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College Football Preview 2014-2015: 25. Florida Gators

25. Florida Gators
Kelvin Taylor

Coach: Will Muschamp (4th year)
2013-2014 Record: 4-8 (3-5 SEC)
August 30th vs. Idaho
September 6th vs. Eastern Michigan
September 13th vs. Kentucky
September 20th @ Alabama
October 4th @ Tennessee
October 11th vs. LSU
October 18th vs. Missouri
November 1st vs. Georgia (in Jacksonville)
November 8th @ Vanderbilt
November 15th vs. South Carolina
November 22nd vs. Eastern Kentucky
November 29th @ Florida State

Florida fans will desperately try to put the 2013-2014 season behind them. The Gators were wrecked by injuries and limped to a 4-8 mark, that included a 3-5 SEC posting and a stunning loss at home to FCS foe Georgia Southern. Will Muschamp returns a big core from last year and will hope that his team can stay healthy this year. Although the Gators suffered some major losses on defense they should still compete in the SEC despite a brutal schedule.

Backfield: Last year was supposed to be a breakout year for Jeff Driskel. After an up-and-down sophomore season, Driskel's arm looked stronger and his mechanics looked more polished before breaking his leg against Tennessee, costing him the year. Driskel had a nice spring game and seems to be more comfortable in the Florida offense and seems to be adjusting to new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper's scheme. Driskel, now technically a junior, has always been dangerous with his legs but the rest of his quarterback skills are still sloppy. He has an awkward release and he lacks consistent accuracy and the ability to make deep throws. Tyler Murphy transferred after the year, opening up the backup spot to Skylar Mornhinweg. Mornhinweg was thrust into the QB role late last year and he struggled mightily in his three games. He still has a very high ceiling and has the mind of a quarterback. If Driskel struggles, expect Muschamp to give Mornhinweg, a redshirt sophomore, plenty of opportunities. Florida's offense has struggled mightily the last couple years an the passing game is still an issue but their multitude of backs will help a lot. Sophomore back Kelvin Taylor showed flashes of brilliance last year, rushing for 508 yards and four touchdowns. Also back is Matt Jones, who was a solid contributor when healthy last season and Mack Brown, the leading returning rusher.

Receivers: In order for any offensive success the Gators need some offensive balance and they need some receivers to step up around Driskel. Senior Quinton Dunbar is the obvious answer, he had 40 receptions last year and will hope for a breakout senior year. He has good speed and is a pretty good route runner but drops have been an issue throughout his time in Gainesville. Senior tight end Clay Burton is a solid option in the passing game that will be important because he helps move the chains. He has great size, standing at 6'4" and always find ways to get some open space; he doesn't possess fantastic hands but he is serviceable. Sophomore Ahmad Fulwood is ready to make a difference after putting up solid statistics his freshman season and expect a healthy Andre Debose to be a factor as a senior. Four-star commit, Moral Stephens will be counted on to come in right away and make a difference; the product from Perry, Florida has good hands and has explosiveness. Florida will also count on Taylor and Brown to make plays as receivers coming out of the backfield, they were both solid in 2013.

Offensive Line: Although they suffer a couple losses along the offensive line, Florida should still have a strong unit that includes junior tackle D.J. Humphries and senior Max Garcia. Garcia, a transfer from Maryland, was great last year for the Gators. Garcia is versatile, he should see time at both left tackle and left guard and has the athleticism and size to play both slots. Humphries could be a little bit injury concern but he is a hard-worker on the line who should show significant signs of improvement entering his junior year. The Gators will rely on four-star offensive tackle David Sharpe, a product from Jacksonville. The 6'6", nearly 300 pound tackle moves pretty well for his size and has a very high ceiling, he could be quite the player for Florida in a couple of years. Senior tackle Trenton Brown should start above him. Brown is even bigger, towering over people at 6'8". He has great awareness and knowledge of defenses and he is experienced, he has saw a ton of great SEC defenses.

