The Florida Gators are coming off a disastrous 4-8 season. They have hired and new offensive coordinator and lost six starters on defense. Head coach Will Muschamp has made it clear that there will be competition at every position, but here are the three positions where the competition will be exceedingly fierce.
Florida has been desperate for playmakers at wide receiver for years now. It appears that in Kurt Roper’s new up-tempo offense, legitimate receiving options will finally emerge.
The always-reliable Quinton Dunbar will be the team’s No. 1 receiver. Competition for the No. 2 job has really started to heat up this spring; with dynamic sophomores Demarcus Robinson, Chris Thompson and Ahmad Fulwood all vying for the job.
Robinson took a big step forward with his five catch, 51 yard performance in the spring game, which included a beautiful 31-yard touchdown. He clearly has the most natural talent of any receiver on the roster.
Sixth-year senior Andre Debose will finally look to live up to the hype. Roper will look to utilize the speedster’s talents out of the slot. Given his skillset, redshirt freshman Alvin Bailey could factor in at slot receiver as well.
It appears Roper will spread the ball around to a variety of different options, so it may not matter where each receiver stands on the depth chart.
Projected starters: Quinton Dunbar, Demarcus Robinson
Jarrad Davis may have been the most overlooked players of Florida’s 2013 recruiting class, but after a strong freshman season, nobody is discounting the hard-hitting sophomore this spring. Davis has earned a starting spot next to Antonio Morrison.
Neiron Ball figures to be the other starter at outside linebacker, but will have competition from talented sophomore Daniel McMillian. The always-steady Michael Taylor will figure prominently into the defenses’ plan as well. He has the versatility to play all three linebacker spots.
Youngsters Jeremi Powell, Alex Anzalone and Matt Rolin have missed all of spring practice while recovering from injuries.
However things shakes out, Florida will have plenty of depth at the position, which should serve them well late in games.
Projected Starters: Antonio Morrison, Neiron Ball, Jarrad Davis/Michael Taylor
Florida’s secondary has undergone quite the overhaul since last season. Gone are starting cornerbacks Loucheiz Purifoy and Marcus Roberson, and starting safeties Jaylen Watkins and Cody Riggs. However, the Gators are not lacking in quality replacements.
Sophomore Vernon Hargreaves III, arguably the best cornerback in the nation, will be Florida’s top corner. The battle for the No. 2 corner remains up for grabs, and two early enrollees have emerged as the leading candidates for the job. The uber-talented Jalen Tabor and the hard-hitting Duke Dawson will battle it out for the rest of spring. Redshirt freshman Nick Washington could also figure into the mix.
Senior safety Jabari Gorman, who started five games last season, looks locked in at one of the safety spots. Redshirt sophomore Marcus Maye, sophomore Keanu Neal and redshirt freshman Marcel Harris are competing for the other starting spot.
Maye offers experience, having started the first two games of last season. Neal, who has been dealing with a hamstring injury this spring, flashed the most potential of this group in the spring game. Harris is a physically imposing player and a big-hitter at 6-foot-2, 215 pounds, but a knee-injury has slowed him early in his career.
With all of the inexperience and youth, there are bound to be some growing pains with this unit early on, but I think this group has the potential to be better than last year’s unit that featured three potential NFL Draft picks.
Projected starters: Cornerback: Vernon Hargreaves, Jalen Tabor
Safety: Jabari Gorman, Keanu Neal
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