Florida Football: 5 Strongest Position Units on the Gators' Roster in 2013
One of the reasons why the Florida Gators found so much success last season was the play of their superb secondary. Matt Elam, Josh Evans, Loucheiz Purifoy and others combined to form one of the best defensive units in the SEC.
Fast forward to 2013 and it looks as though the Gators will once again possess a superior downfield security force.
At this point, there are other positions that Gator fans do not need to fret over. Despite key departures on both sides of the ball, Florida's excellent recruiting class and returning contributors should allow the team to be a threat in every ballgame and in the national picture.
Here are the five best position units that the Gators will field on opening day.
Matt Elam and Josh Evans made the safety position one of the most dependable for the Gators last season. This could change slightly as a result of their departures, but for the most part, safety will be a strength for Florida's defense.
Because the Gators will have so much depth at corner, Jaylen Watkins has been moved over to safety for the time being. Assuming he stays there, he is a terrific playmaker that will be a big takeaway threat.
Also returning are Jabari Gorman, Valdez Showers and Marcus Maye, who is versatile enough to play either safety or corner.
In addition, highly touted freshmen Keanu Neal and Marcell Harris have the potential to make a huge impact as early as their first year on campus.
Put all of this depth together, and it is easy to see that Florida can depend on this unit to make plays throughout the fall.
Florida's linebacker unit is another group that lost a couple of key performers. Although Jon Bostic and Jelani Jenkins are no longer present, there is still reason for much optimism.
Much of that optimism surrounds Antonio Morrison. Although he is best-remembered for his tremendous hit on EJ Manuel in Tallahassee, Morrison is a high-motor player that could turn into a star once he develops his game.
Ronald Powell is set to return after tearing his ACL last spring. If he has fully recovered, he will be a force at the Sam linebacker position. Darrin Kitchens and Michael Taylor could also step up and be major factors.
Also seeing the field will be a talented group of freshmen. Daniel McMillian was impressive during spring practice, and Alex Anzalone was also solid before he tore his labrum. Once Matt Rolin recovers from his injury, he will certainly be in the mix as well.
Gator fans should expect big things from Morrison this season. He will front what should be a solid unit of linebackers.
3. Running Back
The Gator offense was anchored by an effective rushing attack last season. Although Mike Gillislee is no longer available to front this unit, it will once again be a strong suit for Will Muschamp and his staff.
Matt Jones will return after he broke out at the end of last season with scores against both Florida State and Louisville. His style is similar to that of Gillislee, and he will eventually constitute one-half of a potent one-two punch in the Gator backfield.
The other half will be made up of Kelvin Taylor, another prized member of Florida's strong 2013 class. The son of former NFL star Fred Taylor, Kelvin has a unique combination of elusiveness and strength. Once he can mentally grasp the entire offense, he should blossom into a star.
With these two and Wildcat specialist Trey Burton on the roster, Florida should not skip a beat when it comes to the running game.
2. Defensive Line
At the moment, the Gators look to have one of their best pass rushes and defensive lines as a whole in recent memory.
This unit will be led by Dominique Easley. After recording four sacks in 2012, Easley looks primed to raise that total by a significant margin.
He is not the only one poised for a breakout campaign. Jonathan Bullard showed immense promise as a freshman, and he could be a force at defensive end. Likewise, Dante Fowler will be hard to stop at the hybrid Buck linebacker position.
Damien Jacobs, Leon Orr and others will round out the talent pool. However, the presence of the three previously mentioned should be what really sets this unit apart from previous versions.
The amount of depth that the Gators will have at cornerback almost seems unfair.
Marcus Roberson and Loucheiz Purifoy would easily be starters on basically every single roster in the country. They will be an excellent tandem to anchor the Gator secondary. Purifoy's possible role on offense could also turn out to be an added benefit for the team as a whole.
Of course, they both may have to hold off incoming freshman Vernon Hargreaves III. The Under Armour All-American may not immediately have a starting role, but that could change by the midpoint of the season.
Meanwhile, Cody Riggs, Brian Poole and the versatile Marcus Maye will be behind these three and ready to jump in as nickel and dime corners.
All told, the Gators should have no worries at the position. There is both talent and depth, and that is not a good combination for Florida's opponents.