After a 4-8 season last year, the Florida Gators are going to need everybody to step up in order to bring about a turnaround.
That’s obvious, but the Gators also need breakout seasons from some underachievers.
That includes a quarterback who has been a turnover machine and never blossomed into that leader the offense desperately needs, and a receiver who has been with the team four years and has four receiving touchdowns.
If Florida is truly going to make a genuine run at an SEC East title, these players and others need to fulfill their potential.
Here are some of the players you can count on having that breakout season.
Jeff Driskel, Quarterback
If Driskel doesn't figure things out this season, there's always a baseball future to fall back on.
Seriously, Kurt Roper’s offensive system was built for a quarterback such as Driskel. Spread the field, allow the quarterback to use his legs when needed, get the ball out quickly and allow the receivers to make things happen. In past years, Driskel was asked to do too much and wasn't able to take advantage of his athleticism.
There's a reason Roper was drooling over Driskel the second he arrived on campus, according to Robbie Andreu of Gainesville.com. Roper said of Driskel:
He's really talented. I didn't get to see him much before I got here. I watched him in high school and knew he was heavily recruited and those things. I don't know that I was one of his choices, so now I get the luck of the draw here, I guess I should say.
But that's a big, powerful, fast-twitch, natural throwing motion. He's talented, folks. I mean we're sitting here talking about a guy that's really, really gifted. And his experience shows whenever we have conversations. He understands football. It's not his first rodeo.
Roper obviously sees something many others don’t about a quarterback who has 14 career touchdown passes and 10 interceptions.
These two should click and could bring Florida its most successful season from a quarterback since the Tim Tebow era.
Jonathan Bullard, Defensive Lineman
Sometimes that third year really is a charm. That's where Bullard comes in.
The versatile defensive lineman is capable of more than the three sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss that he's racked up in two seasons. Bullard has the size (6'3", 271 pounds), the explosiveness and the overall strength to be a monster in the SEC and possibly even make the all-conference team this season. His skill set is unique, and there are not many offensive linemen who can stop him when he's focused on the football field.
Being dialed in was a problem last season, as Bullard didn't enjoy moving from defensive end to defensive tackle. The switch inside really frustrated Bullard and didn't help his production, but he's made the proper adjustments in camp, according to Marty Cohen of 247Sports:
I’ve got the hang of it, I can read things better at D-tackle like I could at end. Now it’s kind of even and to be honest, I’m trying to embrace it, enjoy it, rather than last year not really wanting to but knowing I had to. Now I’m trying to embrace it and do it at a high level. Now I look at it as a plus because I can also play end and I can play inside and if I can do both at a high level it helps me in the long run.
Having a talented player along the defensive front who can play multiple positions only helps Florida's defensive line. Bullard is too gifted not to have that breakout season. Expect big numbers from the third-year defensive lineman.
Andre Debose, Wide Receiver
This will be the season Debose lives up to the hype.
Wait, haven't we heard this the past four seasons? Actually, it feels more like a decade.
Debose, who tore his ACL last spring, has been cleared for full contact in the fall, according to Edward Aschoff of ESPN:
[Team doctors] didn’t think there was any way he’d participate in non-contact in spring practice, and right now he’s been cleared for everything in the summer. Here’s a guy who’s really worked his tail off to put himself back into position to do some things.
That's great news for a receiver who has been given a sixth year by the NCAA. Debose seems a sure bet to be successful, as—like with Driskel—Roper's offense fits him perfectly. He'll be asked to help spread the field and become that deep threat that has been missing from Florida's offense since Percy Harvin.
Debose will face many one-on-one situations, which you have to believe he'll be able to win due to his elite speed. Having Quinton Dunbar, Latroy Pittman and Debose on the field at the same time would cause headaches for opposing defenses.
Debose, who was one of Florida's top recruits in 2009, hasn't contributed much on the offensive side of the ball. With the change at offensive coordinator and the drastic need for playmakers at wide receiver, that's likely to change this season.
Better late than never.