The dust has nearly all settled. The carnage has been cleaned from the battlefield and the University of Florida football program is almost ready to sail into uncharted and hopefully calmer waters. New head coach Jim McElwain needs only his WR coach to complete his staff. All of the new coaches are out pounding the recruiting trail as hard as they can go trying to make up ground from such a late start. Almost every Gator fan I have talked to is confident that the new staff is up to the task of rebuilding the program and undoing the damage done by the previous staff. So the one real question left is just how big a hole is the Gator program in at this point? What is the talent situation?
There are two variables as far as available talent is concerned, players on the current roster and the incoming recruiting class. With a couple of weeks left until signing day it is impossible to get a real feel for what the new class will provide so let’s take a look at the current roster. The roster as it stands right now is actually pretty good. By taking a closer look at what the Gators have we can better understand what the recruiting class must provide. I will start with the offense because that is where improvement is most needed. I’ll cover the defense in a later piece.
Treon Harris and Will Grier will battle it out for the starting spot. While neither is truly a proven commodity, Harris certainly showed flashes of brilliance and Grier, a highly touted recruit, looked extremely accurate and smooth in last year’s Orange and Blue game. Many Gator fans are concerned here but I am really not worried about the quarterback situation. I believe that McElwain and staff will get the most out of both the above mentioned signal callers. Florida really needs to add another viable option in this year’s class but that may not happen.
While there might not be as much depth here as most would like, there never is at RB, there is some real talent. Kelvin Taylor started out looking good his freshman year but his production has dwindled steadily since. I believe that had more to do with the offense than Kelvin. Brandon Powell showed impressive speed and moves but was underutilized. Again, I think he will benefit from the new staff and an improved overall offense. The best kept secret may well be Adam Lane. Lane was a member of the “out of sight out of mind” club that seemed so prevalent with the old regime. He may stand the most to gain from the change in coaches. At least one true playmaker at this position is a real need for the recruiting class. Fortunately, the Gators are in on a few such backs.
This position is a bit more difficult to evaluate. It is a veteran laden group with the likes of Demarcus Robinson, Ahmad Fullwood, Alvin Bailey, Latroy Pittman, Chris Thompson, Valdez Showers and Raphael Andrades. There is also some young talent in CJ Worton. Robinson seems to perch constantly on the verge of absolute stardom but has yet to make that jump to elite. Hopefully, the new staff will find a way to make use of all of this talent. The previous one certainly did not. It is imperative that a couple of quality receivers find their way into this year’s class to replace these upperclassmen as they depart.
This position has been extremely disappointing the last few years for the Gators. Last season Jake McGee transferred in from Virginia only to be lost for season immediately due to injury. It appears that Jake will be back in Gainesville for another year and that is great news for Florida. McGee is a proven commodity at Tight End and will be the only such TE on the roster. There is some young talent available in Deandre Goolsby, C’yontai Lewis and Moral Stephens but none are proven or developed. There are also already two TE commits in the upcoming class.
And here we find the “crux of the biscuit” if I might quote Zappa. The single biggest question mark as it applies to how quickly the offensive woes can be rectified is the offensive line. It did not help that both DJ Humphries and Tyler Moore opted to leave early for the NFL. The Gators have enough experienced talent to field a quality starting rotation with guys like Rod Johnson, David Sharp, Tripp Thurman, Antonio Riles and Cam Dillard but some of the youngsters that came in with last year’s recruiting class are going to need to provide depth which means their development must be accelerated. This, in my opinion, is a big reason why the only remaining coach from the previous staff is Mike Summers. Continuity with this unit is important. You need at least eight to nine linemen you feel comfortable giving serious playing time. For that to be the case with the Gators, the staff probably needs to add at least one incoming recruit that can play as a freshman. The best option for that would seem to be Martez Ivey but it still remains to be seen whether he will be in this class. Florida currently has three offensive linemen commits and will almost certainly add more. This is the biggest area of need.
There you have it folks. Things are not as bleak as some Gator fans fear, but there is much work to be done. While there is offensive talent on the current roster it is widely undeveloped. In fact, player development was a serious shortcoming for the previous staff. If McElwain can make real progress coaching up the team he inherited, the Gators’ offense could be much better as early as the upcoming season. If the staff can keep the defense clicking at its recent pace, the turnaround in Gainesville might not be a long term project.