Position-by-Position Preview of the Florida Gators 2014 Roster
Now that we’re in the month of June, the entire 2014 Florida Gators freshman class is getting comfortable with its surroundings, fall camp is soon to begin and the offseason is soon to be a thing of the past.
This is the perfect time to provide a quick glance at the Gators roster and see just how this team stacks up heading into a tough 2014 schedule.
What are the glaring weaknesses of this team? Any strong points that can help catapult Florida to SEC contention?
It’s going to be an interesting season for the Florida Gators.
Here’s a position-by-position preview of the team.
Quarterback is by far the biggest question mark for the Gators entering the season. Starter Jeff Driskel is coming off a season-ending injury, Will Grier is a true freshman and Skyler Mornhinweg isn’t the most polished backup in the world.
This position really comes down to how quickly Driskel can grasp Kurt Roper’s new offense. He’ll also need to make better decisions with the ball and use his athleticism more to his advantage. There’s potential with Driskel in this offense, but to be fair, Florida fans have heard that the last two seasons, only to leave disappointed.
The rest of this team should be in good hands—it all comes down to whether or not Driskel can turn the corner this season. If he can, Florida will be in the running for the biggest turnaround in college football. If he can’t, well, there will be a lot of changes once this season comes to an end.
Running back has the potential to be special for Florida.
Kelvin Taylor averaged close to five yards per carry as a true freshman last season. With a more expanded role, there’s no doubt he could be one of the best running backs in the SEC. Mack Brown returns after leading the Gators with 543 rushing yards last season. Matt Jones is a playmaker who is poised for a breakout season if he can ever stay healthy.
As if those runners weren’t enough, Florida also has Adam Lane. A human bowling ball, Lane makes for a nice change-of-pace back who would be ideal for goal-line situations and moving the chains on third down.
Florida has a bunch of different skill sets at the position and guys who are eager to show what they can do. This team won’t be at the bottom of the barrel in SEC rushing yards for a second straight season.
Wide Receiver/Tight End
Ah, the position that nobody can quite figure out heading into the season.
Besides Quinton Dunbar, who had 548 receiving yards last year, there’s no receiver on the team who has proven himself. Demarcus Robinson has the most upside and could blossom into one of the best receivers in this conference. Valdez Showers could turn out to be a solid slot receiver. Alvin Bailey turned heads in the spring and may be the receiver the Gators were hoping would emerge from the pack.
The bottom line is that there are a lot of "ifs" and "maybes" with this group.
The Gators did, however, receive a major boost at tight end with the transfer of Jake McGee. McGee had 71 receptions for 769 yards and seven touchdowns in two seasons with Virginia. He’ll likely be the starting tight end, a position that had no solution just a couple of months ago.
Florida may have a wide receiver-by-committee until a starting unit begins to jell.
Florida’s offensive line will be much better than last year’s unit that allowed 27 sacks in 12 games.
The major upgrades will include having a healthy D.J. Humphries and Chaz Green at the tackle positions. Both missed a lot of playing time last year due to injuries but have tremendous skill sets and should form one of the better tackle combinations in the country. Trenton Brown will be able to move to his more natural position at guard, and Tyler Moore can do the same.
The biggest question mark with this group is Max Garcia shifting to center, but he looked comfortable in the spring game and will only improve throughout the fall.
Depth is also a concern with this group given the injury history with a few of these players. The coaching staff can only hope everybody can avoid the injury bug, as this has the ability to be the most improved part of the team from last season.
It’s been a long time since Florida has had any major concerns with its defensive line, as it usually just replaces guys who leave the team with sometimes even better talent.
This year is no different.
Dante Fowler will lead this unit and could be nominated for college football defensive awards if he has the season many expect. Jonathan Bullard is poised to have his breakout season either in the middle of the line or on the outside. Leon Orr brings the experience and athleticism, while Darious Cummings showed Florida fans last season in a limited role what he was capable of.
Of course, an SEC defensive line is nothing without depth, and Alex McCalister, Bryan Cox Jr. and Jay-nard Bostwick fit the backup roles perfectly.
The defensive line is likely going to be the Gators’ biggest strength this season.
Linebacker was an issue in the spring due to so many injuries, but much of last year’s key players have returned. This position has a nice combination of youth and experience, which should help form a solid second line of defense.
Michael Taylor is back for another season after leading the Gators with 62 tackles last season. Antonio Morrison was second on the team in tackles, and he’ll share playing time with Taylor. Jarrad Davis will see an expanded role, as he was a major bright spot late in the season and will fit in perfectly along with two experienced linebackers helping him grow.
Neiron Ball, Alex Anzalone and Matt Rolin are three other linebackers with promising futures—they just need to stay healthy.
Overall, this is a talented group of linebackers that should only improve as players get a little more experience under their belts.
Vernon Hargreaves III.
He pretty much sums up this area of the team for the Gators, as the second-year corner is easily one of the top players at his position. Jalen Tabor and Duke Dawson also have the ability to have a similar impact as first-year players and will likely be thrown into a starting role as early as opening week.
Safety is a little more up in the air, but Marcus Maye and Jabari Gorman bring experience and playmaking ability to the defensive backfield. Nick Washington was also one of the surprise players in the spring and is sure to see an expanded role this season.
There’s not a lot of depth in the secondary, but talent certainly isn’t an issue. It also helps when you have a shutdown corner like Hargreaves, who can lock down his side of the field.
If nothing else is guaranteed with this team, at least it won’t be easy throwing the football against the Gators.
Kicker was a major issue last season, as the Gators made just 54.5 percent of their kicks. The good news is that they do return two experienced kickers in Austin Hardin and Francisco Velez. The bad news is that those were the two kickers who were busy missing all the kicks last year.
Kicking, however, wasn’t an issue during the spring game, which may be a positive sign of things to come.
Florida also returns its punting combination of Johnny Townsend and Kyle Christy, a duo that averaged more than 40 yards per punt last season.
As long as the field-goal situation can get figured out, the Gators shouldn’t have any issues with their special teams.