Florida Football: 2013 Team Program

Tyler PiccottiContributor IIIAugust 18, 2013

Florida Football: 2013 Team Program

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    On August 31, Gainesville will once again be enamored with the sights and sounds of Gator football. Following a breakthrough 2012 season, Gator Nation has reason to be optimistic that head coach Will Muschamp can lead Florida back into the national title conversation.

    Led by junior quarterback Jeff Driskel and do-it-all cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy, Florida hopes to raise the crystal football for the fourth time in program history.

    But with plenty of storylines, big plays and rivalry games in store, the Gators will deliver plenty of excitement, no matter the outcome.

Video Preview

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    As the differing opinions in the video suggest, Florida will be one of the most unpredictable teams in college football.

    The Gator roster is full of talent, but a tough schedule and key personnel losses will pose big challenges.

Recapping 2012

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    Although it had a sour ending, the Gators' 2012 season was one to remember.

    Following two mediocre campaigns that produced a combined 13 regular-season wins, Florida entered last season near the bottom of the AP Top 25

    But the Gators were able to string together seven straight victories and vault themselves into BCS contention. Included in that streak were come-from-behind wins against Texas A&M, Tennessee and LSU.

    Their unexpected run set up a colossal showdown against Georgia in October. With control of the SEC East on the line, the Gators played their worst game of the season. Quarterback Jeff Driskel could not get into a rhythm, and Florida committed six turnovers in a 17-9 loss that ultimately derailed its national title hopes.

    However, the Gators rebounded and went undefeated the rest of the way to earn an at-large BCS berth. Led by former Gators coach Charlie Strong, the Louisville Cardinals put an end to the magic with a convincing 33-23, Sugar Bowl victory, leaving Florida with a final record of 11-2.

    The Gators' defense was key to their rebound season. Led by soon-to-be NFL draft selections Sharrif Floyd, Matt Elam and Jon Bostic, this unit ranked fifth in the nation in points allowed.

    The offense was a different story. Although running back Mike Gillislee had a terrific season, Florida failed to score points because of an ineffective passing attack. Driskel threw for only 1,646 yards, and the team's leading receiver was tight end Jordan Reed.

    Reed, Gillislee, kicker Caleb Sturgis and safety Josh Evans were also selected in the 2013 NFL draft.

2013 Depth Chart

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    (Returning starters are in bold.)

