Florida Football: Gators' Post-Spring Game 2-Deep Depth Chart
Despite being nothing more than a ballyhooed practice session, the Orange and Blue Debut proved to be a fun and exciting event for Gators fans. It provided the first opportunity for the masses to witness the improvement of many returning Gators, and it brought another yearly edition of spring practice to a close.
Now that spring workouts are in the rearview mirror, the time has come to focus ahead on fall camp and the regular season. Based on the past month or so of practice sessions, the Florida depth chart has shifted accordingly. While some players have retained control of their previous responsibilities, others now find themselves in new territory based on either their progression or regression.
Here is a quick rundown of the Gators' two-deep depth chart immediately following the conclusion of spring practice.
Starter: Jeff Driskel
Backup: Tyler Murphy
Jeff Driskel will be the starting quarterback for the Gators when they open the season against Toledo. According to Will Muschamp, he made a great deal of improvement during the spring, particularly in his ability to scan the field and make the proper reads. If you couple that with his performance from last season, it is easy to see that Driskel is the best option.
Meanwhile, the competition for the backup role will remain wide open when fall camp begins. Tyler Murphy, Skyler Mornhinweg and Max Staver will each have a chance to take control of the position. Ultimately, Murphy's overall athleticism and experience as quarterback of the scout team should give him an advantage. Therefore, he will likely be named the No. 2 option for the regular season.
Starter: Matt Jones
Backup: Kelvin Taylor
Matt Jones began to emerge as an offensive threat at the end of last season. He carried that momentum into spring practice and gradually pulled away from his competition. His tough running style has drawn the attention of the Gators coaching staff, and the starting role is now his to lose.
Meanwhile, freshman Kelvin Taylor proved why he was highly sought as a high school recruit. Gifted with both toughness and agility, Taylor looks every bit like the future star that many perceive him to be. However, his inexperience will keep him behind Jones on the depth chart for the time being.
Starter: Hunter Joyer
Backup: Trey Burton
Hunter Joyer may not be a huge threat offensively. However, his skills as a blocker are a necessity for a team that will rely heavily on a ground-and-pound rushing attack next season. Barring an injury or some other major setback, Joyer will start at fullback for the Gators.
Unlike Joyer, Trey Burton is an offensive threat in multiple ways. His primary role should once again be that of quarterback in the Wildcat formation. Of course, he can also line up as a receiver as well. Muschamp and Brent Pease will no doubt look to get the ball to Burton in open space, where he can do some damage.
Wide Receiver/Tight End
Starter X: Andre Debose
Backup: Demarcus Robinson
Based on talent alone, Debose should at least begin the season as a starter. Of course, his talent did him little good last season after he wound up in the doghouse because of his attitude. Therefore, Demarcus Robinson can very easily work his way into this role, even as a freshman. He has good hands and athleticism, and he could potentially be the weapon the Gators have been searching for since 2010.
Starter Z: Quinton Dunbar
Backup: Latroy Pittman or Loucheiz Purifoy
Other than Jordan Reed, Quinton Dunbar was the most reliable target for Jeff Driskel last season. He significantly improved over the course of the fall, and he has now emerged as the star of Florida's receiving unit. He will definitely be a starter when the Gators take the field in August.
As for the backup spot, Latroy Pittman is a good option. He saw limited game action, but he is at least familiar with the playbook. Purifoy is a wild card, as it remains to be seen how large his offensive role will be in 2013.
Starting Tight End: Colin Thompson
Backup: Clay Burton
A likelier option will be a "tight end by committee" system, where Kent Taylor and Tevin Westbrook share time with Thompson and Burton. For the sake of constructing a depth chart, however, Thompson should take the No. 1 spot. He can both block and catch passes, and he could become a solid red-zone threat. Meanwhile, Burton was a solid blocker last season and should see a good amount of time on the field for that reason.
Starters: D.J. Humphries (LT), Max Garcia (LG), Jonotthan Harrison (C), Jon Halapio (RG), Tyler Moore (RT)
Backups: Trip Thurman (LT), Ian Silberman (LG), Kyle Koehne (C, RG), Quinteze Williams (RT), Chaz Green (RT)
At the moment, half of the Gators offensive line depth sits injured or suspended. It is for this very reason that the Orange and Blue Debut was changed from a game to a practice.
Absences aside, Humphries is ready to take control after being on the field extensively last season. He is the imposing presence that Driskel needs for proper protection.
The arrest of Jessamen Dunker will open the door for Garcia. The Maryland transfer was productive last season as a member of the scout team, but now he has a clear path to the Saturday lineup.
Harrison should once again lead the charge at center after starting there during every single 2012 contest.
Meanwhile, Halapio has been a mainstay at right guard, and he will have an assured spot in the starting lineup.
