Orange and Blue Debut
When: Saturday, April 6th
Where: Gainesville, Florida
Time: 1 PM
What you won’t see: A true spring game
Florida has 11 offensive linemen on scholarship, but only six of them are healthy enough to practice. That means Florida’s spring game will be a glorified open practice due the lack of bodies at the position. You also won’t see promising freshman linebacker Alex Anzalone, among others, due to an injury.
One player I’ll be watching: RB Matt Jones
Replacing Mike Gillislee is the biggest key to Florida’s 2013 season. Gillislee toted the rock more than anyone in the SEC and was a complete workhorse. But Gillislee’s backup Matt Jones has emerged as a star this spring. Jones rushed for just 275 yards as a freshman, but he drastically improved throughout the season. In addition to Jones, keep an eye on the two other backs Mack Brown and Kelvin Taylor. Taylor and Jones are the future for the Gators, as Brown has yet to break out of his shell.
Next player to watch: WR Demarcus Robinson
Florida needs wide receivers, and they signed arguably the best set of hands in the country in Demarcus Robinson. The early enrollee has been in a boot some this spring, but I’m interested to see this kid play Saturday. Robinson will remind you a little of Justin Hunter, although he’s slightly shorter and probably not as fast. But Robinson can come down with any pass thrown his direction because he has gluey hands. Robinson will try to give Jeff Driskel a legit freshman threat he didn’t have in 2012.
Spring theme: How much has the passing game improved?
Jeff Driskel’s improvement is at the forefront of every Florida spring discussion. With another offseason learning the offense and getting better surveying the field, the passing game should get a shot in the arm. Florida finished 118th last season in passing offense, and a large portion of the blame shouldn’t be shouldered by Driskel alone. It was a combination of the inexperience at quarterback, a sometimes patchwork offense line and absence of receivers who could create any separation outside of five yards. The offensive line should improve, along with Driskel’s experience, but the question still remains about the receivers.
Spring breakout player: DB Marcus Maye
Florida needs help at safety, as both Josh Evans and Matt Elam are gone. But redshirt freshman Marcus Maye has been turning heads this spring. The 6-0, 205-pound safety has natural instincts and ability. Maye spent most of his time in 2012 on the scout team and nursing a knee injury, but he really started to come on midway through the spring when he started to learn the system. Maye is currently battling with Cody Riggs and Jabari Gorman at the top of the depth chart, but he’s certainly been a promising and pleasant surprise for Will Muschamp this spring.
Photo Credit: Phil Sears-USA TODAY Sports