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March 19, 2014

Spring Breakdown


While most of the national media is focused strictly on the Gator basketball team, and deservedly so, there is another front opening today for Gator fans starved for anything and everything Orange & Blue. The Gator football team takes the field Wednesday afternoon for the first of fifteen practices and Inside the Gators will be there every step of the way with daily practice reports, photo galleries, noteooks, interviews and much more.

Here are a couple of lists for Gator fans to look over while you wait for our first live practice reports from the field to be posted in the Alley starting at around 3:30 this afternoon.

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TIME TO SHINE: If the Gators are to rebound from a dismal 2013 season, these five players will need to step their game up.
1. Jeff Driskel, RS Jr., QB: The bad news is, taking into consideration the hype preceding him as the No. 1 ranked quarterback in the nation coming in, to this point at his best, he has been average. The good news is, he is a much better fit for what Florida, under new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper, wants to do offensively. He has looked his best when in the shotgun, spreading defenses out and using his athletic ability. What Florida is expected to do now is a more natural fit for him, how does he respond?
2. Austin Hardin, RS Soph., K: Without question, there is no excuse for a scholarship kicker at the University of Florida, or anywhere else for that matter, to convert only 33-percent of their field goals. However, that is exactly what Hardin was able to accomplish last year (4-of-12). Not only was he terrible percentage wise, his long for the year was but 33-yards, and even chip shots were an adventure. Will Muschamp's misgivings about the ability of his kicker certainly had to alter his approach offensively - which in turn only helped to exasperate the problems on that side of the ball. If he can't show more this consistency this spring, there is no reason to trot him out there on game day.
3. Matt Jones, Jr., RB: While the new offensive philosophy may be a boon for Driskel, it may have the opposite effect on Jones, whose abilities are better suited for a pro-style, line up in the I Formation and pound it between the tackles offense. Jones isn't going to make many defenders miss out in space and certainly isn't a homerun threat. In this new scheme, does he lose touches to Kelvin Taylor and Valdez Showers?
4. Tyler Moore, RS Jr., OL: One thing is for certain, Moore isn't made to play outside in the Southeastern Conference, where there is just too much speed off the edge for him to handle. So, now the question is, is he at least serviceable inside at guard? With the return of Chaz Green to go along with Trenton Brown and D.J. Humphries, the Gators seem to be set at tackle, freeing up Moore to move inside where he might be a more natural fit.
5. Antonio Morrison, Jr., LB: There is no questioning Morrison's ability. The question here is will Florida get the Morrison who was a difference maker, who could strike fear into the hearts of opposing offensive players as a freshman. Or, will they get the sophomore season version of Morrison, who regularly took bad angles, looked lost in coverage and generally turned in a terrible season. Actually, his 2012 and 2013 seasons mirrored those of the team. A surprise that came out of nowhere in 2012 (Florida was the same, going 11-2) who then fell on hard times in 2013, when much more was expected of him (ditto).

FIVE IMPACT UNDERCLASSMEN: Though two of the five may have suited up last year as true freshmen, none of them were being counted on to perform as starters or front line contributors. This spring these underclassmen will all get an opportunity to make their mark.
3. Alex Anzalone, Soph., LB: Last year, the lowest rated Jarrad Davis of the incoming linebackers made the biggest impact. This spring, don't be surprised if the most highly rated (Anzalone) makes his move to the front. There is just too much natural ability there for him not to.
2. Alvin Bailey, RS Fr., WR: He is someone you would have expected Florida to go after now that they are moving to a spread offense. He fit's the bill perfectly. He could be the answer at slot. When he gets the ball in his hands, he can make things happen.
3. Jay-nard Bostwick, RS Fr., DT: There was talk of him playing several times last year, but it never materialized. He is a mountain of a man inside who can stand up against the run as well as get some push in the pass rush.
4. Will Grier, Fr., QB: After three straight subpar seasons out of the offense, he is being looked upon as a savior by many, but he actually prefers to red shirt if possible. Will that even be a possibility if he is considerably better than Skyler Mornhinweg?
5. Demarcus Robinson, So., WR:Last fall's practice superstar turned out to be a bitter disappointment when the real season came around. No, not from a performance standpoint, freshmen get a pass for that, but there is no excuse for his off-the-field issues.

THE TERRIFIC TEN: Top 5 players on Offense/Defense
1. Andre Debose
(This is a bit of a scary proposition for Roper - your best, most dynamic playmaker, is also perhaps the most inconsistent player on the team)
2. Max Garcia
(When playing inside at guard last year, he played incredibly well. If the injury situation stabilizes and he can stay inside, he could be an All-SEC type)
3. Quinton Dunbar
(He has the ability to be a go-to receiver. Will we see him better able to utilize it in the new offense?)
4. Kelvin Taylor
(While he doesn't have top end speed, he can be a consistent 100-yard a game runner because he is a natural running back, though he needs to improve his vision)
5. Jeff Driskel
(He makes it here based on potential in the new offense. His problem to this point is that when things go bad, he tends to press, making them even worse.)
1. Vernon Hargreaves III
(The best freshman defensive player in the last how many years for the Gators?)
2. Dante Fowler Jr.
(The stats, especially the sack numbers, aren't what was expected, but that has to do with little pressure coming up the middle)
3. Antonio Morrison
(The bet here is that he is able to return to the form he showed as a freshman)
4. Jonathan Bullard
(He started to come on a bit at the end of last year. He isn't ever going to be a sack master, but he is capable of getting some pressure, while still being able to hold up against the run)
5. Michael Taylor
(He doesn't have ideal size, speed or athleticism. He just makes plays)

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