5 Unanswered Questions Heading into the Florida Gators Spring Game
The Florida Gators Orange and Blue spring game takes place this weekend (April 12), and there’s still plenty of questions that have yet to be answered. Don’t be alarmed: This is all part of the process, but it’s key to identify the problems so the team knows what to continue to work on heading into fall camp.
For the Gators, a lot of their issues are on the offensive side of the ball.
With a new offensive coordinator and a new system being implemented, there’s going to be a few growing pains along the way. Finding playmakers, ironing out the issues at quarterback and discovering depth at certain positions are crucial. There’s also a major concern on special teams and an issue defensively that must be addressed.
Let’s take a look at the major remaining questions for the Florida Gators.
Who's Going to Be Kelvin Taylor's Backup?
Florida has itself an All-SEC talent at running back in Kelvin Taylor. The problem is finding a legitimate backup to help shoulder the load. Right now, the Gators appear to be a running back by committee with a handful of talented runners behind Taylor, but nobody is separating themselves from the pack.
The list of runners include Mack Brown, who led the Gators last season with 543 rushing yards, Mark Herndon, who was a key special teams contributor last season, Adam Lane, who has impressed the coaching staff throughout the spring and at the very least could be a third-down back, and Matt Jones, who has missed spring drills due to injury.
All of those runners are going to see their fair share of carries, but every great team needs a solid one-two punch for the running game to be successful. Florida has the talent and the unique skill sets to choose from. It now comes down to which running back can take that next step and help make the backfield complete.
Who Emerges from a Thin Secondary?
Besides Vernon Hargreaves III, Brian Poole and Jabari Gorman, Florida is going to rely on several young players who will be thrown into the fire this season.
Marcus Maye, who will likely start at one of the safety spots, only has two career starts, while Marcell Harris, Maye’s likely backup, was redshirted last season. Nick Washington, who was a redshirt as well, will be the safety net at both cornerback and safety.
Any other players who would add depth behind those guys will enroll this summer, which means they also have zero collegiate playing time.
Don’t get me wrong, the talent pool is tremendous, and it says a lot when freshmen can enter the starting rotation. However, the margin for error is slim in the secondary. Guys must prove they can handle the added responsibility and rise to the occasion.
What's the WR Rotation Looking Like?
Besides the progress of quarterback Jeff Driskel, the wide receiver position has to be the biggest question mark for Florida this offseason. Besides Quinton Dunbar, the Gators have a plethora of talented receivers who are still wet behind the ears.
Good things have been mentioned about Demarcus Robinson throughout camp, and he has the most upside of any receiver on the roster.
Valdez Showers has gone from running back to the slot position and is making a name for himself as a possible starter.
Latroy Pittman and Ahmad Fulwood are in position for considerable playing time after contributing last season in a limited role.
That doesn’t even include Andre Debose, who is easing his way back onto the field after tearing his ACL last season.
Florida has several bodies and only a few vacant positions. This is clearly a position battle that will last well into fall camp, especially with true freshmen C.J. Worton and Ryan Sousa enrolling later in the year.
Still, every Florida fan should be paying close attention to all of the receivers during the spring game. One great performance could be the turning point in the competition.
Who Is Kicking the Field Goals?
Last season, Florida made just 54.5 percent of its field goals, which was good for 13th in the SEC. Considering four of the Gators' eight losses were decided by one possession, this may not be the sexiest topic this spring, but it’s a major concern.
Florida has experience at the kicking position with Austin Hardin and Francisco Velez competing for the starting job. Combined, those two players attempted 20 of the 22 field-goal attempts last season. However, Muschamp isn’t exactly thrilled with the progress either kicker has made so far, according to Jeff Barlis of ESPN:
"The kicking situation is still not what it needs to be," Muschamp said, "but Austin is hitting the ball more consistently the same way."
Hardin has the strongest leg of the two, but accuracy is obviously an issue with him making only four of 12 attempts last season. It’s crucial that one of these kickers emerges and provides Florida with stability at one of the most underrated positions on any football team.
How Will Both Sides Adjust to the Tempo?
Tempo: It’s been the keyword throughout spring ball. These practices have been dedicated to speeding the game up and changing the culture of Florida football.
Last season, Florida was painfully slow offensively and looked lost on the football field. This season, under offensive coordinator Kurt Roper, Florida is running to the line of scrimmage, getting the snaps off quicker and looking to make the defensive players sick.
This is a work in progress for the offense, but it’s also a challenge for a defense that hasn’t dealt with this uptempo style of play in practice in the past.
Running as many plays as possible is going to test the condition of these players and the commutation. Just one mistake or having somebody not lined up properly and the game can be lost.
Perfecting this new style of play will take time—possibly an entire season. It’ll be interesting to see just how much progress both sides have made. After all, quicker pace is the key to a turnaround season.