Gator football preview
Questions abound, but not where you may think
Published: Thursday, August 1, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, July 25, 2013 at 12:23 p.m.
It was one of those mindless drives to work, a summer morning when I was switching back and forth between Howard Stern and The Spectrum on Sirius with an occasional stop at the college sports station. There, CBS' Tim Brando said something that floored me.
“Florida still has issues at quarterback.”
There seems to be this prevailing theme nationally — and maybe even in the Gator Nation — that Florida has a problem at quarterback. My take: Florida enters the 2013 season with issues almost everywhere but quarterback.
Jeff Driskel spent his first season as a Florida quarterback being reined in by a coach who is conservative offensively (yet surprisingly radical on special teams). We saw only the tip with Driskel, and I expect him to be a much more polished quarterback this year.
I'd go as far as to say that this 2013 season will have less to do with Driskel and more to do with the talent that surrounds him.
Because I do have questions about this Gator team. He's just not one of the players in question.
The only place where the Gators enter 2013 in a position of greater strength is cornerback, where both Loucheiz Purifoy and Marcus Roberson are good enough to be all-SEC players. If Florida chooses to use Purifoy extensively at wide receiver, it says that they aren't confident someone can step up at that position.
But those guys are really good. Everywhere else, there are questions.
Take the offensive line. Sure, it looks like it will be better with the additions of transfers Max Garcia (Maryland) and Tyler Moore (Nebraska). New potential always seems better. But we haven't seen these guys play together and really have no idea if the new line will work well with the old line (center Jonotthan Harrison, guard Jon Halapio and tackle Chaz Green, among others).
Questions at wide receiver? Sure. When was the last time Florida had a climb-the-air-for-the-ball wide receiver? Name the last great catch you've seen a UF receiver make? They have to show something before anyone is going to believe it will be better. Driskel may be restricted more by his perimeter players than his own arm.
Matt Jones finished the season strong at running back, and there are a pair of freshmen in Kelvin Taylor and Adam Lane, who were great high school players. But how can we know whether there is a capable 1,000-yard rusher among them?
Jordan Reed was a moody but spectacular tight end. It's doubtful this UF team will replace his production.
The Gators lost Sharrif Floyd from the defensive line, along with solid Omar Hunter. Dominique Easley has a chance to be great, but will he? Will Dante Fowler be the hybrid player on the outside that he showed flashes of last season? Can the Gators lose two linebackers to the NFL Draft and not lose a beat?
Who the heck is going to play safety?
And, for gosh sakes, is there any way to replace one of the best kickers in Florida history in Caleb Sturgis.
There are few teams in college football that don't have questions. It's the nature of the sport. Turnover is mandated.
The point is that I don't think Driskel is one of those questions.
But because he didn't put up great numbers last year, nobody is putting him on any preseason all-star teams and the summer magazines have a wildly-fluctuating opinion about the 2013 Gators.
And when you produce a giant, smelly egg in your bowl game, it tends to continue to stink into the next summer.
With a brutal schedule ahead of them, these Gators are going to have to find the kind of chemistry that allowed last year's team to overachieve in the regular season. They're going to have to buy into Will Muschamp's process. They're are going to need some breaks.
Mostly, they have to answer a lot of questions.