    Quarterback

    1. JR Jeff Driskel 6-4, 237

    2. R-JR Tyler Murphy 6-2, 208

    Running Back

    1. SO Matt Jones 6'2", 228

    2. R-JR Mack Brown 5'11", 215

    Fullback

    1. JR Hunter Joyer 5'11", 233

    2. R-JR Gideon Ajagbe 6'2", 243

    X Wide Receiver

    1. R-JR Quinton Dunbar 6'2" 194

    2. FR Demarcus Robinson 6'2", 204

    Z Wide Receiver

    1. SO Latroy Pittman 6'0", 207

    2. SR Solomon Patton 5'9", 168

    F Wide Receiver

    1. SR Trey Burton 6'2", 224

    2. SO Latroy Pittman 6'0", 207

    Tight End

    1. JR Clay Burton 6'4", 247

    2. JR Tevin Westbrook 6'5", 258

    3. R-FR Colin Thompson 6'4", 250

    4. SO Kent Taylor 6'5", 223

    Left Tackle

    1. SO D.J. Humphries 6'5", 285

    2. JR Trenton Brown 6'8", 363

    Left Guard

    1. R-JR Max Garcia 6'4", 307

    2. R-JR Ian Silberman 6'5", 290

    Center

    1. R-SR Jonotthan Harrison 6'3", 303

    2. R-SR Kyle Koehne 6'5", 314

    Right Guard

    1. R-SR Jon Halapio 6'3", 317

    2. R-SO Trip Thurman 6'5", 313

    Right Tackle

    1. R-SO Tyler Moore 6'5", 315

    2. R-JR Chaz Green 6'5", 305

    Defensive End

    1. SO Jonathan Bullard 6'3", 270

    2. R-FR Bryan Cox, Jr. 6'3", 260

    Nose

    1. SR Damien Jacobs 6'3", 290

    2. R-JR Leon Orr 6'5", 310

    Tackle

    1. SR Dominique Easley 6'2", 285

    2. JR Darious Cummings 6'1", 309

    Buck

    1. SO Dante Fowler, Jr. 6'3", 265

    2. R-JR Ronald Powell 6'4", 240*

    Sam

    1. R-JR Ronald Powell 6'4", 240

    2. R-JR Neiron Ball 6'3", 235

    Mike

    1. SO Antonio Morrison 6'1", 230

    2. R-JR Michael Taylor 6'0", 230

    Will

    1. SR Darrin Kitchens 6'2", 230

    2. R-JR Michael Taylor 6'0", 230

    Cornerback A

    1. JR Loucheiz Purifoy 6'0", 190

    2. R-JR Cody Riggs 5'9", 184

    Cornerback B

    1. JR Marcus Roberson 6'0", 195

    2. SO Brian Poole 5'10", 203

    Safety A

    1. R-FR Marcus Maye 6'0", 200

    2. JR Jabari Gorman 5'10", 186

    Safety B

    1. SR Jaylen Watkins 6'0", 181

    2. R-SO Valdez Showers 6'0", 190

    Nickel

    1. R-JR Cody Riggs 5'9", 184

    2. SO Brian Poole 5'10", 203

    Dime

    1. R-FR Marcus Maye 6'0", 200

    2. R-SO Valdez Showers 6'0", 190

    Kicker

    1. SR Brad Phillips 5'10", 194

    2. R-FR Austin Hardin 5'10", 200

    Punter

    1. JR Kyle Christy 6'3", 196

    2. R-FR Justin Vogel 6'4", 210

    Kick Returner

    1. JR Loucheiz Purifoy 6'0", 190

    2. SR Solomon Patton 5'9", 168

    Punt Returner

    1. JR Marcus Roberson 6'0", 195

    2. SR Trey Burton 6'2", 224

    Holder

    1. R-JR Tyler Murphy 6'2", 208

    2. SR Trey Burton 6'2", 224

    Long Snapper

    1. R-JR Drew Ferris 6'0", 211

    2. R-SO Kyle Crofoot 6'4", 205

Notable Injuries

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    The Gators have been hit hard by the injury bug. A few key contributors have been sidelined.

    R-SR Andre Debose, WR/KR: Torn ACL (Out for the season)

    FR Matt Rolin, LB: Torn ACL (Out for the season)

    SO Matt Jones, RB: Viral infection (Out indefinitely)

    R-SR Jon Halapio, RG: Torn pectoral (May miss start of season)

    SR Jaylen Watkins, SAF: Sprained foot (Should return for start of season)

    JR Jeff Driskel, QB: Appendectomy (Returned to practice)

     

Players to Watch

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    Jeff Driskel

    No other player is more important to the Gators' success than quarterback Jeff Driskel.

    His size and running ability make him one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in the SEC. However, he has struggled to make reads and stay poised in the pocket.

    But with more weapons on the outside and a full offseason to make improvements, the Florida native is ready to finally break out and become a star player.

    Matt Jones

    As productive a season as Mike Gillislee had in 2012, sophomore Matt Jones has the talent to do even better.

    Jones is a bruising runner with deceptive speed. He can fight for tough yards at the line of scrimmage and break away from defenders once in the open field.

    The Gators' offense is reliant on the ground game, and it should run smoothly with Jones in the backfield.

    Loucheiz Purifoy

    By far the most exciting player on the roster, cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy will likely play on both sides of the ball this season.

    Purifoy uses his blazing speed to get to the football and take it away from opponents. However, his skills will be put to the test when he lines up on offense as a receiver.