Finally, Nebraska transfer Tyler Moore is hoping to build off a very successful freshman season with the Huskers and make his own impact as a Gator. Chaz Green has held this spot for two seasons, but his health is a liability. Therefore, Moore holds the advantage for now.
Starters: Jonathan Bullard (DE), Leon Orr (NT), Damien Jacobs (DT)
Backups: Dominique Easley (DE), Darious Cummings (NT), Joey Ivie (DT)
Jonathan Bullard emerged as an effective pass-rusher last season. He ended up leading the Gators with seven quarterback hurries and was named to the SEC Coaches' All-Freshman team. He is ready to be a breakout star on the defensive line.
Leon Orr proved himself capable of guarding against the run. If he can develop his skills as a pass-rusher, he will become an overall solid contributor to the Florida defense.
Damien Jacobs served as the backup to Sharrif Floyd last season. Floyd's departure for the NFL draft should leave the door open for Jacobs to build his reputation as a dependable piece of the Gators attack.
Starter: Ronald Powell
Backup: Dante Fowler Jr.
If Powell can fully recover from his two knee surgeries by the time fall camp begins, he should be able to wrestle the starting spot away from Fowler. His explosiveness was very noticeable near the end of Florida's disappointing 2011 campaign, and his skills make him a perfect fit for the position. He can help the Gators raise their rather pedestrian 2012 sack total of 30.
Either way, Muschamp and defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin cannot go wrong with their decision. However, Powell holds a slight advantage following spring practice.
Starters: Darrin Kitchens (Sam), Michael Taylor (Will), Antonio Morrison (Mike)
Backups: Neiron Ball (Sam), Daniel McMillian (Will), Alex Anzalone (Mike)
The current centerpiece of the Gators linebacking corps is Antonio Morrison. He played exceptionally well in relief of the injured Jelani Jenkins. In addition, he laid a hit on E.J. Manuel that Gators fans will be talking about for years to come. He has only improved his game during the spring, and he should be a highly valuable piece this season.
At the "Will" linebacker position, the experience of Michael Taylor gives him the current edge over Daniel McMillian. However, McMillian was impressive during workouts and could easily slide into Taylor's spot by the end of the season.
Kitchens made one start last season, and he has virtually been in a deadlock with Ball for the starting "Sam" linebacker spot. However, Muschamp listed Kitchens atop an early spring depth chart. Until something else changes, Kitchens looks like the current number-one option.
Cornerback Starters: Vernon Hargreaves III and Marcus Roberson
Backups: Loucheiz Purifoy and Jaylen Watkins
If there is any freshman in the country talented enough to become a a starting cornerback amid Florida's crowded secondary, it is Hargreaves. The MVP of the Under Armour All-America Game has the combination of ball skills and field vision that most can only dream about. He will be the perfect complement to Marcus Roberson, who led the team last season with 12 pass breakups.
As mentioned before, Purifoy's overall role on the team remains unclear. Meanwhile, Jaylen Watkins has been temporarily moved to safety. However, he should find himself back at his usual position during fall practice.
Safety Starters: Brian Poole and Cody Riggs
Backups: Marcus Maye and Jabari Gorman
Brian Poole was ranked as the second-best safety in last year's high school class by Scout.com, and he should be ready to take on an expanded role defensively. The Gators coaching staff thinks highly of him, and he can potentially develop into a star.
Cody Riggs was on pace for a breakout season before a fractured foot sidelined him. Although his starts have come at cornerback, Riggs can easily move to safety and be a needed playmaker.
Marcus Maye showed a few flashes of brilliance during spring practice, and he can easily take over should one of these two need to leave the game. Likewise, Gorman holds a backup role at the moment.
Starting Kicker: Austin Hardin
Backup: Brad Phillips
Neither Hardin nor Phillips did anything during spring practice to stake a claim as the No. 1 kicker. Both struggled with accuracy, particularly from long distance. However, Hardin's strong leg and potential upside should allow him to earn the spot.
Starting Punter: Kyle Christy
Backup: Todd Fennell
A 2012 Lou Groza Award finalist, Kyle Christy is one of the best punters in college football. His strong leg and directional kicks were immense benefits for the Gators last season. Once his shoulder heals completely, he will be able to dominate once again.
Starting Kick Returner: Andre Debose
Backup: Loucheiz Purifoy
Despite making minute contributions as a receiver, Debose has been highly effective as a kick returner. His skills in this area were on full display when he returned a Louisville kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown in the Sugar Bowl. He should remain the best option at the position, especially now that Purifoy will be seeing more work on offense.
Starting Punt Returner: Marcus Roberson
Backup: Andre Debose
Debose has also been effective as a punt returner. However, Roberson showed explosiveness and made sound mental decisions in this role last year. Therefore, he deserves to start the season atop the depth chart.