Spring practice will be here before you know it for the Florida Gators and they’ll need every bit of those sessions to improve on last year’s disappointments. With new coaches in place and a roster full of unanswered questions, there aren’t many players who are guaranteed a starting job.
This could be a good thing from a competition standpoint. Everybody will truly be fighting for playing time and guys you may have been overlooking could possibly crack the two-deep depth chart heading into the fall.
Everybody will be watched closely and certain players have more to gain than others. This includes a troubling wide receiver and a star backup quarterback.
It’s time for them to show what they're made of.
Jarrad Davis wasn't a heavily recruited player coming out of high school and needed a little bit of luck last season just to see the field. However, thanks to injuries, Davis saw more playing time than expected and finished the year with 24 tackles, two tackles for loss, one pass broken up and a forced fumble.
It looks like more injuries at linebacker will give him a chance to further impress the coaching staff. Alex Anzalone, Jeremi Powell and Matt Rolin will miss spring practice as they continue to nurse injuries they suffered last season.
Davis is an athletic linebacker who has terrific instincts. His quickness and ability to react to the ball allow him to make plays in the backfield and he’s a sound tackler.
I’d like to see him improve in pass coverage a little bit, but overall, he’s a young defensive playmaker who could have an even bigger role on the defense this season.
According to Phillip Heilman of the Palm Beach Post, defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin was impressed with Davis' play last year. “We’re very pleased with where he’s at obviously,” he said. “That’s a guy that is someone we build around here.”
He’ll certainly have a chance to build on what he showed during his freshman year.
There are more question marks surrounding Demarcus Robinson than a Riddler costume. He came to Florida last season as one of the most raved-about recruits, but ended up getting suspended twice and missing a good chunk of the second half of the season.
He finished the year with five catches and 23 yards.
Now is when the questions come into play. Is he ever going to get out of the doghouse? Will he be able to keep his head on straight and contribute this season? Will he even be given that chance?
Demarcus is a great kid. Demarcus needs to grow up. He knows that. He needs to mature. He needs to grow up and start understanding the decision you make off the field affect you on the field. He needs to grow up. He has a lot of ability. He is very talented. He has great ball skills, has great awareness and feel and instincts for the game. But just because you have a lot of stars by your name doesn't mean you're ready to play at the University of Florida or whatever school there is in the country.
That doesn't answer all of our questions, but it does leave hope that the coaching staff hasn’t given up on him just yet. Assuming he participates in spring ball, there are wide receiver spots there for the taking.
Robinson has great size at 6’2”, runs terrific routes and is as sure-handed as they come. He could legitimately become the go-to receiver within the offense.
He just has to prove he’s grown up and is ready to be part of the team.
You may be familiar with Jay-Nard Bostwick, as he’s the young man who was so passionately defended last year by head coach Will Muschamp after the media falsely reported that he had been suspended.
However, the redshirt freshman will soon be making a name for himself for other reasons.
About a minute of film watching was enough for me. Bostwick has the massive frame at 6’3”, 300-plus pounds, but he carries his weight extremely well. He flies off the ball and moves more like a defensive end than a defensive tackle.
His rare combination of size and quickness will allow him to play in multiple spots along the defensive line. He explodes through the ball-carrier and has a relentless motor.
Guys who tip the scales at 300 pounds have no business chasing down a running back at the other end of the field.
Florida’s defensive line depth is still up in the air with the losses of Damien Jacobs and Dominique Easley. Guys need to step up and fill in those voids.
It really wouldn't surprise me if Bostwick becomes a starter along the defensive front sooner rather than later.
If Florida’s offense is going to reach its full potential, it will need running back depth behind starter Kelvin Taylor. That could come from Matt Jones, but he’s going to miss spring practice due to an injury.
That keeps the door open for a player like Valdez Showers. He switched from cornerback to running back last season and showed flashes of greatness. He carried the ball 12 times for 103 yards and caught 18 passes for 102 yards and a touchdown.
He’s a versatile player who can line up all over the field and has game-changing speed that this offense so desperately lacked last season. Showers not only has the size to carry the ball 100-plus times from out of the backfield, but he’s a legit threat to impact the passing game.
He could be that Percy Harvin-type player who adds the explosiveness to the offense.
Florida ranked dead last in the SEC with only 37 plays of 20 or more yards last season and needs a home run threat to help improve in that area. Showers has a chance to impress new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper and earn a more permanent role within the offense.
Whether you agree with it or not, there's about a 99 percent chance that Jeff Driskel is going to be the starting quarterback this season.
So, you’re telling me there’s a chance Will Grier could take the job?
Well, maybe. After all, very few saw Blake Bell losing the starting job to Trevor Knight last season at Oklahoma.
Anything is possible.
The true freshman has all of the tools to make Florida fans grin from ear to ear. There’s little doubt he’s the future of the program, but with the struggles at the position last year, patience is running thin.
Driskel will finally have an offense catered to him in Kurt Roper’s system, but if his decision-making doesn't drastically improve, it’ll become anyone’s game heading into fall camp.
Grier could still use a year in the gym to bulk up his upper body and learn the playbook, but with the way freshman quarterbacks have taken over the sport in the last couple of years, it isn’t too far-fetched to believe he could put pressure on the more experienced Driskel.
Grier enrolled early for a reason and is a student of the game given that his father is a football coach. He’ll be one of the more watched players this offseason and could generate some serious momentum if he lives up to the hype.
It’s still somewhat of a long shot that he even sees the field this season, but a great spring practice could change that in a hurry.