    Because he can contribute in so many ways, Purifoy is definitely someone who will grab your attention.

    Ronald Powell

    After missing all of 2012 with a torn ACL, inside linebacker Ronald Powell will return to harass opposing quarterbacks this season.

    One of the most gifted players on the Gators' defense, Powell became a star after his sophomore season in 2011. His six sacks and nine tackles behind the line were both among the best on the team.

    Although he didn't have a chance to improve upon those numbers a year ago, Powell will show why he is one of the most dynamic players in the SEC this season.

Coaches

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    The Gators are led by third-year head coach Will Muschamp. Affectionately known as "Coach Boom," Muschamp is one of the best defensive minds in football. His philosophy of tough defense and winning every individual battle on the field was key to the Gators' success in 2012.

    Returning as offensive coordinator is Brent Pease, who has taken some criticism for his conservative play-calling. However, an improved Jeff Driskel and the addition of freshman receivers Demarcus Robinson and Ahmad Fulwood will allow him to open up the playbook.

    The biggest change on the coaching staff is at defensive coordinator. After three seasons as Florida's linebackers coach, D.J. Durkin replaces Dan Quinn. Durkin has more than a decade of coaching experience, and he will have plenty of talent to work with this season.

    The other notable addition is former Kentucky head coach Joker Phillips, who will serve as the wide receivers coach.

2013 Schedule

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    (All home games are in bold.)

    August 31: Toledo

    September 7: at Miami (Fla.)

    September 21: Tennessee

    September 28: at Kentucky

    October 5: Arkansas

    October 12: at LSU

    October 19: at Missouri

    November 2: Georgia*

    November 9: Vanderbilt

    November 16: at South Carolina

    November 23: Georgia Southern

    November 30: Florida State

    *Game played in Jacksonville, Fla.

Most Important Games

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    September 7: Miami

    It might be a non-conference game, but the Gators' early showdown with the Hurricanes is one of the biggest on the schedule.

    Miami will be an early test for the Gators' defense. With stud quarterback Stephen Morris and talented running back Duke Johnson, Miami has the capability to put plenty of points on the scoreboard.

    This game may come down to how many points the Gators can muster on offense. If the answer is "not enough," Florida's national title hopes will be dashed after only the second game of the season.

    November 2: Georgia

    It's the game that ruined the Gators' chances at title No. 4 last season.

    These two squads have always been heated rivals, but that has especially been the case in recent years. Ever since Georgia's infamous team touchdown dance of 2007, the clashes between the Gators and Bulldogs have been some of the roughest in football.

    More importantly, this is a key divisional game. Whoever wins this contest could control its destiny and be the immediate front-runner to reach the SEC Championship Game.

    November 16: South Carolina

    Yet another rivalry game, and yet another key SEC East clash.

    The Gators embarrassed the Gamecocks last season at home. You can bet Steve Spurrier remembers that loss and wants revenge against his former team.

    This contest will also have SEC championship implications. If the Gators can go into Columbia and emerge with a victory, they will likely be in control of the division.

What to Look for on Offense

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    Vast improvement.

    Well, at least that's the hope.

    Florida's offense was dismal at times last season, but that shouldn't be the case in 2013.

    Once Matt Jones returns from his viral infection, the Gators will have enough weapons to achieve moderate success.  He leads a backfield that will also have talented freshman Kelvin Taylor. Eventually, this will be one of the best tandems in the country.

    In addition, Quinton Dunbar has shown during camp that he can be a dependable No. 1 target. If another receiver can step up to replace the absence of Jordan Reed, Driskel will have plenty of options.

    Most importantly, Driskel should be more decisive under center. He now fully understands the system, and he has had plenty of time to build a rapport with his teammates.

    If Driskel can prove that he is mentally sound and comfortable in the pocket, the Gators' offense will take off.

What to Look for on Defense

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    Florida's defense will again be solid from top to bottom.

