Grading Each Florida Football Position on Offense and Defense
The best part of the Florida Gators' season?
Florida (4-8, 3-5 SEC) capped off a tumultuous year with its seventh consecutive loss—a program record—against No. 1 Florida State on Saturday in predictable fashion—losing by 30 points for the first time in 2013.
Not coincidentally, Florida fired offensive coordinator Brent Pease and offensive line coach Tim Davis on Sunday, after the program witnessed its first losing season since 1979 and became bowl ineligible for the first time in 23 years.
And as the team transitions into spring, we examine and grade every position on Florida's roster in 2013.
Let's take a look.
Frustrations rode high for the Gators all season long, particularly on the offensive side of the ball. And much of that blame can be attributed to the underachieving play at the quarterback position.
After Jeff Driskel went down versus Tennessee with a broken fibula, Florida saw a myriad of quarterbacks under center, including Tyler Murphy and most recently Skyler Mornhinweg.
The results, however, were minimal.
In seven starts, Murphy completed 60.5 percent of his passes for 1,216 yards and six touchdowns all the while coping with patchwork offensive line play and a diminished playbook.
But a shoulder injury sustained versus Vanderbilt shelved Murphy for the remainder of the season, and Florida's third-stringer, Mornhinweg, threw for fewer than 150 yards in three consecutive games.
Unsurprisingly, the Gators relied heavily on an injury-laden halfback stable with freshman Kelvin Taylor leading the way for the better part of the second half of the season following a Matt Jones' torn meniscus.
Florida finished No. 107 in passing yards per game (170.9) and No. 117 in passing yards per completion (10.31), all the while having thrown just 11 touchdowns.
The Gators' shortcomings in the passing game can be directly attributed to poor game-planning, a lack of offensive ingenuity and a scarcity of talent at key skilled positions—all issues that must be corrected during the offseason.
Arguably Florida's only bright spot offensively in 2013, the Gators' stable of halfbacks—Kelvin Taylor, Mack Brown and Matt Jones—carried the team's sluggish offense a majority of the way to a disappointing 4-8 season.
Even without a healthy Matt Jones for the much-maligned year, Florida continued to run the ball effectively between the tackles. The Gators averaged 145.8 yards per game, and the emergence of Taylor in the latter half of the year provided a spark to Florida's run-heavy offense.
Leading up to Saturday's season finale, the Gators struck offensive ingenuity with designed direct snaps, jet sweeps and unbalanced lines versus its final few opponents. Most notably, Florida rushed for 200 yards versus South Carolina's No. 6 rushing defense and had four runs of 20 yards or more.
Clearly, a hallmark of a Will Muschamp team is having a stout run game—an obvious asset the Gators had while struggling with a beleaguered offensive line.
Through 12 games, Florida's tight ends accounted for a meager six receptions, excluding a two-point conversion catch by Clay Burton.
We'll turn a blind eye.
In 2013, Florida's myriad of tight ends caught more grief than passes and for a majority of the season were confined to in-line blocking.
For the sake of comparison, former Gator Jordan Reed hauled in 45 receptions in 2012—39 more receptions than four active tight ends combined.
The presence of Solomon Patton in 2013 served as mascara to Florida's blemishes at the wide receiver position.
More often than not Patton was the target of Florida's few deep crossing patterns and countless bubble screens, serving as a movable weapon in Brent Pease's seemingly predictable offense: flanker, split end and slot.
Patton was on the receiving end of 44 catches for 556 yards and six scores. Comparably, counterparts Quinton Dunbar and Trey Burton each caught more than 38 receptions for 445 yards or more.
But the buck stopped there.
The suspension of 4-star freshman Demarcus Robinson for violating team rules on Nov. 23 concluded an already-rugged season for the Fort Valley, Ga., native, who failed to catch on during his early assimilation to Florida's offense.
Mix in inconsistent play from fellow freshman Ahmad Fulwood, and it's no secret Florida struggled mightily in the vertical passing game with a heavy reliance on mediocre upperclassmen.
