Florida Gators Football: Final Winners and Losers from Spring Ball
It goes without saying that spring practice for the Florida Gators was a success. However, like everything in life, there were a handful of winners and losers during the first month of practices.
The winners likely overachieved or simply fulfilled expectations and were the stars for much of the event. The losers fell short in certain areas and will have their work cut out for them once fall camp begins in a couple of months.
There were certainly more positives than negatives, but everybody can’t be a winner at the end of the day.
Here are your winners and losers from the Gators spring practice.
Winner: Kurt Roper
There was a lot of hype surrounding Kurt Roper when it was announced he would be Florida’s new offensive coordinator. However, nobody was going to sing his praises until they saw his work for themselves.
After hearing positive updates throughout the spring and seeing the spring game, it seems like Florida fans are more than satisfied. The Gators unleashed a quicker, more exciting offense that produced more than 400 total yards and 36 points in the first half. Sure, the defense isn’t allowed to do much of anything in the spring game, but last year’s offense couldn’t score a touchdown without tripping over its own shoelaces.
Roper passed the first test and will only help this side of the ball improve with even more time. Finally, this offense seems to be in good hands.
Loser: Tight End
Florida needs to quickly find a tight end who can contribute in the passing game. Roper relies heavily on the big guys in his offense, but the Gators don’t have an answer at the position right now.
Last season, Florida received just five combined catches from its tight ends. The spring didn’t help matters. Freshman DeAndre Goolsby looked a little sluggish at times in camp, and Clay Burton and Tevin Westbrook lack the elite size it takes to be consistent passing threats downfield.
However, Florida may land former Virginia tight end Jake McGee, who led the Cavaliers last season with 43 receptions for 395 yards.
Of course, this would be a home run if the Gators can close the deal on the transfer. However, until it becomes official, Florida must find somebody who can make plays at the tight end position in order for this offense to reach its full potential.
Winner: Nick Washington
Few players had a better spring than Nick Washington. What makes it even more special is the fact it came out of nowhere. Washington was dealing with a position change from cornerback to safety and was recovering from a shoulder injury on top of that.
Once back on the field, Washington quickly learned the ropes and was flying all over the place. He displayed terrific instincts, played the ball well and proved to be somebody who can drop the hammer on a receiver. He’s easily going to be one of the biggest hitters in Florida’s secondary this season.
Florida has a lot of talent in the defensive backfield. Washington’s emergence was certainly a pleasant surprise. He’s a player who could possibly earn a starting job considering safety is a position that is still up in the air heading into fall camp.
Loser: Wide Receiver
Florida entered the spring looking for playmakers at wide receiver and left with little answers. The Gators still don’t have that No. 1 receiver who is a lock to take over a game and open up the offense.
Don’t get me wrong—there are plenty of candidates and a lot of talent, but we knew that heading into the spring. Demarcus Robinson has the potential to be one of the top receivers in the country. Alvin Bailey is a speedster who can stretch the field. Chris Thompson, Ahmad Fulwood and Latroy Pittman are just some of the other names who can emerge from the pack during the fall.
The spring game came with a lot of drops and inconsistent play from the quarterbacks, which didn’t exactly help the receivers.
In any case, the wideouts are in good hands and this will likely be a nonissue once the season is in play. We’d still like to see a little more consistency from this group to put any doubts to bed, though.
Florida works hard each year on the recruiting trail and it has paid off in a big way. There were plenty of true and redshirt freshmen who made an impact throughout the spring and the spring game.
Running back Adam Lane turned many heads with his physical running style. Alvin Bailey had a few impressive practices and possesses intriguing playmaking ability as well.
Nick Washington, Duke Dawson and Jalen Tabor made some of the biggest jumps throughout the spring, of course, and will see considerable playing time this season.
Every spring always has one or two breakout players who are in their first season, but it’s not very often when numerous freshmen make a large impact and put themselves in a position to be key players.
The Gators coaching staff has to be proud, and the splash of youth should only energize this team moving forward.
You could probably come up with 99 problems the Gators had last season, and injured players could have taken up at least half.
Making matters worse, the injury bug continued to show its face this spring.
Running back Matt Jones, defensive tackle Leon Orr, wide receiver Andre Debose, linebackers Alex Anzalone, Jeremi Powell and Matt Rolin, tight end Colin Thompson and early enrollees Brandon Powell and Nolan Kelleher all missed spring ball with various injuries.
The good news is that the majority of those injuries took place last season and all of those players should be ready to go 100 percent once fall camp begins. The injuries also allowed younger players to get some shine in their absence.
Still, as a Gator fan, you’ve got to be sick and tired of injuries and simply can’t do anything but hold your breath that all of those guys make a speedy recovery.
Winner: The Fans
Overall, spring ball was a success for the Gators. The offense looked improved, the defense is a few tweaks away from being elite and there were no key injuries during the spring that will set the team back.
The winner in all of this has to be the fans.
After watching the Gators miss the postseason with a 4-8 record, lose to a school nobody knew existed (Georgia Southern) and be the laughing stock of the league for other reasons, anything positive should be considered a victory.
Florida fans needed something to hang their hat on after many sleepless nights and crying in front of their television sets on Saturday afternoons.
Spring ball may not mean much in the grand scheme of things, but it certainly will help Florida fans make it through these next few months without losing their sanity.