The Florida Gators made it through spring practice with a patchwork offensive line, two young, green quarterbacks and are still on the hunt for offensive playmakers.
It’s not the hand that Jim McElwain would have liked to be dealt, but he’s a gambling man and he’s betting on himself.
After fifteen practices we now have a better picture of how McElwain is arranging his cards to give the Gators the best chance at winning this season. Let’s take a look at the two-deep depth chart as Gator Country projects it base on spring practice.
We will only work with the players that were on campus this spring, meaning none of the incoming freshmen will be included. Given the numbers that Florida has — and the ones you’re about to see — it’s likely that several from the incoming class will be called on to play vital roles this season, but until they’re on campus it’s premature to include them.
Today we turn our attention to the receivers and tight ends. Florida has had just one receiver (Demarcus Robinson, 2014, 810 yards) catch for more than 600 yards in a season since 2010. With Robinson back and a deep group of tight ends, Florida should be able to be more explosive on offense this season.
Backup: Chris Thompson
The aforementioned Robinson returns for his junior season after leading the team in receiving yards, receptions (53) and touchdowns (7). McElwain quickly identified Robinson as his biggest weapon on offense and during spring practice you could see how Florida plans to get the ball into his hands quickly.
Chris Thompson made headlines when it was revealed that he was facing charges for simple battery and dating violence. McElwain “excused” Thompson from the team while the legal process played out but the state attorney ruled that there was insufficient evidence in the case and Thompson was not charged. Heading into his third season, Thompson looked to be getting a bigger role in McElwain’s offense before he missed the remainder of the spring. With the incident behind him, Thompson looks to finally have a role in the offense.
Starter: C.J. Worton
Backup: Ahmad Fulwood
Worton has worked in the slot but with Brandon Powell moving from running back to receiver, Worton began working outside as well. After Robinson, Worton is Florida’s best receiver. You can argue that Worton is Florida’s best all-around receiver. He doesn’t have the crazy physical tools that Robinson does but Worton is a technical route-runner and has some of the best hands on the team. McElwain knows that he has to get Worton on the field, so whether he’s in the slot or outside, expect to see a lot of him this season.
Fulwood is a curious case. A tall receiver and good route runner, he was kind of irrelevant last year. Fulwood caught just 12 passes for 199 yards and his lone touchdown didn’t come until the bowl game. Fulwood got plenty of work in the spring but then was not even targeted during the Orange and Blue Debut. With a lack of go-to guys on offense, it’s a wonder why Fulwood isn’t being looked at more and something to keep an eye on this summer and into the fall.
Starter: Brandon Powell
Backup: Latroy Pittman
Before he missed the remainder of spring with a “hot spot” in his surgically repaired foot, Powell was making the case as Florida’s biggest weapon of spring camp. McElwain, like he is doing with Robinson, is manufacturing ways to get the ball into Powell’s hands quickly, letting the shifty back go to work in space with the ball. It was refreshing to see how McElwain and Doug Nussmeier were able to identify Powell and Robinson as playmakers and immediately started tailoring plays and packages for them.
Pittman is just a steady, reliable player for Florida. He’s not very flashy and may not wow you, but he’s consistently earned the respect of two coaching staffs. He’s still the best blocker that Florida has at receiver and he’ll be used in a similar role as he has been the past two seasons.
Starter: Jake McGee
Backup: C’yontai Lewis or DeAndre Goolsby
McGee looked very good this spring after coming back from a major leg injury. McGee’s skill-set is something that Florida will look to take advantage of this season. He’s a smooth route runner with great hands. He’s big, physical and seems to have a good rapport with Will Grier on the field already.
After McGee, two redshirt freshman stand out. Lewis and Goolsby are both dynamic guys as receivers but are both a liability right now as blockers. That’s ok. Despite the last staff sending tight ends who couldn’t block into exile despite their potential as pass catchers, the new staff will play to their strengths. Lewis is tall and can 360 dunk a basketball. His catch radius is humongous and he looks ready to make an impact after taking a redshirt.
Slightly behind him is Goolsby. Goolsby is a little smaller but has the same skillset and gives Florida a very deep group at the position. Daniel Imatorbhebhe was also very impressive for a freshman, and if the group was so deep, I think he would be a player that could come in and play immediately.