Florida Gators Football: One Word for Every Projected Offensive Starter
The Gators offense in 2011 could be described in many ways, but one word truly depicts how the Gators were on offense—lackluster.
The Gators have gone through a makeover during the offseason, adding a new offensive coordinator, Brent Pease, and new strength and conditioning coach, Jeff Dillman. The new hires have given the Gators a new perspective that can be summed up into one word—hopeful.
As much as Gator fans lost hope and confidence in the 2011 Gators, the moves being made in the offseason have given the fan base a new resurgence of excitement and hope for the future.
Much like last season, this coming season can be summed up in a single word; let's take a look at the projected starting lineup on offense and assign a word that best describes that position and player.
Quarterback: Jeff Driskel or Jacoby Brissett
The coaching staff has remained tight-lipped on the starting quarterback situation. Both quarterbacks are so evenly matched that this might be a race that lasts until kickoff of the first game.
Hopefully a quarterback takes the reins during summer workouts and can offer the team some leadership and closure.
One thing is certain, whichever quarterback wins the starting job, it will have earned it. The coaches are clearly not playing any favorites, and the best man will win the job.
Running Back: Mike Gillislee
Gillislee, a senior, has waited patiently for three seasons to become the man at his position. Gillislee has waited more patiently than the fan base who caused the hash tag "#FreeGilly" to trend on Twitter almost every Saturday last season.
Despite averaging 5.86 yards per attempt in 2011, Gillislee was only given the opportunity to run the ball 56 times.
Gillislee will be the main back this season, and he has already distanced himself from Mack Brown and will be able to fight off incoming freshman Matt Jones.
Fullback: Hunter Joyer
When the Gators lacked a between-the-tackle running back last season, they turned to then-freshman Hunter Joyer.
At 5'10'' and 240 pounds, Joyer is a player who enjoys contact and looks forward to hitting defensive players. While Joyer may again be called upon in the redzone and in short yardage situations, he is also a great blocking fullback who will help both the running and passing game with his blocking ability.
Left Tackle: Xavier Nixon
Xavier Nixon has benefited from a new offseason workout program as much as any offensive player. Nixon who has struggled with weight issues in his career is back up over 300 pounds, and he's the early leader to start at LT.
Nixon had a freshman season that earned him Freshman All-SEC honors, but he has not been able to find that form during his sophomore or junior seasons.
The Gators will count on Nixon to protect the blind side of whichever young signal caller wins the starting job.
Left Guard: James Wilson
James Wilson earned a rare sixth year of eligibility, making him old compared to the rest of the team.
Wilson has had four knee surgeries and two broken feet in his time in Gainesville. Much of his injury problems have been attributed to his weight. Wilson has had trouble keeping his weight down and his health has suffered because of it.
After making it through his first spring practice healthy, Wilson is tentatively penciled in as the starting LG. Wilson will try to keep his weight in check this summer and make it to the first game still listed as the starting left guard.
Center: Jonotthan Harrison
Harrison was one of two Gator offensive linemen to start every game last year. Harrison lined up at both guard and center in 2011 and will be the Gators starting center in 2012.
Harrison has played in 26 straight games and should be a staple in the starting lineup for two more seasons.
Halapio has started more consecutive games than any other player on the roster; he's at 14 straight right now. Halapio was the only Gator that started every game at the same position last season, and both of those statements make Halapio reliable.
Much like Harrison and unlike Wilson, you can take a Sharpie and write Halapio's name in at the RG spot and count on him to play well each week.
Right Tackle: Matt Patchan
Matt Patchan came to Florida as a 5-star tackle and the fifth ranked tackle in the nation. But Patchan has failed to live up to the hype, as he, like Wilson, has been plagued by the injury bug.
Patchan started seven games a year ago but missed the bowl game due to a back injury.
The key for Patchan will be to stay healthy for a season and become more accountable for the team. Patchan is more than capable of being a solid starting option for the Gators, but can he be a reliable option each week?
The answer to that remains to be seen.
Tight End: Jordan Reed
Other than Trey Burton, Jordan Reed has been the most versatile player for the Gators. Reed, a quarterback in high school, made the switch to tight end when he enrolled at Florida. After a year at tight end exclusively, he was asked to play both tight end and quarterback.
Reed has made the switch back to tight end permanently and has the athletic ability to be a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses. Reed has the size to go up over cornerbacks and the speed to run away from linebackers.
Expect Reed to increase his catches this season and become a safety net for his quarterback.
X Receiver: Andre Debose
Andre Debose is a game changer.
You can tell how electric he is by looking at his receptions and his yards per reception. Debose had just 16 receptions a tear ago, but he averaged 27 yards per catch. Whenever a receiver has a higher YPC than receptions, they are a home run threat.
Debose has yet to find the kind of consistency that will keep him on the field for an entire game, but whenever he is on the field, he is a threat to take the ball to the house.
Other than averaging 27 YPC, Debose is a threat to take punts and kicks back, as he averaged 26 yards per return and brought back a kickoff for a touchdown.
He may not be as consistent as Gator fans or the coaches would like, but when Debose gets his hands on the ball, it is going to be exciting.
Y Receiver: Quinton Dunbar
Quinton Dunbar drew praise from the coaching staff for the second straight spring camp. A season ago, it was as an unknown redshirt freshman who then underachieved and was underutilized all season long.
Dunbar again drew the praise of his coaches this spring, but now, he has a year of game experience to bring to the table.
With a new jersey number, (Dunbar has worn three numbers at Florida in three seasons—84, 9 and 1), Dunbar will look to start 2012 with a clean slate and become the kind of playmaker the coaching staff expected a season ago.