Florida Gators Football

Florida Football: Depth Chart Analysis, Complete 2014 Preview and Predictions

COLUMBIA, SC - NOVEMBER 16:  Head coach Will Muschamp of the Florida Gators watches his team warm up before their game against the South Carolina Gamecocks at Williams-Brice Stadium on November 16, 2013 in Columbia, South Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Randy ChambersAnalyst IAugust 22, 2014

The Gators are grateful to see the dawn of a new season.

They can finally wipe away the mess that was 2013. Florida heads into the season with some new coaches, new starters and a schedule that would be tough for any team in the country.

Let’s see how the team looks with the opener a week away.

 

Coaches

2014 Florida Gators Coaching Staff
TitleNameYears On Team
Head CoachWill Muschamp4
Offensive CoordinatorKurt Roper1
Defensive CoordinatorD. J. Durkin5
Special Teams CoachColeman Hutzler1
Defensive Line CoachBrad Lawing2
Quarterbacks CoachKurt Roper1
Wide Receivers CoachChris Leak1
Offensive Line CoachMike Summers1
Defensive Backs CoachTravaris Robinson4
Running Backs CoachBrian White6
Tight Ends CoachDerek Lewis4
Gator Zone

Florida has four new coaches on the staff and none is as important as offensive coordinator Kurt Roper. After leading Duke to an average of 32.8 points per game last season, Florida is hoping he can improve an offense that ranked 114th in the country in points scored. Roper will speed things up, spread the field and preach getting the ball out quickly. How much Florida improves from last season will be determined on the success of Roper’s offense.

Chris Leak is the new wide receivers coach after Joker Phillips resigned. Leak threw for more than 11,000 yards and 88 touchdowns in four seasons as Florida’s quarterback. Although Leak has no prior coaching experience, he's young enough where he can relate to the players. He also has a feel for what wide receivers should be doing and understands the relationship they should have with their quarterback. 

The other big coaching change was getting former USC offensive line coach Mike Summers. Summers has more than 30 years of experience and has had success at schools such as Kentucky and Louisville.

There’s a lot of pressure on this staff to succeed this season. Will Muschamp enters the year on the hot seat after a mediocre 22-16 record in his first three seasons. Florida has a veteran group of coaches and the new hires on offense have the potential to pay off in a big way.

 

What to Watch for on Offense 

Florida Gators 2014 Offensive Depth Chart
Position1st String2nd String3rd String
QBJeff DriskelTreon HarrisWill Grier
RBKelvin TaylorMack BrownMatt Jones
WRQuinton DunbarDemarcus RobinsonAndre Debose
WRAhmad FulwoodRaph AndradesRyan Sousa
WRLatroy PittmanValdez ShowersAlvin Bailey
TEJake McGeeClay BurtonTevin Westbrook
OTD.J. HumphriesKavaris Harkless
OGTyler MooreRoderick JohnsonTravaris Dorsey
CMax GarciaTrip ThurmanCameron Dillard
OGTrenton BrownDrew SarvaryAntonio Riles
OTChaz GreenDavid SharpeAndrew Mike
KAustin HardinFrankie Velez
KR/PRAndre DeboseDemarcus RobinsonVernon Hargreaves III
Gator Zone

With Roper now calling the shots, Florida will be a faster offense and likely a lot more productive. It will no longer be a slow-paced and predictable offense. The Gators will run the no-huddle, take far less time between snaps and simply try to wear down their opponent. Roper wants quarterback Jeff Driskel to get the ball out of his hands quicker and use his athleticism more than he’s done in past seasons.  

Florida will be a quick-tempo offense that spreads teams out and forces defenders to make tackles in space.

Jeff Driskel, QBDriskel is the key to making this offense work. With 10 career interceptions, he’ll have to make better decisions and manage the game. This offense is perfect for somebody such as Driskel because it will allow him to make plays with his feet and take advantage of the short passes. If Driskel has a good grasp of this offense, Florida will be improved offensively.

Chaz Green, OLGreen is one of the better offensive linemen in the SEC when healthy. The problem is he missed all of last season with an injury. Green is great in pass protection, but he’s also athletic enough to be a key part in a successful rushing attack. With shaky quarterback play at times, Florida needs a reliable offensive line. Green provides stability on the right side.

 

What to Watch for on Defense

Florida Gators 2014 Defensive Depth Chart
Position1st String2nd String3rd String
BuckDante FowlerAlex McCalisterNeiron Ball
NTLeon OrrJay-nard BostwickKhairi Clark
DTDarious CummingsCaleb BrantleyJoey Ivie
DEJonathan BullardBryan Cox Jr.Joey Ivie
WLBJarrad DavisDaniel McMillianJeremi Powell
MLBMichael TaylorAntonio MorrisonAlex Anzalone
SLBNeiron BallMatt RolinAlex McCalister
CBVernon Hargreaves IIIJ.C. JacksonQuincy Wilson
FSJabari GormanKeanu NealNick Washington
SSMarcus MayeMarcell HarrisNick Washington
CBJalen TaborDuke DawsonQuincy Wilson
PKyle ChristyJohnny Townsend
Gator Zone

Last season, Florida finished with the eighth-best defense in college football. With seven starters returning, another top-10 defense certainly isn’t out of the question. The Gators strength will be their defensive line and pass rush, as 19 sacks last season just scratched the surface of this team’s potential. Defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin is sure to get more aggressive with his play-calling and take a few more risks.

