I’ve written this introduction to an article before. My heart is still in Las Vegas. The lights, the sounds and the food are second to none. However, behind the neon lights, picturesque hotels and all-you-can-eat buffets there are some of the smartest people in the world – Vegas odds makers.
Vegas odds makers carefully and intricately rely on a statistical algorithm that projects a certain outcome; a series of tangible statistical figures amalgamated with intangibles, such as home-field advantage, create a line for bettors.
I have tried (pretty successfully) to set lines before, and while I still am not in actuarial scientist, nor have I procured a job in Vegas oddsmaking since that last article, I want to try again to set fractional odds going into the summer for the Florida Gators. I will take a look at a few key situations and the likelihood of that event happening by the end of summer.
Kelvin Taylor will be listed as the number two running back on the depth chart: 3/1
The Gators already have a clear-cut starter in sophomore Matt Jones. Currently, Mack Brown has been slotted as the number two running back on the depth chart. The redshirt junior Brown has 167 yards on 40 career carries for the Gators with zero touchdowns.
For the past few years, Brown has always been the odd man out and has been passed on the depth chart throughout his career.
With Brown currently listed as the number two running back, he knows that this is likely his last opportunity to make an impact at the University of Florida. Brown has shown, at times, that he has decent vision and good footwork to make an impact. He knows the playbook and has been a solid blocker when utilized.
Enter Kelvin Taylor. Florida Gator fans have been eyeing Kelvin Taylor for the last five years and have been clamoring for him to play since he came to Florida in January of 2013. Taylor brings size, speed and power to the position and has been eyeing the number two spot since coming to Gainesville.
Taylor, at 3/1 odds, has a decent chance to steal the number two spot from Brown if he can do three things: continue to learn the playbook, improving on his blocking skills, and be a patient north/south runner. Taylor has a higher ceiling than Brown and brings a higher skillset to the position, but also is green and needs to learn the college game.
Tyler Moore will be listed as the starting right tackle: 2/1
The Gators are returning their starting right tackle, Chaz Green, and have former Nebraska tackle Tyler Moore vying for the same position on the football field. Chaz Green started 10 games last season for the Gators and was a Freshman All-American in 2011. Green really started coming on at the end of last season. However, Green missed spring practice due to an ankle injury, giving former freshman All-Big 10 Tyler Moore the opportunity to take his spot.
Moore did well in practice while adjusting to the speed of the Southeastern Conference and reports out of summer conditioning workouts have been that Moore has become even quicker and an immediate challenge to Green’s role.
While Green is still listed as the starter, it would not surprise me to see Moore take that spot after the end of summer practice. The battle will boil down to footwork and strength, two things that before sitting out in the spring, Green had a clear advantage over Moore in.
This position battle is one of the top position battles for the Gators this season and no matter the starter, there will be heavy competition and top-level play at the right tackle position.
Demarcus Robinson will be listed as a starting wide receiver: 1.5/1
The Florida Gators lost three of their top four receiving targets and a total of 65% of their total receiving yards from last season.
Entering the summer, the Gators starting wide receivers are Quinton Dunbar, Latroy Pittman and Trey Burton, who combined for 561 yards and five touchdowns last season.
Dunbar is the clear number one wide receiver and will keep his position. Trey Burton plays the “F” position and Robinson is not a threat to him. Latroy Pittman, however, at the “Z” receiver position has an elite wide receiver right on his tail.
Pittman is a solid wide receiver that has sure hands and good route running, however, Robinson brings additional size, speed and is much more dynamic with the ball in his hand.
Vernon Hargreaves will be listed as a starting cornerback: 20/1
Vernon Hargreaves is incredibly talented. Hargreaves was, in my opinion, the best cornerback in the state of Florida as a junior in high school, and maybe in the nation. He has great size, plays very physical, and is great in coverage…likely a future All-American.
Florida Gator fans have been figuring out ways to get Hargreaves on the field since he committed to the Gators in July of 2012. Following his MVP performance at the Under Armour All-American game, Gator fans started becoming giddy.
While Hargreaves may be the best pure cornerback on the Gators roster and have the highest ceiling, the chances of him starting are slim. The problem is not Hargreaves, of course. The biggest obstacle to him becoming a starter is that the Gators have stockpiled talent at the defensive back position. It is arguably the Gators most talented group at any position heading into 2013. Junior Marcus Roberson has been a two year starter and led the team in pass break-ups last season, while hauling in two interceptions. Junior Loucheiz Purifoy, a one-year starter, is the Gators most physical cornerback and perhaps the team’s best overall athlete. Purifoy had five pass break-ups last year with three forced fumbles. Jaylen Watkins, who will also be playing safety, had eight passes broken up and three interceptions. Sophomore Brian Poole will be getting increased playing time at the Nickel DB position, along with senior Cody Riggs who has earned increased praise from the coaching staff.
Hargreaves will play a lot next season. He will likely become a freshman All-American, or at least a Freshman All-SEC player. Unfortunately for Hargreaves, the talent is just too strong for him at the cornerback position to beat out one of the starters right now.
Austin Hardin will be listed as the starting kicker: 1/2
There is a phrase that goes something like, “you never knew what you had, until you no longer have it.” While I think the Gator faithful understood what they had in placekicker Caleb Sturgis, his loss may be one of the toughest for the Gators to replace.
The Gators have two potential placekickers for the year: Senior Brad Phillips and redshirt freshman Austin Hardin. The senior, Phillips, is a career 2-4 on field goals, 4-4 on extra points, and has 27 kickoffs with four touchbacks. Hardin has no in-game experience in his career at the University of Florida but came in heralded as the number one kicker in the country according to ESPN.com. As a high schooler, Hardin went 13-of-20 on field goals (all seven of his misses came from greater than 50 yards) and was perfect on extra point attempts.
It will be interesting to see if a kicker separates himself enough to win both field goal and kickoff responsibilities, or if it will be a split. Both kickers struggled mightily, at times, during the Orange and Blue Debut and both excelled, at times, during the game as well. Hardin brings with him a bigger leg than Phillips, while Phillips showed that he was a bit more accurate than his counterpart.
I was tempted to PUSH on this line, but I think Hardin will win out. A source told me that Hardin was becoming the favorite during summer practice and while the position is not guaranteed, Hardin was taking the lead…for now.
No matter what the answer is, the Gators could be in for a long season on special teams at the kicker position.