Two weeks into their spring practice regimen, the Florida Gators are once again back into the groove of preparing for summer camp and another challenging SEC season. Among the headlines thus far have been key injuries, Loucheiz Purifoy's possible move to wide receiver, and the early struggles of the Gator special teams. Despite these immediate setbacks, an early picture of Florida's 2013 identity is beginning to take shape.
Just as the first week of practice had its fair share of surprises and underachievers, Week 2 proved to be beneficial for some and harmful for others. Even though the beginning of the regular season still lies five months down the road, the Gator coaching staff knows it is never too early to see who looks primed to perform and who needs to make improvements.
On that note, here are six Gators who have either seen their stock rise or fall based on the past week of practice.
A solid season from Dunbar will be vital for the Gators.
For Quinton Dunbar, the pressure to perform in 2013 has grown over the past few months. A solid end to 2012 made him the logical choice to inherit the role of top target for the Gator offense.
Luckily for Florida and its fan base, Dunbar has looked the part in recent days.
His performance has garnered attention from offensive coordinator Brent Pease as well. Pease told the Gainesville Sun, "He has come so far along attitude-wise, accountability, his work ethic on the field, and it's really starting to show up."
For a team that possessed an anemic passing attack in 2012, Dunbar's early spring performance is an encouraging sign. The Gators have no choice but to rely on the redshirt junior to provide the spark for an inexperienced bunch of talented receivers. Although he will not be expected to put up earth-shattering numbers, Dunbar will be asked to be an on-field leader.
If he performs like he has this spring, Dunbar should have no problem accomplishing this goal.
The newest member of the aforementioned wide receiver collection hit a roadblock earlier this week. According to Will Muschamp, Demarcus Robinson suffered a high-ankle sprain, which will sideline him for at least one week.
The early enrollee still has a great chance to earn significant playing time over the course of the coming months. His ball skills and athleticism are noticeably above average, and he will still hold an immediate edge over his other freshman counterparts because of his early start.
Robinson's injury does not look to be serious, which is good news for Gator fans. Still, the missed time will be something he has to overcome once he returns to the field.
Not many athletes can say they faced the pressure of living up to the immense hype that currently surrounds Kelvin Taylor. The combination of his father's legacy and his exceptional skill as a runner has convinced experts to label him a future SEC superstar.
So far, Taylor has not disappointed.
During practice on Saturday, the freshman took a screen and then used an exceptional cut to shake off a defender and score a 40-yard touchdown.
Taylor's collegiate career may only be in its infancy stages, but plays like this one have already made Taylor the talk of Gainesville, especially in relation to his fellow recruits. Obviously, he will have to refine his game in a few areas before he takes over the Gator backfield. However, these early signs of brilliance are just a preview of the explosiveness he will eventually bring to this offense.
Chaz Green continues to recover from an ankle injury.
In a word, spring practice has been "painful" for Florida's troops on the offensive line.
Coach Muschamp told Gator Country this past Tuesday that Trip Thurman underwent an MRI for a shoulder injury. He now joins Chaz Green and Ian Silberman as linemen who will be significantly limited until the start of summer camp. Meanwhile, Jon Halapio is also continuing to nurse his own knee injury.
On top of everything, Jessamen Dunker's status remains up in the air after his arrest in January.
Currently, the Gators only have six scholarship linemen to work with during practice. This leaves the coaching staff with no choice but to be extremely cautious with this unit in the coming days.
Driskel rebounded from a rough first week of practice.
Jeff Driskel's first week of spring practice was up-and-down to say the least. A few crisp, solid throws were sandwiched among an array of lackluster tosses.
Week 2, however, can be qualified as a bounce-back performance.
The highlight of his week occurred on Monday, when his throws to Loucheiz Purifoy and Quinton Dunbar drew praise from his head coach.
Driskel's 2012 season was by no means spectacular. Despite accuracy problems, however, he was able to lead the team to victories by limiting turnovers. If he can do the same this season and improve his pocket presence, the Gator offense should put more points on the board.
This past week was proof that Driskel is capable of making such improvements.
Phillips kicks in last year's spring game.
With the departure of Caleb Sturgis, one would expect Florida's kicking game to take a step back. After all, Sturgis left with the school record for field-goal conversions. It would be crazy for one to expect Austin Hardin or Brad Phillips to meet those standards this season.
Neither Hardin nor Phillips has done anything in spring practice to prove otherwise.
Hardin's early struggles should really come as no surprise following his hamstring injury last season. The redshirt freshman has shown a strong leg, but his accuracy has been spotty.
Ultimately, he has more upside than Phillips and should kick his way into the lineup. However, Gator fans would probably like to see improvement sooner rather than later.