Florida Football: Week 1 Fall Practice Stock Report
When the calendar flips to August, Florida Gators football fans join those from around the country in counting down to the start of the season.
Coming off an 11-win campaign, optimism is high in Gainesville, as Gator Nation is eager to measure its beloved team against the rest of the SEC.
While fall practice has only just begun, there have already been plenty of headlines in the Sunshine State.
Stock Up: Jeff Driskel
Gator fans can stop panicking about Jeff Driskel, at least in terms of his health. The junior quarterback returned to practice this week only nine days after undergoing an appendectomy.
Backup Tyler Murphy had been working with the first-team offense in his absence, which was less than ideal for the Gators. Murphy is no threat to start, and Driskel needs as much experience as he can get following an up-and-down 2012 season.
Florida is awfully lucky that this happened during the preseason. If Driskel misses any time at all during the season, the Gators are in big trouble.
As much as Driskel struggled throughout the Gators' surprising BCS run, he has the athleticism and physical tools to turn things around. His return means that he is still on track to become a breakout player in the SEC.
Driskel should be able to ease into the flow of practice and continue where he left off prior to the procedure.
Stock Down: Andre Debose
It was suggested in recent weeks that Andre Debose finally turned a corner and started to give full effort prior to his final season in Gainesville.
But that was before the wide receiver tore his left ACL last Tuesday, an injury that will sideline him for the season.
This was a crushing blow for the Gators' special teams. Debose has been one of the team's most explosive kick returners.
The same can't be said for his receiving ability. Based on his hype out of high school, Debose is one of the biggest busts in team history. A three-catch season in 2012 pretty much tells you all you need to know.
Debose could redshirt and return for a sixth season, but it will do the Gators no good in the coming months. Life will go on without him.
Stock Up: Antonio Morrison
After what you might call an "eventful" summer, linebacker Antonio Morrison is back on the football field. Despite originally being banned from the opening days of practice for a pair of arrests earlier this summer, Morrison made his return Thursday earlier than scheduled.
He's back, but the real question is for how long.
The Illinois native is scheduled to miss the first two games of the season. This won't be a problem against Toledo, but Week 2 at the University of Miami could be a different story. At this point, it might even force Will Muschamp to shorten the suspension.
But that's still speculation. Gator fans are probably just happy to see Morrison minding his business and avoiding more trouble.
The Gators need Morrison to make another run in the SEC East. He's at least starting to show that he is focused on making this goal a reality.
Stock Down: Matt Rolin
Meanwhile, another Gator linebacker will be joining Debose as a cheerleader on the Florida bench.
Freshman Matt Rolin tore his ACL this past week, ending what could have been a promising first season in Gainesville. Rolin had looked great prior to the injury and was listed as the team's No. 2 strong-side linebacker.
The Gators have plenty of young talent at linebacker, so Rolin is not a crippling loss. However, his absence puts more pressure on Daniel McMillian, Alex Anzalone and others to step up, especially if Morrison misses time.
Anytime you lose a player before the season starts, there's a certain amount of frustration involved. The loss of Rolin will be no different.
Stock Up: Freshman Receivers
Two other freshmen are quickly turning into downfield threats for the Gators' passing attack.
Muschamp told the Palm Beach Post that Demarcus Robinson and Ahmad Fulwood have been impressive during the start of fall camp.
They are just two of the five receivers in Florida's 2013 class.
Robinson has been making plays since the beginning of spring practice, but Fulwood's emergence is an added bonus. With only one experienced receiver on the roster (Quinton Dunbar), the Gators need as much help from their freshmen as they can get.
Debose's injury will allow the two of them to take more offensive snaps throughout the season. Based on their recent performance, this could turn out to be a blessing in disguise.
Stock Down: Brad Phillips
Finally, a kicker is starting to emerge as the better option for the Gators in 2013.
And as you may have guessed, it's not Brad Phillips.
According to Jason Lieser of the Palm Beach Post, Muschamp said that Austin Hardin has been "more consistent" and holds a small edge over Phillips.
These two are on opposite ends of the spectrum. Hardin is a highly recruited freshman looking to get an early edge, while Phillips is a walk-on who is running out of opportunities to make an impact.
It would make more sense for the Gators to move ahead with Hardin, unless he's clearly worse than Phillips. He could get through his growing pains during this season and set himself up for a great career in Gainesville.
It's still early in fall practice, so this battle has yet to be fully decided. However, Phillips will have to dig deep if he wants to eventually pull ahead of his young counterpart.