Florida's embattled left tackle position took countless hits throughout the year.
D.J. Humphries suffered a sprained MCL and missed a chunk of time, forcing Florida's coaching staff to reconfigure its already patchy offensive line.
His injury forced the Gators to start new faces at both tackle positions—another blow to an underwhelming line with several health problems.
Transfer Max Garcia held down the left side of Florida's interior amidst an injury to D.J. Humphries.
And shortly after losing tackle Tyler Moore, Florida was yet again forced to reshuffle its struggling line. Guard Kyle Koehne made the transition inside in early November, with Garcia spending time at tackle for the remainder of the season. Needless to say, Florida's interior blocking suffered.
Florida finished 2013 ranked No. 86 running the ball (145.8) and failed to produce a 100-yard rusher in its final seven games.
Since arriving at Florida in 2009, Jonotthan Harrison has played under two different head coaches and three offensive coordinators.
And his durability in 2013 alone earns him a positive grade.
Harrison was the lone healthy figure along Florida's rapidly deteriorating offensive line. And his only snafu of 2013 came during Florida's contest versus Arkansas in which Harrison was ejected for apparently making contact with an official.
The fifth-year senior played exceptionally as a stout run blocker, despite being a part of a unit that surrendered 27 sacks.
Aside from a pectoral injury, right guard Jon Halapio helped anchor the right side of Florida's much-maligned offensive line.
The 6'3", 300-pound senior's trademark ruggedness paid dividends in both pass and run protection. WalterFootball.com ranks Halapio its ninth-best guard in the upcoming draft, and it's easy to see why.
Florida couldn't have imagined it would start a 6'8", 302-pound Trent Brown by the season's end. His technique, base and shuffle were far from perfected.
But the loss of tackle Tyler Moore to a fractured right elbow thrust the JUCO transfer into a permanent role in the starting lineup amidst the toughest part of Florida's schedule.
Not coincidentally, Florida struggled—as has been the case at right tackle for the better part of the second half of the season.
Sophomore defensive end Jonathan Bullard led the Gators in quarterback hurries in 2012 with eight. This season, however, Bullard led the program in versatility.
The 6'3", 270-pound lineman flashed at several positions, including defensive tackle, and had a sound 2013 campaign. Bullard registered four quarterback hurries—despite playing out of position for much of the season—2.5 tackles for loss and finished eighth on the team in tackles (33).
Bullard set the edge particularly well in 2013 and consistently got an outside shoulder free to aid Florida's pressure off the edge.
Dominique Easley was poised to have a career-year at defensive tackle in 2013. But an untimely season-ending knee injury derailed an impressive start to his senior campaign.
Florida lost an irreplaceable player, who played all along the line of scrimmage and impressed with front versatility, playing at multiple interior positions including 0-technique, 1-technique and 3-technique.
More importantly, Easley consistently drew and beat double-teams to free up gaps for linebackers. In three games, the New York native registered five tackles and four quarterback hurries.
In his place, Florida slid Bullard and senior Damien Jacobs inside to supplement the loss of its most disruptive player. Both Bullard and Jacobs transitioned somewhat smoothly and displayed some fast-twitch ability to give the defense good interior push.
The loss of Easley had a resounding effect on Florida's defensive line.
But the play of Leon Orr and several others at the nose, including Jacobs, played a just role in defending the run and providing interior pressure for the remainder of the season.
Orr totaled 21 tackles, 4.5 for loss and 2.5 sacks in an impressive 2013 campaign.
Damien Jacobs proved to be a versatile component in Florida's unveiling of its 3-4 defense in 2013, too. A 30-pound improvement from his playing weight last season aided in his transition to the nose position in situational downs.
The Gators finished 34th versus the run (142.4 yards allowed per game), but that's an incomplete story.
