Florida will take on Tennessee this week in the SEC opener for both teams. Most people, myself included, expected Florida to be coming into this game 2-0 rather than 1-1 but the goal doesn’t change. The Gators are still the masters of their own destiny and if they take care of business this week and every Saturday, will still wind up in Atlanta representing the East in the SEC Championship game.
However, before the Gators can take on the Vols, I have to answer your questions in our weekly mailbag. Let’s dive in.
Q: How are the backup quarterbacks doing? Will Staver get any playing time this year? Anything about Chris Wilkes?
A: Max Staver is heading for a redshirt unless something catastrophic happens to both Driskel and Murphy this season. Also, don’t expect to see Wilkes at any point this season either. Florida is all-in on Jeff Driskel and Murphy is the backup.
Q: Who on Tennessee’s 2-deep depth chart would start for Florida?
A: On offense I think there are three players, all offensive linemen that would start for Florida, Antonio Richardson (LT), Zach Fulton (RG) and Ja’Wuan James (RT).
On defense, I think Daniel McCullers could play at nose tackle for Florida, and A.J. Johnson would start at linebacker for Florida.
Q: Do you detect any concern among the coaches or players about Jeff Driskel leading the offense?
A: The coaching staff would never come out and say that they have lost confidence in Driskel. Muschamp’s body language after the Miami game seemed like he was very disappointed in Driskel’s decision making. I think, for the most part, that the team is still behind Driskel. You have to remember this is a quarterback that led his team to 11 wins last season. He has coughed the ball up this year but he is putting up better passing numbers as a junior than he did last season as a sophomore.
Q: What freshmen are likely to see increased playing time?
A: Vernon Hargreaves isn’t listed as a starter on the two-deep, but he might as well be the starter. He’s listed as a backup at both cornerback spots as well as the backup nickel. With the amount of nickel and dime that Florida plays expect to see Hargreaves on the field as much as Loucheiz Purifoy or Marcus Roberson.
I would also expect to see Kelvin Taylor get more touches from here on out. Will Muschamp said as much on the SEC teleconference this past week.
“Very, very excited about some young guys coming along,” Muschamp said. “Kelvin Taylor is a guy that we’re going to continue to try to get involved in the offense.”
I expect that Kelvin will take a similar trajectory as Matt Jones did last season. Kelvin needed to realize that he’s not in high school anymore and that he needs to do more than just be good at carrying the ball. I’ve been told that the light is starting to turn on for Taylor and I wouldn’t be surprise to see him take over the No. 2 spot on the depth chart by the end of the season
Q: Given the injuries on the offensive line is the depth not of the quality that was forecast?
A: No, I think the depth that was talked about before the season began was real. Losing Chaz Green was a big hit to that and losing Jon Halapio for the first two games was an even bigger hit. Not having a completely healthy D.J. Humphries has been another obstacle to overcome.
I think the injuries show what kind of depth Florida has. These injuries last season or two seasons ago would have crippled the team. This year Florida has been able to stay afloat even after the injury bug hit the line hard.
Q: Will the offense ever develop a legitimate vertical passing game?
A: When the offensive line, quarterback and receivers get on the same page they will. They aren’t anywhere close to having one right now.
Q: Does Clay Burton as the starting tight end demonstrate Muschamp’s obsession with running the ball and de-emphasizing of the passing game?
A: I believe the coaching staff when they say that the best 11 will play. It’s no secret that the Gators want to run the football and if Burton is the best blocking tight end, he’ll continue to start. I still think Colin Thompson is the best tight end on the team but he hasn’t played a meaningful snap yet.
Q: Do you think we will begin to see an improvement from the offense?
A: Yes, but not in the way you are probably looking for. I think the turnovers and red zone offense will get better but you’re not going to see a vertical passing game like most fans want to see and I think Florida’s offense will continue to be boring.
When you win football games with a boring offense nobody complains (just kidding). But when you lose football games and the offense looks like it did against Miami there will be a loud crowd with pitchforks outside of your house demanding for change. Florida had a very boring offense in 2012 and they won 11 football games. I don’t think a complete overhaul is necessary but the Gators MUST stop turning the ball over.
Q: Since Halapio still has a weak pectoral muscle and we can assume he will not be able to get the same type of punch he had prior to the injury, is it realistic to expect improved play from the offensive line?
A: Yes. I have nothing against Kyle Koehne, he’s a very versatile player and has played a lot of roles for the Gators but Halapio at 75% is better than Koehne at 100%.