Florida Football: How the Gators Can Overachieve in 2013
Earlier this week, I highlighted the potential problems that could cause the Florida Gators to underachieve this season.
While I still think some of the issues I mentioned are cause for concern, I do not believe they will all converge at once to create a worst-case scenario in Gainesville.
I have said this is a two-loss team, and I am sticking with my prediction.
However, it would not be fair for me to offer the pessimistic point of view without acknowledging what could happen to make the optimistic forecasters correct.
With that being said, here is a breakdown of what needs to happen in order for the Gators to overachieve and make another national title run.
Ignite the Passing Attack
Florida's offense epitomized one-dimensional football last season.
Mike Gillislee carried the ball. Over and over.
Meanwhile, Jeff Driskel struggled to make big plays through the air. He was not necessarily missing his receivers, but instead settling for short safety throws. His most explosive plays came on scrambles and screen passes.
Unfortunately, he had no consistent weapons on the outside to help him either.
As a result, the Gators boasted one of the worst passing attacks in the country.
Assuming Driskel improves his ability to make reads and learns to put more touch on his passes, this can change in 2013. Still, he needs at least one receiver to take charge and assume a number-one role. It will allow Brent Pease to open up the playbook more frequently and make the offense less predictable.
Perhaps more so than any other area, the air attack needs to improve for the Gators to contend.
Sustain the Ground Game
That being said, the Gator ground game still needs to be heavily utilized.
Based on his performance during spring practice, Matt Jones looks ready to slide right into the role of top back. He is a fast, yet extremely tough, runner that could be due for a breakout season as a sophomore.
The real wild cards, however, are Kelvin Taylor and Mack Brown. Brown has never really gotten a fair chance to showcase his skills, but he is a talented back. Should Jones or Taylor become injured, he will need to step up.
Taylor, meanwhile, is beginning his college career as one of the most hyped recruits in recent Florida history. His agility should serve as the perfect complement to Jones and his running style.
Obviously, it is important for the Gators to throw the ball with authority. However, their offensive foundation is a strong ground game. They need to keep defenders on their toes with an effective rushing unit.
Key Contributions from Freshmen
The Gators just compiled an awesome freshman class with big prospects on both sides of the ball.
Rather than wait for them to slowly develop, however, the team needs to receive immediate contributions from these collegiate rookies.
I just mentioned Kelvin Taylor, and Demarcus Robinson could be the solution to Florida's wide receiver conundrum. His work as an early enrollee was impressive, and he can provide a large target for Driskel in tough situations.
On defense, the squad will be depending on Vernon Hargreaves III and a strong group of linebackers. Hargreaves is projected to be the next star of the Gator secondary, while Daniel McMillian and Alex Anzalone will attempt to help fill the voids left by the departures of Jon Bostic and Jelani Jenkins.
These are not the only freshmen that may need to be called upon in 2013. In any case, however, these young athletes could help Florida reach the next level with strong play.
Win the Turnover Battle
The formula for the Gators was simple in 2012: Win the turnover battle and win the game.
They failed to protect the football against Louisville and Georgia in particular.
And, well, you see where I am going with this.
Cornerback Marcus Roberson is one person to keep an eye on. If he can develop better hands in the secondary, he can become a turnover machine. If he does this, and gets some help from Loucheiz Purifoy and others, the interceptions and victories will come.
Likewise, Florida needs to make a dent in the fumble department as well. This brings us to the final important area of note.
Improve the Pass Rush
What easier way is there to force a fumble than leveling the opposing quarterback?
Despite featuring big names like Sharrif Floyd, the Gators were surprisingly ineffective in terms of getting to the passer. Sure, they forced a lot of bad throws. However, they struggled to lay the huge hit that could completely rattle their opponent.
Dominique Easley, Ronald Powell and Jonathan Bullard are the perfect trio to lead this renaissance. Each has an explosiveness to his game that lends itself to pressuring and sacking quarterbacks. If they can click on all cylinders, they will be hard to stop.
The potential for a feared pass rush is clearly present. If the Gators can capitalize on it, they will be one step closer to the big prize.
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