It’s that time again, another football mailbag. You guys answered the call in a big way this week, loading the message board with questions, so let’s get to it.
Q: How does the staff feel about Powell? Will they ease him into gameplay or will he be 100% by Toledo?
A: Powell was given a very optimistic timetable following his first ACL surgery last year. He worked his tail off trying to get back for the LSU game and ended up re-injuring his knee resulting in a second surgery. That was enough for the staff to ease up on Powell and that was a big reason why he didn’t participate in spring practice. The coaching staff has given every indication that Powell will be full speed for fall camp and he is listed as the starting SAM LB. He’ll probably take it easy for a couple days to a week just to knock the rust off but they expect to have him ready to go full bore by August 31.
Q: Is DT depth a concern for the coaching staff? Are any newcomers at that position standing out?
A: Darious Cummings was a standout this spring. He looks ready to step in and contribute right away. He can play both DT and NT. Florida should be fine at defensive tackle. Are they as deep as they would like to be at the position? No. However, Dominique Easley will play a lot of tackle this year and Jonathan Bullard can also play inside if he is needed.
Q: How likely is it that Bryan Cox and Alex McCalister will be able to contribute? Would this allow Dante Fowler or Bullard to slide inside?
A: I think Bryan Cox could surprise some people this year. He bulked up a lot in the offseason and I believe he will be in the defensive line rotation. McCalister is still not big enough to be a three down player so he’s limited to passing downs and certain packages. As far as being good enough or consistent enough to push Fowler or Bullard inside permanently, not this season.
Q: Safety position? Who are our likely starters?
A: I can’t pretend to know this answer because the coaching staff doesn’t even know this answer yet. I think the front-runners right now are Jaylen Watkins and Marcus Maye but I wouldn’t count anyone out just yet.
Q: Does Andre Debose look like he could become a major contributor for the first time next season?
A: His work ethic and attitude have improved but I’m not going to hold my breath. I think the last head coach at Florida unfairly labeled Debose (he loves throwing that Percy Harvin card out) and expectations for Debose were set too high before he even stepped on campus. I need to see it on the field before I can get excited about him again.
Q: Why is losing seven starters not a real concern for this team?
A: It is a concern. However, Muschamp and the staff have done a phenomenal job of scouting, recruiting and developing their young talent. In my opinion, Florida is re-loading not rebuilding on defense this season.
Q: How much improvement can we expect from Jeff Driskel this year?
A: You can’t even begin to measure how much more confident he will be due to simple things. 1) Not having to learn a new playbook. 2) The experience of starting and playing the slate of games that Florida played last year.
We can’t really tell how he has developed as a decision maker until the red jersey comes off and the defense is allowed to come at him full speed. As far as the workouts they are doing now, it is a lot of skeleton drills, with no pads and he’s obviously not being tackled during player run practices. We’ll know a lot more about how he has progressed on August 31, but I expect him to take a step forward this season.
Q: Will we actually have a good receiving corps this year or will it still be fairly pedestrian?
A: For as much flack as the receivers got last year – a lot of it was deserved – the passing game isn’t just about the receivers. You need good pass protection; something Florida didn’t get enough of last season and a quarterback who can deliver an accurate pass on time.
Florida brought in a lot of talent at receiver and those freshmen will get every opportunity to play. Quinton Dunbar had another great spring and I think this is the year he finally puts it all together in the fall. The receivers are and will be much better in 2013 but it’s a team effort and you need all three phases clicking to have an effective passing team.
Q: Which freshmen players will make a real impact this season?
A: Offense: Demarcus Robinson/Kelvin Taylor/Ahmad Fulwood
Defense: Daniel McMillian/Vernon Hargreaves/ Marcell Harris/ Alex Anzalone (depending on health)
Special Teams: Alvin Bailey
Q: What’s your guess on Nick Washington? UF Football or MLB?
A: He’s a Gator.
Q: Any news on Trenton Brown? Is he in playing shape and how is he taking to Jeff Dillman’s program?
A: Brown is highly motivated to play as soon as possible. His weight was as high as 380-pounds, the coaching staff said they wanted him at 340 by fall camp and I believe he showed up to school somewhere in the low 350 range. He’s going to work at both tackle positions and I think he has a solid chance to make a run at the starting right tackle spot.
Q: Who will start at OT? Pick between D.J. Humphries, Chaz Green, Tyler Moore, and Trenton Brown.
A: Initially Humphries (LT) and Green (RT). Brown will finish the season as the right tackle.
Q: Who will start at offensive guard? Pick between Jon Halapio, Max Garcia, Kyle Koehne and maybe one of the tackles like Chaz Green or Trenton Brown.
A: Of the offensive tackles, I think Tyler Moore is the player that will slide inside but the starters are Halapio (RG) and Garcia (LG).
Q: Like baseball you need to be strong up the middle, so how much of a drop off losing Floyd, Bostic, Jenkins, Evans and Elam should we expect to see?
A: I think Easley is a better DT than he is a DE and will fill in nicely for Floyd. WILL LB could be a concern, I’m not sure Florida has a linebacker that is as good in coverage as Jelani Jenkins was but we’ll see how the young players develop. Antonio Morrison is going to be fine replacing Bostic.
Safety is the big concern. There is plenty of talent at the position but Florida asks a lot out of their safeties as far as communicating. There isn’t one player that can replace Elam and Florida is still waiting for someone to step up and take control of the position battle.
Q: Can we get an update on Powell? Do you think he lives up to the hype and wrecks people this year?
A: It’s too soon to tell. Two ACL surgeries worry me but the coaching staff has absolutely gushed about Powell’s dedication, hunger and desire to get back to football. I wouldn’t count him out.