SEC Spring Football Preview: Florida Gators
2011 Record: 7-6
Returning Starters: 18
Key Losses: John Brantley, Jeff Demps, Chris Rainey, Jaye Howard, Dan Wenger
Will Muschamp’s first season at the helm of the Florida Gators was a difficult one. Uncommon in regards to the fact that Florida always seems loaded, but understandable for the reason that they were dealing with so much transition. An entirely new coaching staff and new schemes on both sides of the ball is a difficult adjustment for any team, but especially for a Gators team that had been tailored to the spread.
This spring, the Gators will have another new system in place offensively and a new quarterback, but it’s difficult to imagine that the Gators could be much worse that they were in 2011. Jacoby Brisset and Jeff Driskell will battle it out at quarterback to replace John Brantley, and Mike Gillislee will be tasked with replacing the production of Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey, who combined for 1,430 yards rushing and eight touchdowns in 2011.
Defensively, Will Muschamp returns almost everything from a defense that was already pretty good in 2011. However, they will have to replace Jaye Howard and all the production he brought to the table. Luckily, the back seven returns completely in tact, and with that amount of speed and talent, masking the loss of Howard shouldn’t be that difficult.
What to watch for:
The quarterback battle is going to be incredibly competitive this spring, but Jacoby Brisset should have an opportunity to stake claim to his job before the fall. Obviously, the biggest factor will be who can pick up new offensive coordinator Brent Pease’s system the quickest.
The skill positions should also be heavily contested, but the depth chart won’t likely be settled before opening day, as Florida expects several key freshman to come in and compete for a job immediately.
Defensively, this team is already solid, but you’d like to see them become more dynamic. Last season, the Florida Gators only forced 14 turnovers on the season, and that number has to improve with the amount of talent the Gators have at every level. The spring is going to be a time for veterans to lock in jobs because Florida has some extremely talented incoming freshman scheduled to try to find their way into the mix this fall.
The defensive backfield should have the most competitive position battles, as the Gators have six guys back with starting experience. Guys like Jaylen Watkins and Josh Evans will certainly have to scratch and claw if they hope to unseat an incumbent starter and fight their way into a starting role.
Spring game: 4-7