group the last few years is because they’re just not that good or because of the quarterback or offensive line, nobody really knows. There have been plenty of good arguments for all sides. The tight ends have been underused during Will Muschamp’s tenure and the receivers have not shown the consistency in any facet other than being inconsistent. We’ll see how 2014 goes.
OL) D This grade is based off the last couple of years. Since Muschamp’s arrival, they’ve had one good year (2013) and a bunch of terrible ones. Part of that is due to the previous regime’s spread offense and Muschamp’s desire to run a pro-style offense. Different systems require different players and when Muschamp arrived the team was built with Ferrari parts but was trying to perform like a Mack truck.
DL) B With Jay-nard Bostwick, Jonathan Bullard, Bryan Cox, Leon Orr and others, (including BUCK linebacker/lineman Fowler Jr.) this group looks primed to explode in 2014. The depth probably isn’t the best it’s been in years, nor is the NFL talent, but as a group I think they’ll be just fine.
LB) B Antonio Morrison leads a linebacker corps that should be one of the SEC’s best all year long. Michael Taylor and Neiron Ball aren’t slouches either, and throw in Fowler Jr. and you’ve got a recipe for a dynamic group that can make plays all over the field.
DB) A+ The Gators’ secondary is known as the “No fly zone” for a reason. They’re just unbelievable. Led by Jim Thorpe Award candidate Vernon Hargreaves III, the Gators won’t miss a beat despite the loss of nearly ever starter in the defensive backfield. Even though I’m sure I’m missing a couple of guys: Keanu Neal, Marcus Maye, Jabari Gorman, Brian Poole and super freshman Jalen Tabor round out best group.
ST) C It’s all about Austin Hardin. How he performs will be key for the Gators again this year. He struggled badly last year and saw his job taken away more than his punting counterpart Kyle Christy, who struggled mightily last year as well. As for punt and kick coverage, we’ll see. I expect that to remain about the same with a small drop off in the kick block units due to the departure of Loucheiz Purifoy.
There are a lot of Gators fans out there who don’t think that Muschamp should have been retained as coach. I’m not one of them. I still think that he’s the right man for the job, but I’m glad that he made some switches to his staff.
The addition of Kurt Roper as offensive coordinator has to be seen as a boost to everybody involved in the offense and we expect big things as a result. I’m not sure about the won-loss record yet, I usually get into that in late July, but I would think that a two or three game improvement isn’t out of the question.
With an improved offense, a solid kicking game and a similar defense (a defense that I expect to take a step back this year), the Gators should contend for the SEC East title barring injuries.
Nolan Mucciarone of Alligator Army provided the information for our Florida Football 2014 Spring Wrap Up. For more Florida Gator football information, commentary and analysis, you can follow Alligator Army on Twitter @AlligatorArmy.