Five things to watch in the Gators’ fall camp

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The Gators reported for fall camp yesterday, meaning that we are one step closer to seeing real, live Gator football. Practice makes perfect, after all, and championships are won in the offseason. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the five main things to keep an eye out for as fall practice begins:

5) Is the secondary deserving of its hype?

We all know the answer to this question, at least on paper, is a resounding yes. Between Vernon Hargreaves, Jalen Tabor, Brian Poole, Quincy Wilson and Keanu Neal, there’s tons of talent in the Gators’ defensive backfield. But the back end of Florida’s defense let the team down at times last year, getting burned several times for huge plays over the top. Then again, at other times, it was fantastic. It promises to be even better this year with all key pieces returning. I’m anxious to see how the secondary as a whole performs in fall practice- not just in terms of intercepting and breaking up passes, but in terms of energy level, being in the right spot at the right time and just generally displaying a high level of awareness and focus.

4) Calling all wide receivers… time to step up

Demarcus Robinson proved last year that he’s a capable deep threat. After that, though, the Gators’ wide receiver depth chart drops off sharply, at least in the production department. Quinton Dunbar and Andre Debose, for all their natural ability, never really did much of anything in their Gator careers. The last thing I want to see is more highly touted wide receiver recruits follow in their footsteps. The task falls on young but talented receivers such as Brandon Powell, CJ Worton, Antonio Callaway, Kalif Jackson, Raphael Andrades and Ryan Sousa to step into larger roles and make some plays in the passing game. Florida got some solid play from tight ends Jake McGee and C’yontai Lewis in spring ball, but as wonderful a luxury as playmaking tight ends can be, the Gators simply have to find at least one more (and preferably two) dependable receivers.

3) Freshmen sensations on offense

Florida could have up to four true freshmen starting on the offensive side of the ball this year: running back Jordan Scarlett, offensive linemen Tyler Jordan and Martez Ivey and the aforementioned Antonio Callaway at wide receiver. Each of them were huge gets for Florida on the recruiting trail, but now it’s time for the de-recruiting process, i.e. “we still love you, but now it’s time to get to work, and you’re no more important than anybody else on this team.” I don’t think attitudes will be a problem among these guys, but it’s always something to be wary of, especially when there are several of them who could realistically see playing time. But on a more positive note, this is where these guys have their chances to shine. Scarlett will compete to be the #2 running back behind Kelvin Taylor, Callaway will audition for a key role in a receiver corps that’s been dreadful the past few years and Ivey/Jordan will be looking to cement starting roles on an offensive line that needs a complete overhaul. All their high school tapes are now officially irrelevant. Let’s see what they’ve got as college football players.

2) Development of the offensive line

The aforementioned Tyler Jordan and Martez Ivey are more than going get their fair shot to start on the offensive line. But that’s not to say that they’ll get starting spots, nor will McElwain ignore the other contenders. The only two spots that are even close to having guaranteed starters are Trip Thurman at center and David Sharpe at left tackle. The rest of the line? Well, that’s the adventure. Thurman and Sharpe are the only two returning contributors to the line, and so the other three spots are completely up in the air. My best guesses to start are: prized freshman Martez Ivey at right tackle, Fordham transfer Mason Halter at right guard and redshirt sophomore Antonio Riles at left guard. But McElwain has also said that Thurman will need to be able to learn all five positions on the offensive line, meaning if somebody like Tyler Jordan (a more natural center) really impresses, Thurman can move over so Jordan can play his most natural position. Expect everybody to get a fair shot, but this line is going to be criticized heavily regardless of who plays if it doesn’t perform well this year.

