As a part of a two-part series, Dan Thompson will analyze the Florida Gators current two-deep. This analysis will include an examination of the holes in the two-deep, the balance of the two-deep, and where younger players and 2014 signees could plug in.
The Gators have, obviously, been plagued with injuries on the offensive side of the ball. During the course of the season, the Gators lost their starting quarterbacks (Jeff Driskel and Tyler Murphy), running back (Matt Jones), left tackle (D.J. Humphries), and right tackle (Tyler Moore); joining right tackle Chaz Green and wide receiver Andre Debose who were both lost before the season to injury. Adding insult to injury, the Gators lost back-up “Y receiver” Demarcus Robinson to an indefinite suspension. Moreover, through the course of the season, the following players have missed at least some time due to injury/illness: Mack Brown (LSU), Valdez Showers (Tennessee, Kentucky), Colin Thompson, Max Garcia (Miami), Jon Harrison (Miami), and Jon Halapio (Toledo, Miami).
As such, the Gators current offensive two-deep is scarier than a Stephen King novel.
|Quarterback||Skyler Mornhinweg (RS FR)||Christian Provancha (RS JR)|
|Running Back||Kelvin Taylor (FR)||Mack Brown (RS JR)|
|Full Back||Hunter Joyer (JR)||Gideon Ajagbe (RS JR)|
|X Receiver||Solomon Patton (SR)||Ahmad Fulwood (FR)|
|Y Receiver||Quinton Dunbar (RS JR)||Ahmad Fulwood (FR)|
|Z Receiver||Trey Burton (SR)||Latroy Pittman (SO)|
|Tight End||Clay Burton (JR)||Tevin Westbrook (JR)|
|Left Tackle||Max Garcia (RS JR)||Kyle Koehne (RS SR)|
|Left Guard||Ian Silberman (RS JR)||Kyle Koehne (RS SR)|
|Center||Jon Harrison (RS SR)||Trip Thurman (RS SO)|
|Right Guard||Jon Halapio (RS SR)||Kyle Koehne (RS SR)|
|Right Tackle||Trenton Brown (JR)||Kyle Koehne (RS SR)|
While this season is a wash with the Gators likely finishing 4-8, what does the two-deep look like going into next season? Do the Gators have the talent to be a potent offense? Has the lack of offensive recruiting/retention over the past few years put the Gators in an inescapable hole for the 2014 season?
Going into next season, the Gators will likely hand the reigns back Jeff Driskel. Before breaking his leg during the Tennessee game, Driskel had a 68.9 completion percentage for 477 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions, also adding 38 yards on the ground with one touchdown. Driskel, who will be a senior next season (or redshirt junior, if he can receive a medical redshirt), will be heavily relied upon next season to be an offensive catalyst – something the Gators lacked all season. Backing-up Driskel will likely be redshirt senior Tyler Murphy should he decide to stay in Gainesville. Murphy stepped in for Driskel nicely, but regressed to average throughout the season, although an injury may have played a part of that regression. On the season, Murphy had a 60.5 completion percentage for 1,216 yards with six touchdowns and five interceptions. Murphy averaged 1.2 yards per attempt less than Driskel, but averaged nearly three more passes per game. With Driskel and Murphy out, redshirt freshman Skyler Mornhinweg assumed the starting role going 24-of-38 for 229 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. All in all, the Gators had 1,936 yards passing (107th in the country) and only had 76 passing players greater than 10 yards (104th in the country).
I expect the status quo to stay the same going into next season. Jeff Driskel, followed by Tyler Murphy. I am not sure where Skyler Mornhinweg fits in this puzzle nor freshman Max Staver, as the Gators will add four-star quarterback Will Grier next season. While Grier does expect to redshirt (which is a good thing), would the Gators be willing to burn his redshirt should they find themselves in a similar situation next season?
I do think that Will Grier will have a steeper learning curve than some expect. While Grier was able to put up video game numbers at Davidson Day (NC), his level of competition was lacking majorly. Grier will also need to add at least 25 pounds to his lanky frame.
