Florida Football: 10 Players to Be Excited About Heading into Spring Practice
Depending on when you are reading this, spring practice may have already begun. As I write, we are on the eve of spring practice.
The Gators, much like the past several years, remain in a state of transition. The Gators will have their third offensive coordinator in as many years, a new strength and conditioning coach and a new offensive line coach.
With 2011 behind them, the Gators will look to familiarize players with a new system and coaches, and that process begins in spring practice. Here is a list of the top 10 players to watch during the next three weeks of practice.
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Arguably the Gators biggest playmaker on offense, Debose could give his coaches some peace of mind by having a good spring camp. Debose has been inconsistent at Florida after drawing Percy Harvin comparisons as an incoming freshman.
Debose will need to become a vocal leader for an offense that will take some time to find its identity.
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The Gators desperately need to find a pass rush. The Gators finished tied for 37th in the nation with 28 sacks a year ago and would love to improve on that number.
Like Debose, Powell came into Florida with high expectations. The former No. 1 overall rated recruit had a slow transition into the BUCK position. Powell came on towards the end of the season and will look to have a big junior season if he has any aspirations of leaving early for the NFL.
Jessamen Dunker is a player to watch because he will have a legitimate chance at becoming a starter from day one. Dunker will step into the weakest and thinnest position along the offensive line, and this all-american recruit has the tools to become a four-year starter.
Dunker is one of two freshmen who enrolled early and will have an opportunity to start on the offensive line.
D.J. Humphries is the other freshman offensive lineman who has an opportunity to start right away. The only 5-star recruit in the 2012 recruiting class, Humphries will likely be No. 2 on the depth chart behind Matt Patchan.
With Patchan's propensity of getting injured, Humphries should treat the spring as a tryout. If Patchan should go down with an injury, as he has every year he has been at Florida, Humphries is the man that should fill in and become the starter.
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Seldom used tailback Mike Gillislee will finally have the chance to be the man at running back. Gillislee was inexplicably left on the sideline as Will Muschamp begged and pleaded for a power rushing game. The 5'10'', 200-pound Gillislee will now have an opportunity to show that he can carry the load and be the kind of running back Muschamp wants.
The only other running back not named Trey Burton who will receive significant carries is Mack Brown. In two seasons, Brown has totaled 15 carries for 65 yards.
Spring practice will be the last time Gillislee has an opportunity to get the majority of reps as Matt Jones was handpicked by the coaching staff to bring more physicality to the offense, and he will enroll in the summer.
Purifoy is in an interesting position this spring. Marcus Roberson was cleared to practice, but not cleared for contact. This puts Purifoy into a position where he will be able to get more reps and build upon a solid season in 2011.
Purifoy is a dark horse candidate to become the third cornerback on the depth chart over whoever loses the starting battle between Cody Riggs and Jaylen Watkins.
Purifoy was an exceptional player on special teams last season and did a good job filling in after Roberson's injury. With solid tackling and a nose for the ball, Purifoy is one to watch out for as he works his way up the depth chart.
Will Muschamp needs a defensive end to step up and take the starting job this spring. Earl Okine is the man for the job.
The fifth-year senior can help out the defense as a whole by claiming the starting defensive end position and allowing Sharrif Floyd to move back to tackle. Floyd showed in the Gator Bowl he is a better tackle than end when he recorded a career high 1.5 sacks against the Buckeyes.
At 6'7'', 272 pounds, Okine will have one more season to show NFL scouts and GatorNation that he has what it takes to be a scary pass-rusher.
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Michael Taylor had a very productive freshman season. Taylor accounted for 36 tackles and recorded half of the interceptions created by linebackers (1) last season.
Taylor does not have a chance at starting as Florida is set at linebacker, but Taylor will make an impact on special teams and has shown that he is ready if need be.
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One half of what should be one of the most intense position battles in the nation, Jeff Driskel is definitely a player to watch in the spring.
Driskel was an early enrollee a season ago and earned the backup role behind John Brantley. After an injury against Alabama, Driskel would only see action in one more game the rest of the year.
With a new offensive coordinator and a new offensive system, Driskel will have the same opportunity as his competition to seize the starting quarterback job.
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The other half of the quarterback competition, Brissett, received more playing time than Driskel last season. Some believe that it was a bias that Charlie Weis had for the player he recruited, but regardless of the reason, it doesn't matter now.
Last season will not affect who is selected as the starting quarterback. With a new offensive coordinator, both Brissett and Driskel have been given a clean slate and will start fresh.
In his pre-spring press conference, coach Muschamp stated he was not a fan of the two quarterback system. WIth that being said, let the battle begin and may the best man win.