Dante Fowler
Defensive Line: Perhaps the strongest part of this Gators team will be their front seven, especially their defensive line. Their most important returning linemen will be junior Dante Fowler, who had an All-SEC 2013 after recording 10.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks. Fowler will see time at defensive end and also at the "BUCK" position, a hybrid end/linebacker spot. He has great pass rushing instincts and is quick off the edge with the ability to move sideline to sideline. Also back up front will be run-stuffing defensive tackle Leon Orr, who appeared in 12 games last year and started eight. Sophomore Alex McCalister showed flashes of being a future star last year and could be very productive, spending a lot of time at defensive end. The Gators will show a lot of depth across their line as Brooklyn product Thomas Holley should see snaps at defensive tackle and junior Jonathan Bullard can do a number of things on the defensive front. Bullard had flashes of being a stud as well, including a strong showing against Kentucky, when he recorded 1.5 sacks.

Linebackers: This linebacker unit is very experienced and nearly every important contributor is back including junior Antonio Morrison. Morrison's start to 2013 was shaky; he was arrested for barking at a police dog, but he ended up starting seven games and had 56 tackles in that span. He will spend most of his time at middle linebacker, he has good range and burst, as he can rush the holes in their defensive line and stop the back from getting openings. Senior Neiron Ball was a solid producer last season for Florida and will be counted on to step up even more. Ball is a versatile linebacker who can disrupt backfields even if he doesn't get much sacks (only 1 in his career so far). On the weakside, Muschamp should lean on another senior, Michael Taylor, who had somewhat of a breakout 2013. Taylor had 62 tackles last year, 3.5 of them being tackles for loss. He has fantastic instincts and reads offenses extremely well. The Gators will expect some help from guys like sophomore Alex Anzalone and sophomore Jeremi Powell. Anzalone battled through a number of injuries in his true freshman year last year and played mainly just special teams, but should see the snaps this year to be effective. Powell was pretty productive last season before a season-ending injury on October 19th against Missouri.

Secondary: As good as guys like Christian Hackenberg for Penn State and Carl Lawson for Auburn were, no true freshman meant more to his team than Vernon Hargreaves. The superbly athletic sophomore had 3 interceptions, 38 tackles and 11 pass breakups last year on his way to earning All-American honors. With Loucheiz Purifoy, Marcus Roberson and Cody Riggs out of the picture, Hargreaves will be even more important to Florida. He has the ability to play anywhere in the defensive backfield and his top flight athleticism and coverage skills make it very difficult to get anything past him. Senior Jabari Gorman played in all 12 games for the Gators last season and should be counted more this year. He is a hard hitter with the experience and knowledge to make a ton of plays in the back. Sophomore Marcus Maye should start at the other safety spot after a decent redshirt freshman year with the Gators. He recorded 16 tackles and he has pretty good size for a safety, making him a threat to also do something while he is blitzing. Muschamp got a late recruiting surprise when five-star cornerback Jalen Tabor flipped his commitment from Arizona to Florida. Tabor has excellent coverage skills and is a hard-worker in the back and could beat out others to land the other cornerback spot, alongside Hargreaves.

Special Teams: Purifoy was a very important piece to this team's puzzle; not only did he play both cornerback and some receiver, he was their best returner. His absence will leave a big gap on this Gators team. Sophomore kicker Austin Hardin is back along with punters Kyle Christy, a senior, and sophomore Johnny Townsend.

Once more, Florida is hoping that a new offensive coordinator will help rejuvenate a terrible offense and take less pressure of their defense. Driskel has looked good in action this spring and Kelvin Taylor has the potential to have a big year if he becomes their feature back. Other than Florida State, the Gators have a pretty favorable non-conference schedule meaning improvement over last year's mark looks pretty certain, no matter how difficult the SEC slate is. But, unless significant progress is shown, this could well be Muschamp's last year in Gainesville.

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