Before we start on the projections for next years football team, let’s talk quickly about the surging Florida Gator basketball team. Last night the Gators took on their arch rival Florida State in Tallahassee. Over the years, the Gator basketball team has had some trouble in Tallahassee, including the 2006 national championship team. Last night was much different. From the opening tip-off, Florida controlled the game, dominating in ever facet. Kenny Boynton and Dante Rosario led the way with 14 a piece, and Scottie Wilbekin became an absolute terror on defense with 5 steals. At one time during the second half, the Gators led by 33 points! This basketball team is going to be special folks. They have numerous people who can score, tenacious defenders, and an extremely productive bench. Again, I must mention the outstanding play of the freshman Michael Frazier II. This kid is as good of a first year player as I have seen in Billy Donovan’s tenure……yes, that includes Brad Beal. Frazier is shooting lights out from three-point range, grabbing multiple rebounds, and driving to the basket with power and finesse. I can’t wait to see how much progression is made during the season for Michael Frazier II. Next up for the Gator basketball team is an away game at Arizona. The Gators have a 10 day break to rest and heal any injuries that may be lingering (Erik Murphy’s hip pointer). Arizona is a great team coached by Sean Miller, and they are undefeated on the season. Their schedule, up until this point, has been very soft though. The best wins are against Texas Tech and Southern Miss, so far. Keep an eye on the December 8th game against Clemson for a sign of how good this Arizona team is really going to be. Gator Basketball, Fantastic!
Let’s talk Gator football. The following is a breakdown of the entire 2013 starting roster projections (in my opinion), and maybe a few other guys that will see a lot of time. For instance, I may name 7 lineman instead of 5 because we run a rotating line. Or, I will name 3 RB’s, 5 WR’s and so on, to give you the gist of who will be seeing the field early and often. Gator fans, prepare to be very excited about next year. I believe we will be every bit as good on both sides of the ball as we are this year! Let’s do some projections….
LT Chaz Green- Had a monster year when he was healthy. Allowed very little penetration playing RT so I’m thinking we move him over to LT to fill the void left by Xavier Nixon.
LG D.J Humphries- Enrolled early and made an immediate impact on the offensive line this year. Filled in for injured James Wilson and played extremely well.
C Jonotthan Harrison- A rock at the center position. Can’t remember a bad snap since he took over. Could be even better next year.
RG Jon Halipio- Has started in basically ever game since he arrived on campus. Has steadily increased his production and become the leader on the line.
RT Max Garcia- A transfer from Maryland that sat out this season and will be eligible to start next season. Started all 12 games at tackle for the Maryland Terps and was a leader on the line.
OL Matt Patchan- Always hurt but has a huge amount of talent. If he can stay healthy he may be able to provide a ton of good support for the line.
OL Jessamen Dunker- Needed a season of development but should be a great option if needed,
OL Kyle Koehne- Filled in a lot this year and played pretty well. Needs to develop better footwork in order to keep his man from bull rushing him.
OL Ian Silberman- Played a good amount this year when people were injured. Also needs to work on his footwork and his quickness off the snap as he was beaten more than once for sacks earlier this year.
QB Jeff Driskel- Played as well as a first time starter in a new system can play. Threw the ball accurately when he had time and made some nice throws on the scramble. Made numerous plays with his feet as well. He will be as dangerous a quarterback as any team will see next season.
RB- Matt Jones- Dude is a beast! He ran for 81 yards on limited carries against the vaunted FSU defense and had numerous other games with good production. Sees the holes very well and is a stud following his blockers. This guy is going to be very good.
RB- Kelvin Taylor- Many people think Taylor, the son of Gator great Fred Taylor, will come in and immediately start. I’m not one of those people but, I do think he will see tons of playing time. He will be the lightning to Jones’ thunder. I do believe he will supplant Mack Brown as the backup, and receive more carries than Brown did as the second runner.
FB Hunter Joyer- A solid option in the running game as well. Takes on blocks and usually wins the battle. Needs to develop more consistency finding the blitzer on called runs. Joyer should become one of the best fullbacks in Florida history over his career (see Billy Latsko and Rod Fraizer).
TE1 Jordan Reed- He could definitely leave for the NFL but, I have a feeling he’s going to stick around for his last year. He is still raw at the position and could use one final season of development. He’s a stud receiver and will only be better next season if he returns.
TE2 Kent Taylor- If this guy puts on a little weight he could be a force as a receiver. He doesn’t look to be a great blocking TE because of his size, but he is tall and fast and is supposed to have very good hands. He reminds me of a bigger Riley Cooper.
WR1 Quinton Dunbar- He’s more of a possession receiver than a down field threat. Catches the ball well in traffic and isn’t afraid to take the hit. Made a few nice plays down the stretch and should be a solid option next season.
WR2 Soloman Patton- Small and speedy, Patton can take any jet sweep to the house. We missed him dearly after he broke his arm against Georgia. He has nice hands on the receiving end and has great moves and acceleration in the open field. He will be a stud next season.
WR3 Latroy Pittman- It looked like we were going to see more of him this season, but his production was very limited. One year of development should allow Pittman to better grasp the playbook and adjust to the speed of the college game. He could be a very dangerous threat down field next season.
WR4 Andre Dubose- After 4 years, I’m hoping he can finally learn the playbook…but probably not. He has loads of talent and is lightning fast but, has not developed at all since he arrived. If he can maintain a good work ethic next season he could become the Gators best deep threat.
WR5 Raphael Andrades/Ahmad Fulwood- Look for one of these players to fill in occasionally or replace Debose when he fails in practice again. Andrades played some this year, mostly on special teams, but has developed well and earned a few snaps on the first team offense late in the season. Fulwood is an incoming true freshman and is one of the top WR’s in high school. He’s 6’4 and weighs about 190 (that should be 200 by next season). It could be beneficial to have a tall vertical threat for Driskel.
