The new-look Florida Gators are embarking on one of the most important seasons in program history, and no doubt it’s Will Muschamp’s most important season. On the heels of a 4-8 record, Muschamp sits upon college football’s hottest seat looking for an Auburn- or Missouri-like turnaround.
Here’s what to watch for Saturday during the Orange and Blue Game:
New look offense
Everyone is itching to see new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper’s unit. He’s a David Cutcliffe disciple who is known for tutoring, growing and maturing quarterbacks. Roper’s spread attack fits Florida’s personnel much better, especially Jeff Driskel. But not just Driskel. It will allow players like Demarcus Robinson, Ahmad Fullwood, Chris Thompson and Alvin Bailey, among others, to get the ball in space and make some plays. Muschamp has totally changed his strategy and offensive philosophy in an attempt to open up the offense and change what wasn’t working. You have to commend him for that. Let’s see how Driskel and others respond on Saturday’s spring game. Whether or not you can learn much from a glorified scrimmage is up for debate, but I’ll contend we saw Driskel make the same mistakes last year during spring. All Muschamp is telling Roper right now is find a way to score 25 to 28 points per game.
The new guys
Two early enrollee defensive backs Jalen Tabor and Duke Dawson have turned heads. Tabor has all the accolades and looks like a future Richard Sherman, while Dawson quietly entered Florida and made some serious noise this spring. Both players are crucial to rebuild the corners, as Loucheiz Purifoy and Marcus Roberson left for the NFL early. Tabor passes the physical eye test and looks like a future NFL corner, while Dawson’s build will remind you of former Gator Janoris Jenkins.
Demarcus Robinson and Ahmad Fullwood are two players who have to play much bigger roles on offense. With the new offense, it should allow Robinson and Fullwood to get in space and make plays. Robinson was compared to Sammy Watkins exiting high school, but he didn’t produce like everyone anticipated. Fullwood is an excellent possession receiver who can go up and get it. Fullwood and Robinson have to be super if Florida’s passing game will develop.
One player to watch on defense is safety Marcell Harris. Harris entered Florida with a knee injury, but he’s been healthy this spring. With Cody Riggs’ transfer, Harris becomes one player who could benefit. Other safeties Jabari Gorman and Marcus Maye will get the first look, but Harris was an incredible high school prospect, who, if he stays healthy, will be tough to keep off the field. He hits like a truck, and he’ll remind you a little of Matt Elam. Elam was an excellent athlete who played tough against the run. Harris can be that player, assuming he stays healthy.
Aside from Demarcus Robinson, slot receiver Chris Thompson has made a big impression. Florida needs speed, and Thompson has plenty of it. Given the new offense, Thompson could benefit greatly in the slot and help make Florida’s offense more explosive, an obvious lack the last several years. Thompson is a burner.
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