Florida Gators' Biggest Strengths and Weaknesses Headed into Fall Practice
Although the Gators had their fair share of weaknesses in 2012, they were able to ride their strengths to a breakthrough season.
Despite inconsistent play at quarterback, Florida was able to score points thanks to Mike Gillislee and the rest of the rushing attack.
Meanwhile, Jordan Reed stepped up at tight end to overcome the absence of a dependable wide receiver.
It was this ability to overcome obstacles that brought the Gators back to an elite level.
As fall practice approaches, it looks as though a similar effort will be needed for Will Muschamp's squad to replicate its success.
The 2012 Gator secondary proved to be one of the team's best units.
Josh Evans and Matt Elam parlayed successful campaigns into NFL draft selections, and Loucheiz Purifoy and Marcus Roberson emerged as premier talents.
This season, Florida's secondary will once again cause trouble for opponents.
Roberson and Purifoy will form one of the best cornerback duos in college football. Whereas Purifoy is the big-play energizer, Roberson is a ball hawk with superior coverage skills.
Although the Gators lost their two best safeties to the draft, they should be able to quickly reload. Jaylen Watkins leads a group of returning players that also includes Marcus Maye and Jabari Gorman. Maye is very athletic and someone to keep an eye on.
Furthermore, Marcell Harris and Keanu Neal are two freshmen who could quickly develop into meaningful players.
Opposing quarterbacks will have to keep all of this in mind when they face Florida.
The Gators' kicking game has quickly become a question mark.
Caleb Sturgis has been the cornerstone of Florida's special teams in recent years. His strong leg and uncanny accuracy helped him break the school record for career field goals.
Thus, his departure is not a welcome sight for Gator fans.
Whether Brad Phillips or newcomer Austin Hardin assumes the No. 1 role, expect a step back in terms of production.
It's also not a stretch to say that you can expect an extra loss during the season. Chances are the Gators will fall short in a close game, as a missed field goal may come back to haunt them.
In any case, the kicker position is not as much of a sure thing as it once was.
Strength: Freshman Class
Thanks to a successful 2012 season, Florida was able to assemble one of the best freshman classes in the country. On both sides of the ball, there are a few newcomers who are already among the most talented at their respective positions.
On offense, the story has been Demarcus Robinson and Kelvin Taylor. Gator fans are hoping that Robinson can begin the rebuild at wide receiver with a bang. Likewise, Taylor's combination of toughness and agility should make Florida's backfield formidable.
However, the Gators' defensive haul is even more noteworthy. Alex Anzalone, Daniel McMillian and Matt Rolin will make the linebacking corps a feared unit for years to come. Caleb Brantley is a talented lineman who could turn into a sack monster. Finally, cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III is widely regarded as one of the best freshmen in the country.
No matter where you look, you can find an impact freshman on the Gator roster. It appears as though the team is set for the immediate future.
Weakness: Tight End
The departure of Jordan Reed has downgraded the Gators at tight end.
Reed led the Gators in receiving yards last season, which reflects the lack of weapons that offensive coordinator Brent Pease had at his disposal.
However, it is safe to say there is no chance of the same occurrence in 2013.
Although the Gators have a number of tight ends, none are complete players. Clay Burton's blocking ability gives him the edge, but he won't be the safety valve that Jeff Driskel relied on last season.
Whether Burton, Kent Taylor, Colin Thompson or Tevin Westbrook is on the field, tight end will not be a strength for the Gators.
Strength: Will Muschamp
All the talent in the world is meaningless without the right head coach calling the shots. But with Will Muschamp at the helm, the Gators don't have that problem.
For a team that, on some occasions, seemed soft prior to his arrival, Muschamp has done a great job changing the culture in Gainesville. Sure, he is often the butt of jokes for his often comical reactions on the sidelines.
However, Florida needs an emotional spark like the one he can provide.
Muschamp also is one of the most intelligent coaches you will find. He knows where to put the right pieces at the right time.
Even though the upset loss to Louisville in the Sugar Bowl was a disaster, Muschamp was the direct cause of a number of Florida's victories last season. He is one of the bright young coaches in college football and is the right man for the Gators.
Weakness: Offensive Depth
Although the Gators will have a number of skilled offensive players in 2013, they lack depth at the skill positions.
The first trouble spot is quarterback.
If Jeff Driskel can't play for any reason, Florida will be in trouble. Tyler Murphy and Skyler Mornhinweg have no significant college experience. Furthermore, their athleticism does not compare to that of Driskel. An important element of the Gator offense would be lost if either quarterback were to call the shots.
As mentioned earlier, tight end is also a mess.
Clay Burton is a good blocker, but he lacks offensive explosiveness. Kent Taylor and Colin Thompson are raw talents, but they are no immediate threat to produce touchdowns. Likewise, Tevin Westbrook has no significant role.
Finally, the wide receiver position is still a work in progress. Quinton Dunbar and Demarcus Robinson will be a pretty good one-two punch, but that's where the certainty ends. The Gators need at least one more receiver to step up and be a contributor.
Aside from a solid backfield, Florida has little depth at other key offensive positions. However, that could change by the beginning of the season.