Florida Gators Football: Complete Spring Game Preview
The Florida Gators spring game is only one day away. We’ll finally get to see firsthand what the coaches have been talking about and what the players have been working on.
Questions on both sides of the ball will be answered, while concerns in certain areas are bound to remain just that until fall camp rolls around. All in all, the spring game is still one of the more exciting events of the offseason. The score may not mean much and it’s a little weird watching players tackle their teammates, but it’s still football.
Are you excited yet?
Here’s a complete breakdown of the Florida Gators 2014 spring game.
When: Saturday, April 12, 1:30 p.m. ET
Watch: Live coverage will be provided on Gator Vision. The game will also be broadcast via tape delay on Sun Sports at 5:00 p.m. on April 12, 10:00 a.m. on April 13 and numerous times in the weeks to follow, according to Gator Zone.
Format: The Gators brought something new to the table with a fantasy draft that took place Thursday night on YouTube (see above video).
Pick by pick, former Gator greats Josh Evans and Shane Matthews (Team Orange) and Chris Doering and Jelani Jenkins (Team Blue) formed their teams. That’s how Florida will take the field and match up against one another on Saturday.
Team Orange is heavily focused on the defensive side of the ball, led by Vernon Hargreaves III and Jonathan Bullard, while Team Blue is run by offensive stars Jeff Driskel and Kelvin Taylor.
This should spice things up a bit.
Position Battles to Watch
Everybody at Wide Receiver
While the coaching staff may have key guys in mind as far as who is going to start at receiver this season, the bottom line is that there are still a truckload of players competing for limited starting spots.
With the lack of offensive production a year ago and a new offensive coordinator, anybody can make a name and separate themselves from the pack—and there’s no better time to do that than the spring game.
Quinton Dunbar is probably the only receiver who has secured a starting position. Demarcus Robinson should also be a starter, since he is the most talented receiver on the roster.
Meanwhile, Ahmad Fulwood, Chris Thompson, Alvin Bailey and Latroy Pittman have all shown flashes of potential and will be eager to prove themselves.
This is a position to watch closely, as just about anybody could find themselves starting opening week.
This position really comes down to who is going to start on the opposite side of Vernon Hargreaves III.
What makes the position battle that much more intriguing is that it comes down to two true freshman in Jalen Tabor and Duke Dawson.
Tabor is the more polished and physical corner of the two and is probably the favorite to land the job entering the spring game. However, you’d be foolish to sleep on Dawson. Dawson is smaller than Tabor, but he has quick instincts, is scrappy and does a nice job of playing the ball.
Coach Will Muschamp has mentioned how both of these young corners have caught on quickly in practice, per Jeff Barlis of ESPN.com. It’s going to be a dogfight to impress the coaches in a game-like atmosphere.
Jeff Driskel's Return
Did you expect anything different?
This storyline has taken on a life of its own ever since last season ended. Everybody and their cousin wants to know if Driskel is fully healthy, if he can stop throwing interceptions and if he can adjust to Kurt Roper's fast-paced offense.
Roper has spoken highly of Driskel throughout spring ball, according to Robbie Andreu of The Gainesville Sun, but that’s what he’s supposed to do as a coach. Ultimately, we won’t know if Driskel has really turned the corner until he is thrown back into the fire and asked to lead the offense.
While Florida fans won’t be satisfied until Driskel does this in a game that matters, a strong spring performance could go a long way.
Besides Driskel, Roper has been a hot topic of discussion over the last several weeks. After all, he is the guy who was hired to save the Florida offense, which is supposedly going to get this program back on track.
Instead of walking up to the line of scrimmage and playing 1980s football, Roper is asking the Gators to become the southern Oregon Ducks. He wants guys running to the line, getting the snap off quicker and playing with more energy.
This should have players and fans excited, but a complete transformation simply doesn’t happen overnight. Adjusting the speed of an offense takes time and lots of practice.
At this point, the Gators have had a few weeks to adjust. Hopefully they can show the fans something to get last year’s painful offense out of their heads.
What the Experts Are Saying
Roper recently put many doubts surrounding Driskel's abilities coming off a serious injury to rest, according to David Jones of Florida Today.
Meanwhile, Alligator Army highlight Roper's point about Driskel and the fact he's not afraid to make mistakes.
Interceptions happen. Bad passes happen. A quarterback needs to be confident and have a short memory. Harping on each mistake doesn’t help a quarterback’s growth and is going to result in more poor plays. Roper seems to have the right approach with this quarterback stuff.
Andre Debose, WR: Debose has been practicing, but continues to recover from a torn ACL he suffered last season. He still hasn't been cleared for contact.
Matt Jones, RB: Jones has a torn meniscus and hasn't practiced this spring.
Leon Orr, DT: Orr has a fractured foot and hasn't practiced this spring.
Alex Anzalone, LB: Anzalone has a shoulder injury and hasn't practiced this spring.
Matt Rolin, LB: Rolin has a torn ACL and hasn't practiced this spring.
Jeremi Powell, LB: Powell has a torn ACL and hasn't practiced this spring.
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