Florida Football: 5 Players Who Can Take Advantage of Gators' Spring Injuries
The Florida Gators are less than a week away from officially beginning the 2014 season with the start of spring practice. While they hope it will be the start of a turnaround season, there’s still one thing from a year ago that continues to haunt them.
Florida will be without nine key players this spring due to lingering injuries from last season. There were many reasons why the Gators finished with a 4-8 record, but injuries certainly didn’t help matters. Every other play, it seemed a Florida player was hobbling off the field.
Let’s look at the bright side. First and foremost, we’re still months away from the regular season kicking off. What's more, these spring injuries give younger guys a chance to prove themselves.
Here are a few players who can make the most of their teammates' misfortune.
DeAndre Goolsby, TE
The Gators had just four receptions from the tight end position last season. Let that sink in for a minute.
The good news is that should change under offensive coordinator Kurt Roper. He’s somebody who involves the big guys within his system quite a bit.
Last season at Duke, the tight ends caught 51 of 298 completions, which equals a little over 17 percent of the offense.
No wonder DeAndre Goolsby enrolled early.
Goolsby is going to get his chance even more with sophomore tight end Colin Thompson out with a foot injury. The true freshman will need to bulk up his 6’4”, 225-pound frame to improve his blocking ability, but this is somebody who gets downfield in a hurry and could immediately help out in the passing game.
He looks a lot like a wide receiver when running his routes and does a nice job of bringing the ball into his body.
The tight end spot is up for grabs, and while nobody is going to run away with the starting job in the spring, Goolsby could earn respectable playing time with his skill set.
Chris Thompson, WR
Pretty much every wide receiver on the depth chart is going to have a chance to make an impact this spring. We’re talking about an offense that ranked 12th in the SEC last season in passing offense.
Sure, quarterback had a lot to do with it, but the lack of playmaking receivers didn’t help.
Speedster Andre Debose has been granted a sixth year of eligibility due to injury, according to the Associated Press (h/t ESPN.com), but he won’t be 100 percent during camp. That gives someone like Chris Thompson a chance.
He played in seven games last year as a backup receiver and on special teams as a true freshman. He caught two passes for 13 yards. Thompson has great speed and can make plays after the catch. He sees the field well and can really take the top off a defense.
That’s pretty much what Florida needs.
There are various receivers who can step up and help take over this offense. Thompson has the speed and playmaking ability to prove he’s one of those guys.
Valdez Showers, RB
Besides Kelvin Taylor holding down the starting running back job, nothing is guaranteed at the running back position with the injury to Matt Jones. This gives explosive playmaker Valdez Showers a chance to carve out a role in an offense that is desperate for playmakers.
Showers is a former defensive back. However, he spent much of last year as an offensive player, doing a little bit of everything. He caught 18 passes for 102 yards and ran the ball 12 times for 103 yards.
This is somebody who has above-average speed and the best hands of any running back on the roster. He could fill in at slot receiver, a spot which is currently vacant, but he is also comfortable taking carries from the quarterback in the backfield.
He’s a versatile player who can go the distance at any time. Two of his 12 rushing attempts last season produced 20 or more yards.
Florida needs to find ways to give Showers the ball more, but he could certainly help himself by having an impressive showing in spring practice.
Daniel McMillian, LB
There is not one position that has been hit harder due to injuries than linebacker.
Alex Anzalone, Jeremi Powell and Matt Rolin, three guys who are expected to be key contributors this season, won’t participate in spring drills due to various injuries.
Daniel McMillian is the guy to watch.
He came in last season as a highly recruited player, but ended up spending much of his first year paying his dues on special teams. He finished the season with just two tackles.
However, McMillian has all of the tools to become a special player on defense. He’s built well at 6’1”, 230 pounds, is very athletic, and he flies to the football. He has a knack for finding the ball-carrier and absolutely unloading on him. He also has the versatility to play any of the three linebacker positions.
With all the injuries, you’re certainly going to hear this young man’s name quite a bit. Don’t be surprised if he cracks the two-deep depth chart, and he could earn a starting job if his competition isn’t careful.
Jay-Nard Bostwick, DT
Redshirt freshman Jay-Nard Bostwick will likely be included in the two-deep depth chart at the nose tackle position. He’s simply too talented, and Florida needs defensive line depth after losing a player of Dominique Easley’s caliber.
With that being said, projected starter Leon Orr won’t participate in spring drills due to a fractured wrist.
It’s time for Bostwick to shine.
The promising defensive lineman spent his year off adding weight. He’s now listed at 300 pounds. Assuming he can carry that weight well and continue to be the active and disruptive player the Gators recruited a year ago, they have themselves a really strong player in the trenches.
You can hear Bostwick’s name buzzing quite a bit and there’s a lot of folks who are chomping at the bit to see what he brings to the table. If he lives up to the hype and becomes one of the best spring performers, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him starting somewhere along the defensive line sooner rather than later.