The Florida Gators will be looking to bounce back in 2014 after a terribly disappointing 2013 season. Will Muschamp will have a tall task ahead of him considering the defensive starpower that he will be losing to the NFL Draft. Cornerbacks Marcus Roberson and Loucheiz Purifoy and defensive tackle Dominique Easley have all declared they will be leaving for the draft, making a serious dent in the returning depth of the Florida defense. Muschamp will have to rely on young stars to step up and lead next season, starting with Vernon Hargreaves III in the secondary.
During his freshman season, Hargreaves emerged as a playmaker for the Gators as their best cover corners on the field. He finished seventh on the team this season with 38 tackles while leading Florida with three interceptions 11 pass breakups. His 14 passes defended tied for the most in the SEC this season in just his first season on campus. He will have a big challenge in his sophomore season as the No. 1 corner for the Gators leading a thin and inexperienced secondary next fall.
Despite their overall lack of success in 2013, the defense was still a strength for the Gators this season. They led the SEC in pass defense, allowing just 171.8 yards per game with a conference-best nine touchdowns allowed and 10 interceptions. They’ll be hard-pressed to match that level of play in 2014, however, without the services of Roberson and Purifoy unless Hargreaves takes his game to the next level next season. He’s shown fully capable of being a shutdown corner this season but now he’ll need to prove he’s a leader on defense.
Turnover is inevitable in college football but Florida will face an incredible amount of turnover next season. Can Hargreaves step up and get the Gators back into the SEC title conversation in 2014?