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March 14, 2014
Spring Countdown: Five who could surprise
There are certain players fans know they can trust going into a season. There are others that might catch them off-guard. With spring practice beginning March 19, Inside the Gators takes a look at five players who could surprise this offseason.
WIDE RECEIVER ALVIN BAILEY (R-FR; 5-11, 185)
Not only did Bailey never see the field as a freshman, but he never seemed particularly close to cracking the lineup. In Florida's offensive schemes of the recent past, there was seldom room for more than one player of Bailey's mold at a time.
During the first two months of the Kurt Roper era, it seems Bailey types are in high demand. Both of the 2014 signees at the position are slot receivers with average height but above-average speed and ability to make plays in space. Bailey will have the upper-hand over those players solely off experience and brings a quality the Gators no longer have without Solomon Patton.
Bailey should be one of the previous unknowns who benefits most from the coaching change.
DEFENSIVE TACKLE CALEB BRANTLEY (R-FR; 6-2, 313)
There was not a defensive lineman more talented in the Gators' 2013 singing class than Brantley. Then again, there wasn't another player as much in need of an individual overhaul either. Brantley came in noticeably out of shape and not particularly coach-friendly, a bad combination if one is trying to make it as a freshman on any team.
His teammates say they saw that change during the season. College coaches have a way of commanding respect from players who haven't always had to show it over time. By the late part of the season, those closest to Brantley say he could have contributed if needed but the redshirt decision had already been made.
Florida will at least look toward Brantley and Jay-nard Bostwick to be rotational interior linemen this year. The extent of that role could be earned during the spring.
OFFENSIVE GUARD TYLER MOORE (R-JR; 6-5, 320)
It would be difficult to have a first fall on campus more unpleasant than what Moore, a former Nebraska Cornhusker, went through in 2013. Moore had felt comfortable at tackle in the slower Big Ten, he is a natural guard in the SEC, not quick enough to handle the league's premier edge rushers.
Barring (another) injury to Chaz Green, Moore will get the opportunity to play a position that should better fit him in 2013. He will begin spring working solely at guard.
The issue was never strength with Moore. It was always speed. By moving inside, he will get to benefit from more of the former and suffer from less of the latter. A scooter accident that ended in a compact fracture only added salt to 2013's wound, but Moore is cleared for spring and should be motivated to respond.
CORNERBACK BRIAN POOLE (JR; 5-10, 205)
All the attention at cornerback will be on Vernon Hargreaves III and freshman Jalen Tabor. They're former five-star prospects and the chances of them starting opposite one another are high. But Poole isn't exactly an afterthought in this conversation.
In fact, the only reason why the above scenario is assumed is because Poole is so valuable as an all-around defender. He has a certain Matt Elam style to him, a defensive back who can play underneath plays like a linebacker. Poole is perfectly cut for the kind of physical presence Will Muschamp likes to establish at his position.
Hargreaves and Tabor might hold the flashier titles, but Poole could be in position for more plays throughout 2014.
RUNNING BACK VALDEZ SHOWERS (R-JR; 5-11, 190)
This comes with a caveat. Stacked at defensive back in 2013, Muschamp made the decision to move Showers to the offensive side of the ball, hoping his speed would give Florida some sense of an electric playmaker coming out of the backfield. This spring, the Gators have seven scholarship running backs and four safeties.
Assuming Showers is allowed to remain at running back, a position he seemed to embrace in 2014, he should be another strong fit in a more wide-open spread rushing attack. Outside of Kelvin Taylor, he is the only Florida running back with past experience who would seem to fit a spread scheme better than a pro-style offense.
Showers is a scatback who can be equally effective catching passes and stretching the run game from sideline to sideline. There should be more room for that at Florida than there has been in recent years.