Florida Football: Meet the Gators' New Starters for 2013
Although college football is one of the most unpredictable of sports, fans can always count on one thing at the dawn of a new season.
There are always plenty of roster changes for their favorite team.
The Florida Gators are no exception to this rule in 2013. With Sharrif Floyd, Mike Gillislee and other key contributors now graduated or in the NFL, many new faces will be asked to carry the load at their respective positions.
Position: Running back
Player replacing: Mike Gillislee
Matt Jones is from the same mold as Gillislee. In addition to having breakaway speed in the open field, he is able to get low and pound through the line of scrimmage to pick up tough yards.
Under normal circumstances, Jones is a definite candidate to join the 1,000-yard club.
Unfortunately, a viral infection will keep him off the field during the Gators' opener against Toledo and possibly their clash with Miami. But once Jones returns to full strength, he will be a breakout SEC player.
Position: Wide receiver
Player replacing: Frankie Hammond Jr.
Ultimately, this spot will likely go to freshman Demarcus Robinson. However, Latroy Pittman is currently the best receiving option the Gators have other than Quinton Dunbar.
His only two receptions game in the first game of the 2012 season, so don't expect him to be a huge contributor. He should be nothing more than a stopgap measure until Robinson and the other young receivers emerge.
Position: Left tackle
Player replacing: Xavier Nixon
Not surprisingly, it only took one season for D.J. Humphries to earn a starting role on the Gators' offensive line.
The sophomore will replace Nixon, who was one of the mainstays of the Florida offense over the last few seasons. Although Nixon is a tough act to follow, Humphries' big frame and athleticism give him more upside than the former three-year starter.
Together with the other new faces up front, Humphries can help turn the line into a formidable unit.
Position: Left Guard
Player Replacing: James Wilson
Max Garcia is the first transfer who will be asked to solidify Florida's offensive line in 2013. His large frame and good burst off the snap make him a valuable addition.
The Gators are hoping that Garcia can protect Jeff Driskel and bolster an already strong ground attack. Although he may have some rust in the opening weeks, he can certainly be this type of impact player.
Position: Right tackle
Player replacing: Chaz Green
Tyler Moore is in one of the more unique positions of any Gators offensive lineman.
Although the Nebraska transfer is primarily a tackle, he can play all positions on the line. During fall camp, however, he has been working at guard in place of Jon Halapio. The likely plan will put Moore at guard to start the season, then he will move back to tackle.
Because Chaz Green is also a reliable option, Moore could potentially platoon at tackle. Either way, he will start during the season. His size and blocking ability make him a valuable addition.
Position: Defensive end
Player replacing: Dominique Easley
Easley's move inside to defensive tackle will allow Jonathan Bullard to inherit a starting role at end.
As a relatively inexperienced, yet extremely talented player, Bullard is typical of the core of Florida's defense. But he can also immediately step in and become dominant on the line.
The SEC coaches voted him onto their All-Freshman team, so they clearly believe that Bullard is among the best young linemen in the conference. Fans will be saying the same thing in the coming weeks.
Dante Fowler Jr.
Position: "Buck" linebacker
Player replacing: Lerentee McCray
Dante Fowler is one of the young pieces who will anchor the Gators' defense during this season and beyond.
In a backup role, the sophomore was able to have a productive first season. He recorded 30 tackles , including eight behind the line of scrimmage.
More importantly, he showed that he can apply pressure and get to the quarterback. That's why he should end the season with at least five sacks and a more prominent profile among the nation's best linebackers.
Position: "Sam" linebacker
Player replacing: Darrin Kitchens and Neiron Ball
After he missed all of 2012 due to injury, it's easy to forget how dominant Ronald Powell began to look during the 2011 season. His return to the lineup is huge.
Powell gives the Gators' pass rush an instant upgrade. Athletically, he is freakish. He also has good field vision and shows good pursuit of the ball-carrier.
Assuming all is well with his left knee and he is fully healthy, Powell will finally merit his billing as the Rivals.com top overall prospect in 2010.
Position: "Will" linebacker
Player replacing: Jelani Jenkins
Essentially a career role player, Neiron Ball will finally get his chance to be a starter by taking over Jelani Jenkins' spot at linebacker.
Ball is always around the football. In his limited role last season, he had his first career interception and recovered two fumbles. That type of contribution is extremely important for a team that relies so heavily on winning the turnover battle.
If Ball can further improve his skills in coverage, he will turn out to be a complete player for the Gators.
Position: "Mike" linebacker
Player replacing: Jon Bostic
Like Matt Jones, Antonio Morrison will also miss time at the beginning of the season. In his case, it's because of two arrests during the offseason.
When on the field, Morrison is the Gators' most promising linebacker. He has a high motor and can deliver punishing hits on opponents.
EJ Manuel can attest to that last point.
Simply put, the Gators are a better team with Morrison. His presence will be missed early on.
Vernon Hargreaves III
Position: Nickel cornerback
Player replacing: Matt Elam
Few Gator freshmen have arrived in Gainesville with as much hype as Vernon Hargreaves. However, his immediate assignment as a nickel corner is temporary proof that the hype is legitimate.
His coverage skills are superb, and he could quickly develop into a turnover machine for the Gators' secondary.
He'll have freshman growing pains in 2013, but Hargreaves is about as close to a sure thing as you will find. He'll make plays and have a big impact.
Player replacing: Matt Elam
After playing primarily at cornerback Cody Riggs will mark his return from a broken foot as a safety.
He's not the biggest player on the field by any means, but Riggs is tenacious. He forced his first collegiate fumble and was on pace to shatter his previous season high for tackles before his injury last season.
Riggs is overshadowed by others in the Gators' secondary, but he is a solid player who can hold his own in the SEC.
Player replacing: Josh Evans
No game experience in 2012? No problem for Marcus Maye, who will be slotted as the No. 2 safety.
That he even earned this spot is extremely impressive. Based on his high school accolades, it should come as no surprise. However, he had to work hard to beat out Jaylen Watkins and others.
Obviously, he won't immediately play at the same level as Josh Evans did one year ago. With time, however, Maye will prove himself worthy of the position.
Player replacing: Caleb Sturgis
Austin Hardin has some of the biggest shoes to fill of any Gators starter. He has the task of replacing the most successful kicker in school history.
Although he should have a great career, this season will be a huge learning curve for the redshirt freshman. He has never faced any amount of pressure close to that of kicking in a hostile SEC stadium. How he handles that will be key for the team's success.
The potential is there, but Hardin's inexperience could keep it hidden for at least another season.