Florida Football: 5 Freshmen the Gators Can Build Around
The 2013 Florida Gators will look much different from the team that finished the 2012 season 11-2. Gone are playmakers Matt Elam, Sharrif Floyd, Jelani Jenkins, Jon Bostic, Josh Evans, Omar Hunter, Mike Gillislee and Lerentee McCray, but a new class of freshmen are determined and hungry to fill the void.
Will Muschamp and the Florida coaching staff have been relentless on the recruiting trail and their hard work has brought in a talented group that is ready to immediately make their mark on the program.
These five freshman are not only talented, but can step in right away and fill the holes that the departing juniors and seniors leave behind.
With so much talent leaving the program, let's take a look at five freshmen who the Gators will look to build around in 2013.
5. Alvin Bailey, WR/KR/PR
I know what you're thinking.
What about Ahmad Fulwood? What about Demarcus Robinson?
Fulwood and Robinson are both talented receivers in their own right and will get an opportunity to play right away. While they may be more developed as pure receivers right now, Bailey is a more versatile weapon.
Bailey can return punts and kicks and, given the inconsistency Florida had in those facets of the game in 2012, he should be considered a front-runner to take over those jobs as a freshman.
Bailey also played a lot of quarterback in high school. His ability to makes play wherever he's lined up makes him a likely replacement for Trey Burton in Florida's wildcat packages. Bailey is roughly at the same level as Burton as a threat in the passing (next to nothing), but is faster and more athletic.
We can't forget that Bailey will also be a factor in the passing game. He projects as a slot receiver in Florida's offense. Bailey is a crisp route runner and dangerous with the ball in his hands. Look for Bailey to have some set plays where he comes around on a sweep, much like Solomon Patton did before going down with an injury.
Bailey's versatility sets him apart from the other receivers in this class and it is the main reason he will make an impact early.
4. Alex Anzalone, LB
Trying to replace Jelani Jenkins and Jon Bostic is no easy feat, but you can't say that Will Muschamp didn't try. Florida brought in four linebackers in the 2013 recruiting class and two in particular will compete for early playing time.
The first is Alex Anzalone.
Anzalone is an athletic outside linebacker with the size to play as the strongside linebacker, but the speed, coverage skills and athleticism to play on the weak side. Anzalone enrolled early and will participate in spring practice.
Anzalone has a frame that could carry some additional weight and a move to Florida's buck linebacker isn't out of the question. For now, he will look to fill in at either outside linebacker spot and try to make Florida fans forget about the two linebackers they lost this offseason.
3. Daniel McMillian, LB
The other linebacker from the class of 2013 that is on the fast track to playing time is Daniel McMillian. Like Anzalone, McMillian is already enrolled at the University of Florida and will compete with the team during spring practice.
McMillian is a hard-nosed, physical linebacker who doesn't shy away from contact. He is a long player, but has the frame (6'2" 220) to add bulk up and could end up playing inside linebacker at some point in his career.
McMillian has shown an ability to get after the quarterback from an outside linebacker position but is physical enough to fill holes in-between the tackles. McMillian really improved his coverage skills as a senior and that is an area where the Gators will need to improve after losing their best cover-linebacker, Jelani Jenkins.
McMillian and Anzalone will play key roles in the not-so-distant future for the Gators' linebacker corps.
2. Vernon Hargreaves III, CB
I'm starting to run out of adjectives and superlatives to describe Vernon Hargreaves III. So we'll keep it simple.
This kid can play football.
Hargreaves was the consensus No. 1 cornerback in the 2013 recruiting class and that title is well deserved. Hargreaves has the combination of size, speed, technique and instincts that are rarely found in a high school athlete.
With the news that the Gators will try Loucheiz Purifoy out on offense this spring and the news that Purifoy was arrested last week for possession, the door seems open for Hargreaves to earn playing time as a freshman.
Hargreaves is a complete player who will see time on special teams and could even end up starting at cornerback as a freshman. He is definitely a player the Gators can build around and should be the cornerstone of the secondary for years to come.
1. Kelvin Taylor, RB
Kelvin Taylor has big shoes to fill at the University of Florida. The son of Gator great Fred Taylor, Kelvin has 3,075 yards to run and 31 touchdowns to score to catch his dad in the record books.
The younger Taylor is on the right track. An early enrollee, Kelvin is already on campus, learning the playbook and working out with the team. Although Matt Jones had an impressive freshman season, there are more than enough carries to go around in Florida's offense.
Taylor is a strong running back with elite vision. He is a north/south runner but can make people miss in space and his jump-cut will keep defenders on their toes.
He is an exciting player to watch on the field and will be a fan favorite before long.