For the latter half of the year, Florida's defensive front—particularly the defensive line—was spotty versus the run. The Gators surrendered just 55.3 rushing yards per game through three weeks with Easley's presence and allowed 171.44 yards in the ensuing games following his season-ending injury.
At times, Muschamp's run defense appeared average.
Known for carrying on Easley's tradition of the "Chuckie" doll, Dante Fowler Jr. has been equally known for his stellar play at Florida's "Buck" linebacker position.
Fowler finished the year with 50 tackles, 10.5 for loss, 3.5 sacks and three forced fumbles. He picked up SEC Defensive Player of the Week honors following his performance versus Tennessee after recording two forced fumbles, three tackles for loss and a sack.
But Fowler's numbers don't paint an accurate picture.
With Ronald Powell's production tapering mid-season, and Easley gone after just three games, Fowler filled in nicely, generating pressure off the edge and proving to be a pass-rushing weapon in Muschamp's defense.
Despite missing some time due to a lingering ankle injury, "Sam" linebacker Ronald Powell pieced together a relatively solid season.
The 6'4", 244-pound linebacker led the Gators with four sacks and added seven tackles for loss to a 26-tackle season. And Powell's presence on the edge provided much-needed pressure. The junior registered a team-high eight quarterback hurries despite playing out of position due to the countless injuries to Florida's defensive front.
Antonio Morrison's off-field antics certainly didn't dissuade the "Mike" linebacker from piecing together a wildly productive season.
Before injury-plagued Florida lost its top tackler in early November, Morrison proved to be a force versus the run. The sophomore linebacker appeared in just eight games yet finished second on the team in tackles (56). Still, he struggled taking on unblocked lineman in run defense particularly with Florida's inability to truly fill the void left behind by Dominique Easley.
"Will" Linebacker Mike Taylor proved to be a dominant force for Florida's defense.
Despite missing the team's final game of the year, Taylor registered a team-high 62 tackles and three forced fumbles, all the while filling in at the "Mike" position for the injured Antonio Morrison. Despite playing sub-par in pass coverage, Taylor was exceptional defending the run and became a vocal leader in the wake of several key starters' absence.
The emergence of Vernon Hargreaves III overshadowed Florida's struggles on the perimeter in 2013.
Cornerback Marcus Roberson battled countless injuries and missed a total of five games, including a three-game stretch between Miami and Arkansas, and Florida's no-fly zone certainly took a hit with Roberson sidelined for much of the maligned season.
The true freshman finished with 38 tackles and recorded a team-high three interceptions. He flashed his ability to play press, man-to-man and trail technique all the while cementing himself as Florida's most-skilled corner.
Paired with arguably the conference's most athletic corner, Loucheiz Purifoy, Florida finished 10th in team passing efficiency defense and surrendered the second fewest touchdowns (9) in the country.
The losses of NFL forgoers Josh Evans and Matt Elam left a large void in the deep half of Florida's defense that left a lot to be desired heading into spring camp.
But stellar play from Cody Riggs, Jaylen Watkins and Jabari Gorman paid dividends.
Each finished with 48 or more tackles and together combined to break up 17 passes.
Caleb Sturgis' departure left Florida's cupboard bare in the kicking department in 2013.
Coach Will Muschamp benched two kickers before Florida faced Missouri in October, and the Gators' misery continued on in the ensuing weeks: Three kickers combined to go 12-of-22 and saw two field goals blocked.
It seemed as though Florida could've won a game or two had it not been for the lapse in the kicking game. For the sake of comparison, the Gators' opponents were 22-of-23.
Thought Florida's place-kicking game was in shambles?
Midway through the year, Muschamp yanked his 2012 Ray Guy Award finalist for a freshman. Freshman Johnny Townsend took over a struggling Kyle Christy, who finished the year averaging 39.6 yards per punt.
But the decision to make a change proved to be a wise choice. Townsend averaged 42.0 yards per punt and even registered an impressive 61-yard long. Flipping field position is a key component of winning football games, regardless if the Gators only won four.