July 8, 2013
20/13 for 2013: All up to Driskel
With the 2013 season fast approaching, Inside the Gators will stop to take a look at the 20 returning players and the 13 freshmen (both redshirt and incoming) most important to Florida's success in the coming season.
ITG will count down two returning players and one or two freshman in each part of this 10-part series, finishing with the most important players for Florida in the 2010 season.
TOP 20/13 FOR 2013 PART ONE
TOP 20 MOST IMPORTANT RETURNING PLAYERS
Position: Wide Receiver
Class: Redshirt Junior
Size: 6-1, 195
Miami (Fla.) Booker T. Washington
2012 season: 36 catches for 383 yards and four touchdowns, second on the team in receiving
- Why he makes the list: Jeff Driskel is in desperate need of a go-to receiver with Jordan Reed now in the NFL. The first place to look has to be Dunbar, No. 1 in the pecking order at a position the Gators have struggled to get production out of since the days of Percy Harvin and Dallas Baker. Unless Florida is going to rely on freshmen, Dunbar is going to live up to his annual spring hype and help Driskel in a big way this year.
- Questions to be answered: This was the second spring in a row in which coaches raved about Dunbar's potential, saying that he found a stride late in 2012 and it carried through to March football. Fans seem to be taking a "believe it when we see it" approach and for good reason. Dunbar's lean physique doesn't bode well for getting off the line against the SEC's more physical cornerbacks, and his speed hasn't produced the kind of big plays one might expect in his two seasons as a contributor.
- Best case scenario: Florida is counting on Dunbar to be the No. 1 wide receiver it has billed him to be. Does that mean he could be the Gators' first 1,000-yard receiver in 11 years? No, not with the run-first offense that will remain in place this year. But 45-50 catches shouldn't be out of the question and that would be a major step up for a team that hasn't seen a traditional wide receiver catch 40 passes since 2006.
- Best guess: With an improved offensive line and plenty of talent at running back, there is no reason for Florida to not have a substantial play-action passing attack in 2013. Dunbar will lead the Gators in receiving but maybe not to the tune of ideal numbers. Dunbar's junior season will depend heavily on how improved Florida can be at quarterback and a certain freshman that we'll get to shortly.
VOTE: HOW MANY CATCHES FOR DUNBAR?
Size: 6-4, 236
Oviedo (Fla.) Hagerty
2012 season: 156 of 245 for 1,646 yards, 12 touchdowns and five interceptions
- Why he makes the list: Driskel was given one job last season: don't lose games. With the exception of Florida's only two losses, he did just that. Four of Driskel's five interceptions came against Georgia and Louisville. This season, he enters something of a quarterback real world. The Gators won't be as dominant on defense as they were a year ago, at least against the run. Driskel will have to be the reason Florida wins some of its games and with improved talent along the offensive line, he is running out of excuses to not be a major factor.
- Questions to be answered: Decision-making and confidence were issues for Driskel throughout his first full season as a starter. He held on to the ball too long and occasionally tried to improvise with his legs in situations where he should have been more confident in his arm. Pocket presence will need to be a major area of improvement and regularly hitting his throws wouldn't hurt either. There is no longer a potential contributor behind Driskel. Either he solves his flaws or the Gators will suffer as a result.
- Best case scenario: Let's not forget that Driskel has the combination of a strong arm and elite athleticism that should make him a dangerous quarterback. His problems are largely mental. If he figures that out, he has the skillset to put together a strong year through the air and on the ground. Brent Pease has an entire offseason to draw ways to make Driskel's run threat help the UF passing game. If E.J. Manuel was a first-round draft pick, Driskel can't be much more than one decent season away from being one too, right?
- Best guess: The lack of depth behind Driskel will hurt him in a way because the coaches will be hesitant to take advantage of arguably his greatest strength. Don't expect to see too many designed run plays for Driskel, as the staff will have to be cautious of his health. He still doesn't possess the sure-fire, confident personality you'd like to see in a starting quarterback but only time will tell how much that holds him back.
VOTE: HOW MANY SACKS FOR EASLEY?
TOP 13 MOST IMPORTANT FRESHMEN (REDSHIRTED & INCOMING)
Position: Wide Receiver
Size: 6-2, 201
Fort Valley (Ga.) Peach County
- Why he makes the list: There hasn't been this much deserved buzz around a wide receiver prospect at Florida since Harvin. Robinson is more traditional in nature and more polished in technique than Harvin, a perfect fit for a pro-style team searching for an identity in its passing game. Already on the two-deep depth chart, Robinson will be asked to be a major part of the revitalization [project Florida is going through on offense in his first year.
- Questions to be answered: Any first-year player expected to contribute immediately carries concerns about how he will hold up. An ankle injury kept him out during a portion of spring practice, but he fought through his recovery during the final week and was impressive in the Orange and Blue Debut. Still, a 12-game slate and eight SEC games is always a question for a freshman.
- Best case scenario: As we saw in three open practices, all the ability is there. Robinson is the only wide receiver on Florida's roster who seems to have limitless potential on the field. He can make all the necessary plays and his expectations are almost at a point where it will be a surprise if he is not No. 2 in receiving at the end of the year. That's if he doesn't have the kind of big-time freshman year we have seen from Amari Cooper and Sammy Watkins in recent years.
- Best guess: Anything is in play, but let's temper the comparisons until we see him play a few games. He might be the most talented receiver on the team, but Dunbar will still likely get the most touches. However, it's to see another wide receiver currently on the team beating him out for the second-most touches.
VOTE: HOW MANY CATCHES FOR ROBINSON?
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