1) Quarterback battle

The biggest offseason debate was who would win the starting QB job. It appears to be Will Grier’s job to lose at this point, as he’s a more natural pocket passer with the better arm. Plus, Treon Harris missed some time in the spring for personal reasons. And while one of the things Harris has working for him is his mobility, Grier has decent wheels of his own. That said, Harris does have the experience edge over Grier, starting for most of last season after replacing the ineffective Jeff Driskel. He also throws a prettier ball than given credit for. But given all that’s happened since last season ended, I’d be shocked if Grier doesn’t start the season opener against New Mexico State. Even putting that aside, though, I’m interested to see how these guys do as leaders. Which of them clicks with their teammates better and just makes them play better, period. These are the things you can’t teach and don’t show up in the stats, but are undeniably crucial in picking the starting QB.

6 thoughts on “Five things to watch in the Gators’ fall camp

  1. I am Jazzed. This will be a very long month. I don’t think we’ll be much better than 7 or 8 wins BUT I think we’ll EXECUTE MUCH BETTER. This years Spring was showed that.

    For me it’s not about wins. 2012 exposed that, we were LUCKY and 2013 & 2014 proved me right.

    Attitude, Recruiting, and Execution means a Bright Future.

    1. This year’s spring showed that in some positions. The offensive line still looked a bit flummoxed. Then again, that was without Thurman and the freshmen…

    2. No we were not lucky we had a very good run blocking oline that year as evidenced by how many from that oline were drafted we had our first 1,000 yard rusher since ciatrick fason. Driskel actually played decent and made plays while also not turning the ball over … We had a defense that had 3 first round picks on the dline 1 first round pick at safety who was one of the best safeties in Florida football we also had Roberson purifoy before they thought they didn’t have to try anymore since they were projected 1st rounders and we also had Bostic and Jenkins at linebacker who played phenomminally and even josh Evans made plays at safety opposite Matt elam and is also playing in the nfl oh and we also had Jordan Reed which had he not fumbled diving into the end zone in GA v FL game for the winning TD we would have beaten 5 top ten teams that year in regular season not 4 (which was still a record) and we would have ended up playing in the sec/natl championship game you cannot compare that team to either one of the teams we had the two years after that the talent levels were drastically different

  2. First of all, we won’t be able to “see” anything that transpires in practice unless McElwain has reversed the mania for secrecy that has pervaded Gainesville for a long time now. We will only have the information that coaches and players tell us, and you should know by now that they only tell you what you want to hear. That’s true everywhere, and the only time they’ll say something negative is to send a message to their players, not because they care about telling the public anything. An example of that was when Jimbo fisher went into a tirade over Jalen Ramsey last year that made it seem like Ramsey was close to being kicked off the team. Yeah, like that was ever going to happen!
    My advice is to treat anything a player or coach says for what it’s worth, and that’s nothing. Vernon Hargreaves told us that Jeff Driskel was “the best quarterback in America” last year and Treon Harris told us that “Kelvin Taylor is the best running back in the SEC” this year.
    When the depth chart is revealed before a real game is played, that’s when you’ll learn something. What I’ll be interested to see is if Thurman is on it. A major reason FSU’s defensive line dominated UF last year is because Thurman couldn’t move, and he certainly is not going to be at center if he can’t move.
    My advice it to not believe a word said. Use your own judgement when UF plays East Carolina, which is not your typical cupcake UF usually happens at the beginning of a season. East Carolina had 536 yards of offense against UF. Many folks think stats tell the story about how good a defense is, I think UF’s defense played well because they made game winning plays. The stats, for instance, against South Carolina, say UF’s defense played great, but it was the defensive collapse at the end of the game that was the reason UF lost.
    The game against East Carolina will be educational because they are at the same level as UF is right now, evidenced by their matchup in a bowl game. We’ll learn if UF is better, worse, or about the same.

  3. Injuries in the OL and LB and playing time lost because of those injuries will determine wins and loses this season. The 2015 Gators do not have the depth or experience to handle injuries at those two positions.It is perhaps obvious but a team without a strong and effective OL cannot be entertaining and/or effective offensively. Some key contributors may never play a down this season. This includes Morrison, Holley and maybe Thurman. If no one gets hurt, the Gators are in good shape. With the usual number of injuries I see a 5-7 record with a very difficult October.

  4. Offensive line is the key. Without it, we are fucked regardless of what else happens.

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