Expected two-deep: Jeff Driskel, Tyler Murphy
The Gators entered the season expecting Matt Jones to break out, Mack Brown to be a serviceable back up and Kelvin Taylor to be a change-of-pace back that would be used sparingly. That plan, obviously, changed quite a bit with Matt Jones out for the beginning of the season with an illness and then being injured at LSU. During the season, Matt Jones averaged 4.29 yards per rush with two touchdowns, but failed to show that he could be a home run threat for the Gators. Mack Brown has done OK for the Gators this season. He is currently leading the team in rushing yards, but is only averaging 3.76 yards per carry. Mack Brown is, also, not a home run threat for the Gators and has only three times this season averaged more than four yards per play (Toledo (4.2), Georgia (4.6), South Carolina (6.6)). Freshman Kelvin Taylor has proven to be the biggest change-of-pace back, but has had a few mistakes during his campaign. Taylor’s year started slow, but has assumed the role of starter. On the season, Taylor has a 4.60 rushing average with four touchdowns, and as added 37 yards on five catches. Taylor has 14 plays of greater than 10 yards, which is five more than Mack Brown on 35 less carries.
Next season, there will be an interesting competition for the back-up spot to Kelvin Taylor. Matt Jones, the former starter, will be coming back from injury, Mack Brown has had the lions share of carries this season, redshirt freshman Adam Lane will vie for playing time and incoming freshman Dalvin Cook (should he stick in his commitment) will also see the field as a home-run threat. Running back is the one area of the Gators football team that I am least concerned about.
Expected two-deep: Kelvin Taylor, Matt Jones
I expect the status quo going into next season. Throughout his three years at the University of Florida, Hunter Joyer has seen his role move almost solely into blocking going from 18 rushes as a freshman to four as a sophomore and three this season. Joyer has proven that he is the better blocker to Ajagbe and will continue in his role. Ajagbe, however, should be praised for his performance this season during his first year at fullback. He has four receptions on the year with one touchdown.
Expected two-deep: Hunter Joyer, Gideon Ajagbe
Quinton Dunbar has stepped up nicely for the Gators this season with 37 receptions for 511 yards, although he has zero touchdowns. Over last season, Dunbar is averaging more than three yards per reception and nearly more one reception per game. Dunbar has improved his route running and catching ability, which has allowed him to lead the team in receptions longer than 15 yards, but has struggled in yards after catch, a skill he will have to improve before entering the National Football League. Backing-up Dunbar most of the season was freshman Demarcus Robinson. On the season, Robinson had six catches for 43 yards, which were not the results fans, coaches and Robinson were expecting. After being suspended once already this season, Robinson was suspended indefinitely before the Georgia Southern game. With Robinson’s future at Florida in jeopardy, expect freshmen Marqui Hawkins, sophomore Latroy Pittman, or incoming freshman Ermon Lane to fight for the back-up role.
Expected two-deep: Quinton Dunbar, Ermon Lane
Solomon Patton has had his best season with the Gators yet, leading the team in receptions (39), yards (511) and touchdowns (6). With his performance this season, Patton has likely earned himself an opportunity to make it into the NFL. However, with Patton graduating, the Gators will ask freshman Ahmad Fulwood to step-up into a starting role. On the season, Fulwood has nine receptions for 104 yards and one touchdown. Fulwood has seen his role increase in the past four games averaging more than two caches per game. Fulwood has done enough to earn himself a starting role for next season, but behind him, just like at the X-receiver spot, remains completely open. The same group fighting for the Y-receiver spot, will fight for this role.
Expected two-deep: Ahmad Fulwood, Marqui Hawkins
Trey Burton is graduating from the University of Florida after his biggest year at receiver, 38 catches for 445 yards and one touchdown, and his worst year in the wildcat/running back (10 rushes for nine yards). Latroy Pittman is currently listed as the back-up, but do not be surprised to see Gainesville-native Chris Thompson jump ahead of him on the depth chart or freshman Alvin Bailey, who is currently redshirting. On the season, Pittman has one catch for eight yards and Thompson has two receptions for 13 yards, after burning his redshirt against Vanderbilt. Andre Debose will return after tearing his ACL before the season, and will likely assume the starting role.
