All eyes on these UF freshmen
Published: Wednesday, March 19, 2014 at 12:50 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, March 19, 2014 at 11:59 p.m.
The Florida football team brought in nine early enrollees in January, and now it's time for them to show what they can do.
Spring football practice begins today and concludes with the Orange & Blue Debut on April 12, but eight practices are open to the public, including three this week:
Today: 3:35 p.m. (Sanders Football Practice Fields)
Friday: TBA (Sanders Fields)
Saturday: TBA (Sanders Fields)
Spring practices are under way this week, and the Gators will be counting on some of those freshman to contribute and create a role for themselves.
Two injured players who won't get that chance right away are running back Brandon Powell (foot) and offensive lineman Nolan Kelleher (back). Both will be out for at least the first half of practices, but with Florida's lack of depth at guard and its need for a change-of-pace back, they will have an opportunity to move up the depth chart once they're healthy.
Here are three more true freshmen to keep an eye on this spring.
1. Will Grier, quarterback:
There's a new No. 7 for the Gators at QB, and everyone will be watching him over the next few weeks. Grier comes to Gainesville with an impressive résumé for a recruit. He had a record-setting career in high school and added to his long list of accolades last week when he was presented the Maxwell Award for 2013 National High School Player of the Year. Fortunately for him, he won't have to be an instant star at UF barring another injury to Jeff Driskel, who has fully recovered from the broken leg he suffered last season. If Driskel can assume his starting role like the coaches expect, Grier will be able to learn behind him and compete for the backup job, which he's expected to eventually win over Skyler Mornhinweg. Grier had hoped to redshirt in his first year to develop and add weight to his 190-pound frame, but the transfer of Tyler Murphy may force him into action. And that's something Gator fans are anxious to see.
2. Jalen Tabor, cornerback:
Grier will likely be second string in 2014, but Tabor is definitely in line to crack the starting lineup. He is Florida's highest-ranked signee and was a standout during Under Armour All-America week. Tabor had five interceptions and 17 pass breakups as a senior and did not allow a reception during his junior season. He's a ball-hawking cover corner with the size UF coach Will Muschamp wants at the position. “A 6'1, 190-pound corner, that's what they're supposed to look like,” he said of Tabor on signing day. His talent and measurables should give him an upper hand over Florida's other incoming defensive backs as the Gators try to replace starters Marcus Roberson, Loucheiz Purifoy and Jaylen Watkins. Tabor will wear No. 5 in honor of Joe Haden, who mentored him growing up in the D.C. area.
3. DeAndre Goolsby, tight end:
Florida’s tight ends combined to catch just four passes last season after Jordan Reed hauled in 45 in 2012. The Gators have to get more production from the position this year, and Goolsby could be the one who provides it. Seniors Clay Burton and Tevin Westbrook, though experienced, aren't fit for a spread offense, but Goolsby is a 6-foot-4, 230-pounder with a lot of athleticism and pass-catching ability. He will need to learn the playbook and how to block like any freshman tight end, but his skill set is better suited for offensive coordinator Kurt Roper's system than that of the upperclassmen. Going through spring practice is going to give Goolsby a golden opportunity to set himself up for playing time in the fall. He is wearing jersey No. 30.