The barren doldrums of the offseason are winding down. In just five days, the 2014 Florida Gators will report to Will Muschamp and his football staff for fall camp.
With the season less that a week from kicking off, Gator Country will count down these last painstakingly long days until football is back.
We kick things off today with the five biggest position battles that will take place this fall. Florida lost a lot of talent to the NFL and to transfers last year. That roster turnover left major gaps on the depth chart and this fall will be a critical time for young players to show the coaching staff that they are ready to step up and contribute this season.
Jeff Driskel is the man here. QB1is his moniker, this is his team and the success of failure of the offense will largely fall on his shoulders.
However, the Gators found out first hand how dangerous it is to go into a season without a viable option behind Driskel.
This spring, Will Grier and Skyler Mornhinweg split reps fairly evenly but the arrival of Treon Harris should shake things up a little. Harris has impressed the coaching staff in the short time that he has been on campus and he will make an impact this season.
Harris and Grier will battle for the backup quarterback job and having one of the redshirt would be ideal for Florida. I continue to maintain that keeping Driskel healthy, working Harris into some packages early and expanding that role throughout the season as he becomes more comfortable.
Tyler Moore struggled mightily at right tackle last season but looked good at left tackle before a scooter accident ended his season prematurely. Moore has moved from tackle to guard and will stay on the left side.
Roderick Johnson missed all of spring with a head injury but he is a redshirt freshman that he coaching staff is excited about. Johnson is versatile; he could play tackle or guard but will push Moore for that starting job.
Trip Thurman is the Band-Aid for the offensive line. Thurman can play all five positions on the line and will likely be the first player off of the bench at center or right guard as well as battling for a backup job with at left guard.
Kyle Christy’s struggles last year have been well documented here as well as by anyone that covers the Gators. His performance was unexpected and his struggles were magnified by how poorly the offense performed.
Christy looked like his old, All-American self this past spring and if he carries that into the fall, should win his job back outright.
Muschamp maintains that he has two NFL-quality punters on his roster — and he very well might. If Christy’s return to form hold true throughout the season, it will allow the Gators to redshirt Johnny Townsend, which was the plan last year, and allow Christy to finish out his career in style.
That gives Florida an extra year with Townsend on the roster, a dream scenario for the Gators.
Vernon Hargreaves is the All-American. He’ll hold down his half of the filed but the departures of Marcus Roberson and Loucheiz Purifoy leave a question mark on the other side of the field.
Duke Dawson emerged this spring as the frontrunner to fill that void. Dawson is a smart, physical corner who loves to compete. He’s impressed the coaching staff with that competitive edge and he has earned and will continue to earn early playing time this season.
J.C. Jackson enrolled just a month ago but has already impressed the coaching staff with his athleticism, attitude and play-making ability. Jackson will start the fall in a non-contact jersey due to shoulder surgery but fans shouldn’t be too concerned by this. If he makes it through fall without re-injuring the shoulder he should be ready to go against Idaho. Jackson plays with the intensity and passion of a walk-on but has the physical ability to turn himself into an All-American.
Jalen Tabor was the big name coming into the spring and is physically everything you want out of a corner. Tabor needs to play more physical and use his God given size to his advantage.
Florida lost two starting safeties from a season ago and replacing them is paramount. Right now, Marcus Maye and Keanu Neal appear to be the frontrunners for that starting job but Jabari Gorman, Nick Washington and Marcell Harris will push them this fall.
This job is wide open.
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