Five questions entering spring practice for Gators
Published: Wednesday, March 19, 2014 at 7:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, March 18, 2014 at 8:23 p.m.
WHO WINS THE QB COMPETITION?
Yes, as Florida coach Will Muschamp has said several times, the competition at the position is wide open now that everyone is starting from scratch in a new offense under a new offensive coordinator. But, barring something unforeseen, junior Jeff Driskel is expected to emerge as the starter. His skill set seems an ideal fit for the spread offense, especially his ability to make plays with his legs. The big question may be: Who will emerge as the No. 2 guy? Skyler Mornhinweg started the final three games last season, but some are wondering how his pro-style skill set will fit into the spread. With so little depth at the position, true freshman Will Grier should have a chance to get into the mix early and possibly establish himself as the No. 2 guy, depending on how quickly he picks up the offense. He was known more for his passing in high school, but he’s also a good athlete who has some wheels.
ARE THE YOUNG DEFENSIVE LINEMEN GOING TO EMERGE?
One of the biggest concerns on defense is the lack of proven depth behind projected starting tackles Darious Cummings and Leon Orr (who is out for the spring). Three highly rated prospects from last year’s recruiting class — Joey Ivie, Jay-nard Bostwick and Caleb Brantley — will have the opportunity to show what they can do this spring. Ivie played last season and the coaches are excited about his potential at tackle and end. Bostwick and Brantley redshirted last year, so they’re a little behind Ivie at this stage. But both have the physical tools needed to give the Gators much-needed depth inside. Their development this spring is crucial.
WHAT IMPACT WILL THE EARLY ENROLLEES HAVE?
Of the nine, two are pretty much out of the picture this spring because of injuries. Tailback Brandon Powell recently had surgery on his foot and offensive lineman Nolan Kelleher is sidelined (for now) with a bad back. The true freshman considered most likely to have a big and immediate impact is cornerback Jalen Tabor, a five-star prospect who is expected to push for a starting role at the cornerback position opposite Vernon Hargreaves III. With UF losing three top cornerbacks — Marcus Roberson, Loucheiz Purifoy and Jaylen Watkins — the opportunity is there for Tabor. Another true freshman who could compete for serious playing time at a position of need is tight end DeAndre Goolsby, whose pass-catching skills could make him a good (and early) fit in the new offense at a position where more production is needed.
HOW QUICKLY WILL PLAYERS PICK UP THE NEW OFFENSE?
New offensive coordinator Kurt Roper said when he took the job that his hurry-up, spread offense is not all that difficult to pick up and that 15 practices is enough for the players to learn it and feel comfortable in it. We’ll find out for sure this spring. This is a group of offensive players that has pretty much known nothing but struggles in the past few seasons in terms of making plays and scoring points. If Roper can turn that culture around in just a few weeks, it will be an impressive achievement — and fire up everyone heading into the 2014 season.
WILL THERE BE ENOUGH O-LINEMEN TO HAVE A SPRING GAME?
This is a critical question, because last year the Gators did not. With so many offensive linemen out with injuries, UF had only six by the end of the spring, and Muschamp did not think that was enough to have a spring game. So, the game was scrapped and replaced by a situational scrimmage. The Gators head into spring drills with only 10 healthy scholarship offensive linemen, which means you’ll see some players training at more than one position, including Trenton Brown, Trip Thurman and Roderick Johnson. Although Muschamp said he wants to have a spring game, if one or two linemen go down with injuries, the spring game could be in jeopardy again.