DE Jonathan Bullard- As a true freshman he constantly impressed the coaches. He made numerous plays in the biggest games and had his way with more than one great offensive lineman. Doesn’t always get to the QB but, always seems to be in the backfield and can chase to the sidelines. He will be amazing in the next year or two.
DT Damien Jacobs- Played well in his first year with the Gators after transferring from the JUCO ranks. Huge upper body and has good lateral speed. Should develop into a more consistent tackle in the off-season. Needs to develop into a decent pass rusher to provide interior pressure.
DT Leon Orr- One of the largest players on the team. Played very well in relief of Floyd and Easley this season. The off-season should be enough time to make Orr a full-time starter and run stuffer.
NOTE: If Dominique Easley returns, I’d be very surprised. He is very good friends with fellow DT Sharrif Floyd who will no doubt be leaving for the NFL. Easley has been projected as a 2nd-3rd round draft pick, so coming back may be beneficial for his stock.
DE Dante Fowler- Another true freshman that impressed the coaches throughout the season. In my opinion, he may have been the most impressive of all the freshman outside of Antonio Morrison. Has a great motor and can put tons of pressure on the QB. He could be a force next season.
BUCK Ronald Powell- Remember him? After rehabbing his knee in the off-season, Powell should develop into a dominant force on the outside. He was impressing the coaches this spring before he tore his ACL in the Orange and Blue game. I can’t wait to see a healthy Ronald Powell!
MIKE LB Michael Taylor- Always plays solid when filling in for Jon Bostic. He isn’t as big as Bostic but he has great field awareness and good speed. Plays the run just as well as he plays the pass. He is a solid tackler and seems to have a good football IQ.
WILL LB Jelani Jenkins- If he hadn’t had a few injuries this season, he would be heading to the NFL. But, these injuries are going to force him back for one more year of development before entering the draft….in my opinion. Solid in the passing game and one of the speediest LB’s when chasing the run.
SAM LB Antonio Morrison- The most impressive freshman I have seen in some time. He pursues the runners with extreme intensity and will absolutely blast people. Does not miss tackles and can rush the QB as well as anyone on the defense. He may develop into the defensive leader next year.
LB Neiron Ball/Darrin Kitchens- Both players are going to be great. They both have lots of speed on the outside and can track down the RB. Neiron Ball plays the pass better than Kitchens and will probably receive a little more playing time. Kitchens is still a bit of a mystery, but the coaches love him. Ball is going to be a really good player next year.
CB Marcus Roberson- He has turned into a shutdown corner over his two seasons. He has adjusted to playing the ball in the air and opposing teams tend to throw away from his side of the field now. Roberson could graduate from “solid” to “dominant” by next season.
CB Loucheiz Purifoy- Purifoy has the highest ceiling of all the DB’s on the team. His special teams play is outstanding and his corner skills have improved drastically. Next season he could become even better than Roberson…..if he isn’t already…..
CB Jaylen Watkins- A solid option when the opposition is playing 4 and 5 wide receiver sets. He is great in man to man coverage and is very rarely beaten in the open field. Needs to work on finding the ball in the air and committing less penalties.
CB Cody Riggs- At one point last season, I thought Riggs was going to become the Gators leading CB. After a few nagging injuries and some inconsistency, Riggs has fallen behind the other 3 CB options. Still, Riggs is a good cover corner and tends to be the best at anticipating where the pass will go thus, he breaks on the ball better than the other CB’s. He will get plenty of playing time next season.
SS Jabari Gorman- He has played extremely well on special teams, often making the tackle on kickoffs. He is a big hitter and takes great angles to the runner. He doesn’t seem to miss many tackles either. The other options at strong safety will be Marcus Maye and Brian Poole. Both are freshman this year but both have had some serious praise from the coaches. Poole is playing well on special teams and I believe Maye has red-shirted due to injury. Both players were highly recruited and should see lots of playing time next season.
FS Pop Saunders- Saunders is one of those players that seems to show up just when the Gators need a play. Over his short career, he has caused a few timely fumbles and intercepted a couple passes to switch the momentum. He needs to develop consistency in his tackling but, he seems to play the ball much better than current safety Josh Evans. Pop will develop into a player very similar to Ahmad Black.
P Kyle Christy- He’s one of the best punters in the country and I expect that to continue into next season.
K Austin Hardin- He is rumored to have a foot every bit as strong as Caleb Sturgis. Is he as accurate? We will see. He weighs 20 lbs more than Sturgis so there’s no doubt he will be powerful.
PR Marcus Roberson- He showed in the FSU game that he has big play potential and good speed. Hasn’t muffed a punt yet either….
KR Andre Dubose- Dubose has made his living returning kicks for the Gators. Expect that to continue unless he can pull it together on offense.
After reading this roster projection, Gator fans should be feeling very good about the 2013 season. Barring a miracle, on defense we will be losing JR’s Matt Elam, Sharrif Floyd, Dominique Easley, and maybe Jelani Jenkins. The big loss SR’s include; Jon Bostic, Josh Evans, Omar Hunter, and Larente McCray. On offense we lose Frankie Hammond Jr, Omarius Hines, Mike Gillislee, Xavier Nixon, James Wilson, and maybe Jordan Reed. It sounds like a lot but with the rotation we have been running the last two seasons, we should have plenty of players ready to take over. In fact, lots of the positions will have a more talented player starting. Our offense should be similar to this years but possibly a little better because the system will be more familiar, and Driskel will be more experienced. The Defense, I believe, will be even better than this years with the return of Ronald Powell and the emergence of Antonio Morrison. If any of the JR’s stay, we may have the best defense in the nation……we may have the best defense in the nation this year…..GO GATORS!