Is there even such a thing as an offseason in college football these days?
It seems like just yesterday the Florida Gators were wrapping up a disappointing 4-8 season. However, in less than three weeks time the Gators will return to the practice field for the start of spring football.
Here are a few players to keep an eye on when practice opens March 19.
Wide receiver Demarcus Robinson
Robinson arrived at Florida last spring as one of the most heralded freshman wideouts the Gators had seen since Percy Harvin. After shining in the spring game, Robinson was expected to play a big role in
Florida’s offense. However, he was never able to translate his strong spring into on-field success and his disappointing freshman season (just 5 catches for 23 yards) ended with him being suspended for the team’s final two games.
As he enters his second spring, Robinson will receive a second chance, so to speak. With a new offensive coordinator in place, and two starting wide receivers gone from last season in Trey Burton and Solomon Patton, the receiving corp has a couple of spots up for grabs.
Robinson has great athleticism and at 6-foot-2, 201 pounds, he is one of the bigger receivers on Florida’s roster. His main competition will come from fellow sophomore’s Ahmad Fulwood and Chris Thompson, but if everything is straight off the field, there is no reason Robinson shouldn’t figure into Florida’s wide receiver rotation.
Cornerback Brian Poole
Rising junior Brian Poole arrived at Florida in 2012 as one of the most heralded cornerback recruits in the nation. Unlike fellow corner Vernon Hargreaves III, who started 10 games as a true freshman in 2013, Poole has had a slow rise up Florida’s depth chart, finally emerging last season as Florida’s primary nickel back. Poole did not disappoint, putting up 32 tackles, two interceptions and three pass breakups.
But this spring offers up a chance for Poole to move even further up the depth chart. With the departures of junior cornerbacks Loucheiz Purifoy and Marcus Roberson, as well as upperclassmen Jaylen Watkins and Cody Riggs, Florida is in desperate need for someone to emerge in the secondary.
It won’t come easy for Poole. He will face stiff competition from early enrollees Jalen Tabor and Duke Dawson, as well as redshirt freshman Nick Washington. If he doesn’t win the starting corner job opposite Hargreaves, he could join the mix for a starting safety spot or return to his position at nickel back.
Running back Brandon Powell
Florida has great depth at the running back position, with Matt Jones, Kelvin Taylor, Mack Brown, Valdez Showers and redshirt freshman Adam Lane all vying for playing time. However, what differentiates the early enrollee Powell from his counterparts is his big-play ability.
Powell is a true home-run threat every time he touches the ball. If he can showcase enough of this ability in spring practices, he could certainly carve out a niche in new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper’s offense. Roper employed a back-by-committee approach at Duke. Otherwise, the youngster could be a candidate for a redshirt.
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