Florida Football Recruiting: 5 Former Blue Chippers Who Will Shine in 2014
It’s no secret the Florida Gators snag several big-name recruits each recruiting class, and a lot of these players perform at a high level in no time. However, there are also the fair share of highly ranked players who take a year or two of getting their feet wet before taking the plunge and having their breakout season.
After a 4-8 season a year ago, there are plenty of former blue chippers who need this season to be their coming-out party. It starts at quarterback and works its way down to the defensive and offensive lines.
Here are five highly recruited Gators who will have their best season this year.
D.J. Humphries, OL
Last season was supposed to be the breakout year for D.J. Humphries, and it was, until he suffered a knee injury that cut his season short. Humphries started six games at left tackle and is going to hold down the position once again this season.
Humphries is a massive offensive lineman who not only has the strength to keep defenders in check when pass protecting, but he’s also a fabulous athlete who can get to the second level on running plays. He’s a great piece along the front line for a creative offense that’s going to need mobile offensive linemen in this new system.
The former 5-star recruit has the potential to be one of the better offensive linemen in the SEC. He just needs to stay healthy for folks to finally take notice.
Jonathan Bullard, DL
I get the feeling Jonathan Bullard is going to be one of those players who has mediocre seasons his first two years to becoming an absolute monster in his third.
Bullard is a natural defensive end, but due to Bryan Cox Jr. having a great spring and the lack of depth in the middle, expect to see the third-year player line up all over the line this season. Bullard didn’t like the idea of defensive tackle last season, but he’s learned to embrace it, according to Jeff Barlis of ESPN:
All offseason I’ve been working at it because I know we’re kind of light there now and had a couple of players out, so I was going to play a lot of it, he said. Now I’ve got the hang of it and I can read things better at D-tackle like I could at end. Now it’s kind of even.
Bullard has the speed to blow by offensive linemen, but he also has the strength and motor to give double-teams all they can handle. This will be the season the highly recruited defensive lineman lives up to the hype.
Dante Fowler, DL
I know, Dante Fowler had 50 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss and three forced fumbles. Many would say he’s already arrived and made a name for himself. However, there’s so much more this kid can contribute to the Gators defense. Saying he’s reached his peak in a Florida uniform would be a slap in the face.
A Gator hasn’t finished a season with more than six sacks since Carlos Dunlap in 2009. With Fowler’s speed and terrific hand usage, don’t be surprised if he’s the one who gives double-digit sacks a run for its money this season.
Fowler is in the best shape of his life at the moment and is eager to take on the role of the go-to guy defensively with Dominique Easley gone.
You can expect big things from this third-year defensive player.
Andre Debose, WR
Whether you’re a Gator fan or not, Andre Debose is somebody you can’t help but root for. Easily one of the most hyped recruits Florida has ever landed, Debose hasn’t lived up to his potential, producing just 29 career receptions and spending much of his time on special teams.
Debose suffered from confidence issues, looked lost on the field at times, wasn’t used properly and then suffered a torn ACL, missing all of last season. If it’s not one thing it’s another.
This is literally Debose’s last chance, and it comes at the right time with Kurt Roper calling the plays. Florida needs a speedster who can stretch the field, and they don’t get much faster than Debose. He could have a similar impact as Jamison Crowder, who caught 198 passes for 2,597 yards and 17 touchdowns at Duke with Roper as offensive coordinator.
It’s only right for Debose to go out with a bang and leave Florida fans with something positive to remember.
Jeff Driskel, QB
If Florida is going to have the turnaround season everybody is hoping for, it’s going to start with Jeff Driskel. The quarterback simply has to be the difference-maker by making better decisions with the football, completing a higher percentage of passes and using his legs to his advantage.
One would think he can do all of those things in Roper’s spread offense.
Driskel is going to have plenty of opportunities to burn defenses with his legs, which is then only going to make throwing the ball a lot easier once defenses load the box to protect the run. He has always had the skill set to be an effective quarterback, now he has the system.
There’s no more excuses. And there’s no reason to think Driskel can’t get the job done this time around.