The Gators are more than ready to put an awful 4-8 campaign behind them, and start the 2014 season off right with a solid spring game. Here’s what you need to know to get ready for it.
The top 12 players for each team were drafted by former Gators stars, pick up game style. Picking for the orange team were Josh Evans and Shane Matthews, while the blue team was selected by Jelani Jenkins and Chris Doering. The Orange team went first. Here were their selections, in order:
Orange: Vernon Hargreaves (DB), Dante Fowler (DL), Antonio Morrison (LB), Valdez Showers (WR), Jonathan Bullard (DL), Mack Brown (RB), Keanu Neal (DB), Latroy Pittman (WR), Marcus Maye (DB), Jarrad Davis (LB), Hunter Joyer (FB) and Bryan Coz (DL)
Blue: Jeff Driskel (QB), Quinton Dunbar (WR), Michael Taylor (LB), Kelvin Taylor (RB), Chaz Green (OL), Jalen Tabor (DB), DJ Humphries (OL), Demarcus Robinson (WR), Duke Dawson (DB), Trenton Brown (OL), Max Garcia (OL) and Alex McAlister (DL)
As you may have noticed, the orange team is defense heavy, while the blue team seems to be a bit more focused on the offense. This is essentially the same thing as the Gators used to do with their first teams playing against each other, and the second teams against each other, albeit with a few shifts here and there to make the rosters seem more even. After the first 24, the rest of the players were divvied up to try to make the rosters as fair as possible.
There’s a lot to look forward to tomorrow, on both sides of the ball. But here are the top ten I’d tell you to keep an eye out for:
-Jeff Driskel’s mobility. How fast can he run in a straight footrace? How well can he throw on the run? Kurt Roper said he looks fine, but it’s always more comforting to see something with your own eyes than just hear it second hand. And though he’ll be fine for summer practices, it’d be nice to see him at full health now so he can have the performance he needs to give him great confidence heading into the fall.
-Mack Brown carrying the ball. All signs point to Kelvin Taylor beating him out for the starting job. But every great team has a solid second back, and there will be critical times in which he’ll be called upon in the fall. Let’s see how he does in short yardage situations with the Gators’ entire starting offensive line on the other team and not available to help him out. Knowing that can only help him.
-Up tempo offense. I’ve heard a lot of things from a lot of different offensive coaches over the last five years. I’ll believe this one when I see it. Not at all saying it won’t happen- I don’t believe Kurt Roper and Will Muschamp have been outright lying all this time- just saying, you know, let’s SEE IT.
-Blue team offensive line play. Four of the five starting offensive linemen are on the blue team. Florida’s QB’s took a pounding last year, but much of that was blamed on a poor/injured offensive line. With much of the defensive firepower on the orange team, let’s see how this blue 0-line protects Driskel.
-Blue team freshmen DB’s. Jenkins/Doering didn’t pick a whole lot of defensive players, but two of the ones they did pick are among the most highly touted defensive recruits in the country in defensive backs Jalen Tabor and Duke Dawson. I’m anxious to see how they play, even though the Orange team doesn’t have a ton of offensive explosiveness.
-Jarrad Davis’s performance. Coaches have been raving about his play at linebacker over the last couple of weeks of spring practice. Time to show the fans what they’ve been talking about, Jarrad. You’ll have your hands full with most of Florida’s starting offense, but something tells me these coaches weren’t talking to amuse themselves.
-Special teams. Can Kyle Christy regain his 2012 form punting the ball? Can kicker Austin Hardin prove to Florida fans why he was so highly touted coming out of high school?
-Demarcus Robinson’s attitude. So much talent. So much promise. All of it was wasted last year with a poor approach to things and had Gators fans scratching their heads at what, exactly, Will Muschamp had snatched away from Clemson (though the injuries around him couldn’t possibly have helped his attitude). But it’s a new year for every Gator. I’m anxious to see how he gets his started.
-Vernon Hargreaves vs. Quinton Dunbar. It’s the team’s best corner on the team’s best receiver, with the team’s starting QB in charge of getting the ball to said best receiver. No words needed here. Just sit back and enjoy.
-Surrounding fans’ attitudes. I know, 2013 sucked. And trust me, by the time Florida lost to Georgia Southern, I wanted Will Muschamp fired more than anybody else on this planet. But you know what? It’s a new year. I’m a forgiving person when it comes to honest mistakes, and I’m not inclined to believe Muschamp rubbed his hands like a mad scientist or laughed like Plankton from Spongebob after every Florida defeat because he’s a UGA double agent. Or anything of that silly nature. So I forgive you, Muschamp. Go out and do your thing this year. And I hope everybody else shares that opinion, and rallies behind the Gators despite what they thought of Muschamp last year, because it’s over and he will be our coach this year. Full steam ahead, Gator Nation!