Florida Football: 5 Gators Who Deserve Larger Roles in 2013
One of the biggest reasons why the Gators were able to make a drastic turnaround during the 2012 season was the fact that certain players made the most of their expanded roles.
On offense, Mike Gillislee made the jump from little-known backup to the most productive Florida running back the school has had in almost a decade. Meanwhile, Jeff Driskel became the team's field general as a true sophomore and was the commander of multiple come-from-behind victories.
On the other side of the ball, Marcus Roberson and Lerentee McCray were among the players who excelled after being called upon to make a bigger impact.
Thanks to the annual departure of seniors and NFL draft talent, athletes across the entire college football landscape are asked to take on a larger role each season. This is especially true for the Gators in 2013, as more than a dozen significant contributors were lost from last year's squad.
While some need to step up their game out of necessity, there are others who deserve more playing time based on their skill sets and past performance. With the addition of one of the best recruiting classes in the country, this trend is sure to continue over the next few seasons.
As things currently stand, however, here are five Gators who deserve a more significant role for the upcoming season.
Trey Burton is arguably the most skilled Gator on the entire roster.
Despite being able to contribute in a variety of ways, however, Burton has not been given the chance to blossom into a star since scoring 12 touchdowns his freshman season. Based on his past effectiveness, he deserves the opportunity to be a much more important factor on offense.
Yes, Burton can run the ball with good speed and superior agility. However, he is also a solid pass-catcher, and he can even throw the football if need be. Yet he has failed to reach the 200-yard plateau in both receiving and rushing yardage over the past two seasons. He also has only managed to score seven total offensive touchdowns during that time.
Although Burton may be at his best in the Wildcat formation, he can be a benefit in a variety of other ways. He should definitely be used as a wide receiver more often than he has been, especially now that tight end Jordan Reed is gone. I would also argue that he should be given more carries to rest the heavily used Gator backfield.
Burton is a special weapon that is difficult to prepare for in practice. Now that he is a senior and one of the leaders on the team, he should be used with greater frequency next season.
Solomon Patton is another Gator that has a great deal of offensive value yet has been used sparingly during his time in Gainesville.
Patton was on pace for a decent season in 2012 before an injury forced him to the sidelines during Florida's loss to Georgia. He had 157 total yards at that point, including 140 rushing yards on only 14 carries. Those numbers were more than double his previous offensive total prior to last fall.
Patton is obviously not the biggest receiver you will find on a football field. However, he is extremely fast and deadly in the open field. He is the perfect player for end-arounds and screen passes.
This is why it is somewhat mind-boggling that he has only eight career receptions.
I am not saying Patton should be placed in the starting lineup. However, he is a big-play threat every time he touches the ball. He should be called upon much more often than past numbers would indicate.
Loucheiz Purifoy already proved himself to be an extremely dependable member of Florida's secondary last season. In addition, his raw speed and athleticism grabbed the attention of the Gator coaches.
Now, Will Muschamp and his staff are experimenting with the idea of including him in the offensive game plan with regularity. Call me crazy, but I am actually in agreement with this odd idea.
He only had one reception and one rushing attempt last season, but this is understandable. His main duty was to help hold the secondary together, and he did that. He made 51 tackles and forced three fumbles in extended action last season.
Because Florida's secondary is loaded with talent, however, the team can afford to give Purifoy more opportunities at wide receiver. He has not only terrific speed, but also solid ball skills and great physical strength. He can provide talent at a position that has limited the Gator offense for years.
If the Gators make Purifoy a key offensive piece, the decision could pay big dividends.
Antonio Morrison served as the backup to Jelani Jenkins last season. In Jenkins' absence, Morrison looked at home as part of the Gator linebacker corps. He has certainly earned the right to take Jenkins' vacant spot on the depth chart this fall.
Morrison was named to the SEC Coaches' All-Freshman team after recording 34 tackles and forcing a fumble while filling in for Jenkins. Without a doubt, his early enrollment was a contributing factor to his success. Still, the fact that he was able to stand out while playing alongside NFL talent both in front of and behind him says something about his potential.
He showed the ability to make solid, fundamental tackles and be an effective run-stopper. He can be a mainstay of the Gator linebacking troops for the next three seasons.
Jenkins and Jon Bostic may have been key members of the Gator defense, but Florida fans should not panic over their departure. If Morrison can continue to play at a high level, they could quickly become an afterthought.
Like Morrison, Jonathan Bullard was named to the SEC All-Freshman team after a solid 2012 campaign. His production from last season makes him worthy of a starting role at defensive end.
Many fans may not even realize how effective Bullard was during his first year on campus. He actually led the team with seven quarterback hurries. His combination of size and athleticism makes him a daunting challenge for opposing linemen.
As a starter, Bullard can easily triple his total of 1.5 sacks and eclipse his mark of seven hurries. Furthermore, one could easily make the argument that he has the most upside of any returning Gator.
Bullard proved as a freshman that he can easily get to the quarterback and disrupt opposing offenses. With an expanded role in 2013, he could emerge as one of the top linemen in the SEC.
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