    The secondary is loaded with playmakers. Marcus Roberson is one of the best cover corners in the conference, and Loucheiz Purifoy is a big play waiting to happen. One player to also keep an eye on is freshman Vernon Hargreaves III, who was the centerpiece of the Gators' 2013 class.

    The defensive line will also be a feared unit. Dante Fowler, Jonathan Bullard and the versatile Dominique Easley form a terrific trio of athletic defenders. Ronald Powell's return from a devastating injury will add yet another force to be reckoned with up front.

    Antonio Morrison may be forced to miss the first two games of the season after being suspended for his arrests during the offseason. But when on the field, Morrison is an explosive player who can anchor the linebacking corps.

    The Gators won so many games last season because their defense came up with key turnovers at critical points. If they can do this again in 2013, they will be within striking distance of the lead every single week.

X-Factors for 2013

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    Freshmen

    The Gators have youngsters who can immediately make an impact on both sides of the ball.

    Demarcus Robinson and Ahmad Fulwood should give the Gators an added downfield threat, and Kelvin Taylor will be a perfect backfield complement for Matt Jones and Mack Brown.

    On defense, Daniel McMillian and Alex Anzalone will provide added depth at linebacker. In addition, Vernon Hargreaves III will be a valued contributor as a nickel or dime corner.

    Offensive Line

    Florida's offensive line needs to be steady throughout the season.

    Because the offense relies on the running game, the blocking ability up front will go a long way toward determining the ability of Jones to gain yardage.

    Plus, the line needs to give Driskel plenty of protection and time to find a receiver.

    If the line does its job, the Gators will score points. It's as simple as that.

    Kicker

    No matter whether Austin Hardin or Brad Phillips is chosen to kick field goals, the position will be pivotal for the Gators.

    Neither has much experience in game situations. However, one of them needs to play like a seasoned veteran. Florida can't afford to give away points on missed field goals.

Top Storylines to Watch

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    Replacing Key Players

    The Gators will be without a number of important athletes from last season's breakout team.

    Jon Bostic, Matt Elam, Sharrif Floyd and Josh Evans have departed from the defense, while Mike Gillislee and Jordan Reed are no longer on the offense. Likewise, the Gators also lost dependable kicker Caleb Sturgis.

    If the right people can step up and perform, their absences will not be a problem. But if the opposite occurs, Florida could be in big trouble.

    Offensive Improvement

    A big unknown remains whether the Gators can ignite their passing attack.

    It's no secret that they have dealt with a shortage of playmakers in recent years, and the inexperience of Driskel only made the problem worse.

    Because it will be extremely tough for the defense to replicate its dominance, the offense will have to score points. It's the only way the Gators will win key games.

    Bouncing Back

    The Sugar Bowl loss to Louisville was an absolute disaster, and it left a sour taste in the mouths of Gator Nation.

    How do the Gators respond? Do they come out with a purpose in the opening weeks, or do they struggle and start to think back to that game?

    The Gators have plenty of big games to worry about. Their mindset needs to be in the right place by midseason, and the best way to ensure that is to win their first few games and build confidence.

Season Predictions

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    Record: 10-2 (6-2 SEC)

    Bowl: Outback Bowl

    It's difficult to reach a BCS bowl. It's even more difficult to reach two in a row.

    The Gators will find that out the hard way.

    Make no mistake: Florida is one of the most talented teams in the country. Muschamp will have a phenomenal defense at his disposal, particularly the secondary and line. Assuming Antonio Morrison stays out of trouble, the linebacking corps will be fairly stout as well.

    But offense and special teams will be the problem.

    The offense will improve. It pretty much hit rock bottom in 2012, and there's only one way to go from there. However, the Gators are still lacking the necessary weapons to make a legitimate run.

    They also lack a dependable kicker who can close out tight games.

    Still, the team is more than capable of a double-digit victory total. Unfortunately, a brutal SEC road schedule will keep the maximum at 10 wins. Thus, the Gators will be kept out of the BCS picture.