Expected two-deep: Andre Debose, Alvin Bailey
It is never a good situation when your starting two tight ends are converted defensive ends. With the graduation of Jordan Reed last season, the Gators knew it would be a bad situation at tight end, but did they know it would be this dire? Offensive production for this season at tight end? Three catches for 30 yards (all by Tevin Westbrook).
During the season, Clay Burton has struggled to block and is no threat to catch the ball. Tevin Westbrook has had three catches, but struggles blocking. Sophomore Kent Taylor was redshirted and Colin Thompson was lost to injury.
The current Gators tight end situation is the worst it has likely ever been. The Gators have two tight ends committed: C’yontai Lewis and Deandre Goolsby, however both are raw as complete tight ends. Lewis is a good receiving tight end, but will need to add 30 pounds and Goolsby is very athletic, but will need to improve his blocking.
This position is completely up in the air and this is a complete guess.
Expected two-deep: Colin Thompson, Tevin Westbrook
The loss of DJ Humphries during the season, required left guard Max Garcia to move over. While Garcia has done an adequate job, he is much better suited at guard and Humphries will re-assume his role next season
Before spraining his MCL, Humphries started all seven games for the Gators and was the most consistent performer on the offensive line.
Behind Humphries, the Gators will likely look to freshman Roderick Johnson, who is redshirting this season.
Expected two-deep: DJ Humphries, Roderick Johnson
Maryland-transfer Max Garcia played outstandingly for the Gators at left guard, before having to move to tackle. Garcia will re-assume that role and make a strong left-side of the offensive line even stronger with more experience. Backing up Garcia, expect to see Ian Silberman, who has been a journeyman across the line.
Expected two-deep: Max Garcia, Ian Silberman
With Jon Harrison moving on due to graduation, the Gators are in a precarious spot. Trip Thurman, who is currently backing up Harrison, has only played sparingly in his career and in fact, may not be the shoe-in to take over the center position. In fact, freshman Cameron Dillard looks to be the one groomed to assume that role from what I have heard internally. Dillard has excelled in practice and could serve as the Gators center for the next four seasons.
Expected two-deep: Cameron Dillard, Trip Thurman
Jon Halapio has been a great linemen for the Gators when the Gators run, and has caused Gator fans to shake their heads when they pass. Halapio has great strength and can really control his lineman, but struggles with balance and running. The mostly dependable Halapio will likely find a spot in the NFL.
For next season, expect to see Tyler Moore move from the right tackle position to a much more natural right guard spot. While Moore had a year of experience at tackle at Nebraska and played there this season before breaking his arm, he is much more suited for guard.
Expected two-deep: Tyler Moore, Ian Silberman
The loss of Chaz Green before the season started likely hurt the Gators more than they expected, especially after all of the injuries across all of the offensive line.
Chaz Green, who has started 18 games in his career, in my opinion, will re-assume the starting role in his final season at the University of Florida.
Trenton Brown has played well. He will continue to improve his flexibility and lateral movement and will be a good back-up behind Chaz Green.
Expected two-deep: Chaz Green, Trenton Brown
As we enter the final few months of before National Signing Day, the Gators need to look heavily at a few positions.
Primarily, running back. The Gators are aging at running back and will need to at least one more running back. With Dalvin Cook’s commitment up in the air, the Gators will need to focus on making sure they can secure a running back commitment, preferably one that has high top-end speed.
Second, the Gators need to focus on bringing in a quality full back. Joyer has one more season at UF, Ajagbe will be in his final year and back-up Rhaheim Ledbetter has not played a snap at fullback. It will be imperative for the Gators to secure at least one full back.
At wide receiver, the Gators should be focusing on bringing in at least one more wide receiver on top of Ermon Lane. After bringing in five wide receivers last season, the Gators need to average two-three wide receivers per cycle.
Finally, the Gators need to bringing in quality offensive linemen at guard and tackle. Last year, the Gators brought in five linemen, but a few of them are projects. The Gators currently have three linemen committed, but they need to grab at least one more quality tackle.