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August 27, 2014

10 Questions: Vertical passing attack?



The wait is almost over. On Saturday night at 7 p.m. in The Swamp, Florida will square off against Idaho in its season opener. Inside the Gators gives you 10 storylines to keep an eye on as UF looks to snap a seven-game losing streak with a victory to open 2014.

1. Will the Gators put away the Vandals early? In the past two seasons, Florida has struggled to gain significant leads early against non-conference foes it should be dominating. In last season's opener it lead only 10-3 at halftime against Toledo and the year prior 17-14 against Bowling Green by third quarter's end. The Gators should put their foot down and make this one out of reach by mid-second quarter at the latest, but will they?

2. How much of the deep ball will we see from Jeff Driskel and Co.? In eight open practices, one prevalent element of Kurt Roper's new up-tempo, spread attack in the shotgun we saw was the vertical passing game. In fall camp, Florida's quarterbacks - especially Driskel - weren't afraid to let it fly and found plenty of success with deep passes. Gators fans were deprived of the deep ball in 2013, and if it makes a strong appearance Saturday there will be optimism to go around at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

3. With or without Marcus Maye (hamstring), how will the rotations in the secondary figure out and how will snaps be divided? Throughout fall camp, the secondary has been a shifting puzzle. The last thing it needed was Maye, the projected starter at nickel back, to be questionable. Florida will try out multiple players at the nickel Saturday, such as Brian Poole, Jabari Gorman and even Vernon Hargreaves III regardless of Maye's status. It'll also be interesting to keep tabs on how the freshmen cornerbacks and safeties share snaps with the second unit.

4. How will Florida's running backs fare as pass-catchers out of the backfield? In fall camp, Florida's stable of running backs caught a good number of passes in a variety of formations. Now, we get to see if Kelvin Taylor and Matt Jones will thrive in this capacity. Brandon Powell, too, could be an elusive backfield receiving threat.

5. Will Florida's offensive line hold up? Depth is an issue here, but the Gators remain confident in their rotation of blockers. Players like David Sharpe, Drew Sarvary and Antonio Riles should see some snaps off the bench Saturday and will need to perform well to give the Gators some type of assurance right off the bat.

6. How will Andre Debose look as a receiver and returner in his first game back after a year off? The redshirt senior, returning from a torn ACL that sidelined him for 2013, will play a prominent role as both a kick and punt returner. In addition, he should see some snaps too lining up on the outside. Debose should be on full display Saturday after a long wait.

7. At what point in the game will backup quarterback Treon Harris see the field, and how well will he perform? This stems from Question No. 1. Ideally, Muschamp would like to sub Harris in by the second quarter, but it's likely dependent on the scoreboard. If he does see a significant number of snaps, how Harris performs in short-yardage situations with his legs - a key reason why he won the No. 2 job over fellow freshman Will Grier - is something to keep an eye on.

8. How will UF divvy up its field-goal attempts between Austin Hardin and Francisco Velez? Hardin will handle Florida's kickoffs, but both he and Velez are still in a battle for the starting job. There's a good chance both receive opportunities on Saturday. It'll be interesting to see who gets more.

9. How will the freshmen perform? Muschamp has assured the masses that nine true freshmen will play Saturday and about 8-9 redshirt freshmen will see action as well. A few training camp standouts, Powell, Duke Dawson, Gerald Willis and C.J. Worton, should see their first collegiate action Saturday. Redshirt freshmen Jay-nard Bostwick, Johnson and Nick Washington could also see a good number of snaps against the Vandals.

10. Will Jake McGee make an immediate impact in his first game at Florida? The Virginia transfer is listed behind Clay Burton at tight end on the depth chart but should make a leap eventually. McGee will get his opportunities regardless Saturday. Whether he lives up to the hype and makes the most of them will be noteworthy.



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