Defense wasn’t an issue for Florida. With the players returning, the Gators' D could be one of the best in college football.

Vernon Hargreaves III, CBHargreaves is one of the more irreplaceable football players in the country, as he’s probably the best cornerback. Last season, Hargreaves had 11 pass deflections and intercepted three balls. Those numbers would have been even better if quarterbacks dared to throw his way more often. The second-year corner can go toe-to-toe with any receiver in the country.

Dante Fowler, DLFowler is another key player on Florida’s defense who will lead the charge in pressuring the quarterback. Fowler finished last season with 3.5 sacks and 50 tackles, but he’s capable of so much more. His athleticism and quickness off the ball is scary. Don’t be surprised if Fowler has the best season of any defender in the SEC.

 

Injury News 

Florida Gators Injuries
NameInjuryExpected Return Date
Marcus MayeHamstringQuestionable vs. Idaho
Thomas HolleyHipOut For Season
Matt JonesKneeProbable vs. Idaho
Vernon Hargreaves IIILegQuestionable vs. Idaho
Don Best

There were points last season when the injury report was lengthier than a Stephen King novel. For the most part, Florida has shaken the injury bug and heads into the season opener as healthy as a team can hope.

The biggest injury comes to Thomas Holley, who needed hip surgery after suffering a torn labrum. While you never want to see anybody get hurt, Holley is a true freshman and he’s a defensive lineman, an area where the Gators are already loaded with depth. Florida will be fine.

Hargreaves should also be ready to go for the season opener considering he participated in practice despite suffering a bone bruise early in camp.  

 

X-Factor

October 6, 2012; Gainesville FL, USA; Florida Gators wide receiver Andre Debose (4) runs with the ball during the second quarter against the LSU Tigers at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
USA TODAY Sports

Florida’s X-factor will be wide receiver Andre Debose.

Debose has had a tough career at Florida, as he’s never fully fulfilled expectations as a top recruit, and he’s now coming off a torn ACL that kept him out last season. Entering his sixth year with the program, Debose has just 29 catches for 543 yards and four touchdowns.

Those numbers could change drastically in Roper’s offense. When healthy, Debose is one of the fastest players in the country and has that elite top-end speed that can stretch the field. Florida is desperate for playmakers at wide receiver and having a guy on the outside who can take the top off a defense would give the Gators a weapon they haven’t had in years.

Debose has the skill set to really thrive in this new offense. Unfortunately for Florida fans, they’ve been hearing that for over half a decade.

 

2014 Schedule

Florida Gators 2014 Schedule
DateOpponentLocation
Aug. 30IdahoBen Hill Griffin Stadium
Sept. 6Eastern MichiganBen Hill Griffin Stadium
Sept. 13KentuckyBen Hill Griffin Stadium
Sept. 20AlabamaBryant-Denny Stadium
Oct. 4TennesseeNeyland Stadium
Oct. 11LSUBen Hill Griffin Stadium
Oct. 18MissouriBen Hill Griffin Stadium
Nov. 1GeorgiaEverBank Field
Nov. 8VanderbiltVanderbilt Stadium
Nov. 15South CarolinaBen Hill Griffin Stadium
Nov. 22Eastern KentuckyBen Hill Griffin Stadium
Nov. 29Florida StateDoak Campbell Stadium
ESPN

 

Make-or-Break Games

At AlabamaWith three cupcake games to begin the season, this will be Florida’s measuring stick. The Alabama Crimson Tide will continue to be what they’ve been under head coach Nick Saban. Playing in Tuscaloosa just makes things that much more difficult. If the Gators can pull off the upset, a run at an SEC title wouldn't seem that far-fetched. 

Vs. Georgia—There’s a chance that the winner of this game makes it out of the SEC East. Florida has lost three straight meetings against the Bulldogs, and the last two were due to sloppy play at crucial points in the game. The Gators must regain control of this rivalry to make a strong statement to the rest of the teams in this conference. A victory over a talented Georgia team would get the job done.

At Florida State—The Seminoles have beaten the Gators in three of the last four meetings and have done so quite easily. If Florida is truly going to turn things around and make a run for the SEC title, this year’s rivalry could be the biggest it’s been in decades. Florida State is on a collision course for a playoff spot to defend its national championship. This may be the biggest make-or-break game for Florida this season if things go its way.  

 

Prediction

The Gators will finish the season with a 7-1 conference record and 10-2 record overall. Florida will have one of the top defenses in the country, which means the Gators just have to average anywhere from 21 to 24 points per game to really have a shot at pulling this off. Florida has a lot of favorable home games and seems to have adopted that Auburn-like mentality where it's the team against the world. That’s dangerous for its opponents.

If Florida can average three or more touchdowns per game, 10 wins won’t be a problem.

Fowler has a real shot to win the Chuck Bednarik Award. This is the season Fowler really takes his game to another level and sniffs double-digit sacks. Add those numbers to Florida’s surprising success and the award is his. Hargreaves may make a strong case for an award as well, but he's at a disadvantage with quarterbacks likely avoiding him at all costs. 

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