Florida Football: 5 Players Who Must Shine in Fall Practices
Fall camp is right around the corner for the Florida Gators, and there are many players who need to take their game to another level in order to feel confident about the upcoming season. These next few practices are even more important than the spring considering the season is about a month away. It leaves very little room for error.
Either guys have improved and the season will be better than a year ago, or certain players will continue to struggle and Florida will enter another season was various question marks.
While quarterback is the most crucial position that needs an upgrade, there are a few other players who must impress throughout the fall.
Valdez Showers, WR
The slot receiver spot remains vacant, and Valdez Showers may be ready to take on that roll if he has another great practice.
Showers opened last season at running back, but his versatility allowed him to haul in 18 passes for 102 yards and a touchdown. He was one of the more consistent receiving threats on the team, catching at least one ball in nine games.
Showers had a great spring practice, displaying above-average speed and consistently finding himself open. Still, the position remains up for grabs, and Latroy Pittman had himself a solid camp as well.
The versatile playmaker will have to come on strong if he hopes to land the starting position and become a key piece in Kurt Roper’s new offense.
Marcus Maye, S
Marcus Maye had his moments in the spring, but Florida fans likely still cannot erase images of him getting eaten up in the first two games on the deep ball. You rarely see a player get benched as quickly as Maye and thrown into the coaches' doghouse.
Well, due to the lack of depth and experience in the secondary, there’s a good chance Maye is going to be a starting safety once again. Maye is a physical player who is ideal when Florida decides to throw more than four defensive backs on the field. But if he’s going to be an every-down starter, he must improve his ability in coverage.
Maye has the skill set to be a reliable safety in Florida’s talented secondary; now, it just comes down to putting things together.
Matt Jones, RB
When Matt Jones is healthy, he’s been a productive runner for the Gators, averaging more than four yards per carry throughout his career. The problem is he missed much of last season with a leg injury and was forced to sit out for the spring due to the same injury.
Derek Tyson of ESPN reported in January that the recovery process would take six to eight months. Well, here we are. There’s a good chance we’ll see Jones on the field this fall.
If that is the case, it’s going to be interesting to see how Jones responds. Is his knee 100 percent, and does he still have the shifting ability he had a couple of years ago? Is he fully capable of making this his breakout season that the Gators offense needs?
Florida has a deep backfield with Kelvin Taylor, Adam Jones and Mack Brown leading the way. Having a healthy and effective Jones on top of that could take things to another level.
Everybody should keep a close eye on Jones this fall.
Duke Dawson, CB
It remains a cornerback battle between freshmen Jalen Tabor and Duke Dawson. Tabor appears to be the more talented player between the two, but Dawson isn’t going down quietly.
Sources told Thomas Goldkamp of 247Sports (subscription required) that Dawson outplayed Tabor in spring ball and would be the starting corner if the season started today.
While that may be true, it doesn’t mean it’s going to be that way in the fall when the pressure is turned up a few notches. It only takes one or two bad performances for you to lose your starting job to the next man.
Dawson is a feisty defensive back with terrific instincts and an in-your-face attitude. He’s going to fit well in this defense and see the field quite a bit as a first-year player. Whether he’s a starter or not will depend on how he performs over the next month.
Jeff Driskel, QB
Florida fans should get the drift by this point in the offseason. The way the spring was all about Jeff Driskel, the fall will be about the starting quarterback even more.
It’s been said more than enough, but the Gators offense needs to drastically improve. Being ranked 12th in the SEC in total offense and near the bottom of the barrel in the country, a turnaround begins with the starting signal-caller.
Driskel must make better decisions with the football and become more of a playmaker with his legs. He showed some promise throughout the spring, but he still has a long way to go before becoming that difference maker.
No player will be more important throughout the fall than Driskel.