A lot has changed around Gainesville since the 2017 season. There’s a new coaching staff, a new system and a fresh start for every player in a Florida Gators uniform.
Maybe the old system didn’t fit them, maybe they didn’t get enough opportunities, maybe they were still developing. Whatever the reason, there are guys at each position who are still waiting for their time to shine, and now could be that time.
Last time we took a look at the players Florida needs to step up on defense, so this time we’ll focus on the offense.
Quarterback: Emory Jones
I nearly decided to exclude quarterbacks from this list simply because they all need to make serious improvements before the season rolls around, and there will be a competition to decide who made the most. But Jones’ case is slightly different from the rest. He made some pretty big strides towards the end of spring, but did not look near ready to start in an SEC game. Whether he starts or not, being able to come in and at least add a boost with his legs at times would be a huge asset for Florida’s offense. Jones’ skillset is the best fit for the new scheme, and if he can improve his accuracy, he could find himself starting sooner rather than later. Taking snaps in some big situations this season would give him much needed experience for the future.
Running Back: Malik Davis
There are few units stacked quite like the running backs at Florida this season. With Davis, Jordan Scarlett, Lamical Perine and Adarius Lemons all returning, plus the additions of freshmen Dameon Pierce and Iverson Clement, there is plenty of competition to go around. Davis had a stellar freshman season, so this is not about playing up to potential. This is about the season-ending knee injury he suffered seven games in. He did not get to put in the amount of work his teammates did in the spring, and ACL injuries can be so unpredictable. Some players come back better than ever and some are never the same again. Davis has the ability to turn any play into a big play when the ball is in his hands. He proved that as he rushed for 526 yards last season and averaged 6.7 yards per carry. He just barely finished behind Perine as the second leading rusher on the team despite playing in four fewer games. If he comes back strong, he will be a huge weapon in Florida’s arsenal this season.
Wide Receiver: Rick Wells
The redshirt sophomore heads into his third year at Florida, and he has yet to see any playing time. He first found himself in trouble before the start of his freshman season when he and Tyrie Cleveland were arrested for shooting BB guns on campus. After taking a redshirt that season, he got caught up in last year’s credit card fraud scandal and was forced to sit out in 2017 as well. He is now reinstated on the team and looking to put his troubled past behind him. He showed great hands and athleticism in the spring as he possibly made more diving catches than everyone else combined. There is a lot of potential there, but the wide receiver position could get crowded this season, so Wells must continue to work to stand out and not get lost in the shuffle.
Tight End: C’Yontai Lewis
Lewis hasn’t exactly shined in his four years at Florida. He hasn’t exactly had the chance, either. Tight ends played next to no role in the Jim McElwain era. The new offense is much more dependent on the position and that opens up many more opportunities for the redshirt senior. He had the least productive season of his career last year as he caught just seven passes for 42 yards and one touchdown. Lewis said he believes he caught more passes this spring alone than he had in the four years prior. He should have a chance to make even more catches as a starter this season. He showed much more consistency and leadership in the spring and proved he could be more than just the blocker he’s been a majority of his career.
Offensive Lineman: Tyler Jordan
As with many of Florida’s offensive lineman, Jordan did not see the development he would have liked in his first three years. That seemed to become a trend for the Gators. Offensive linemen would start out with high expectations but then hit a wall and not make the necessary strides. Jordan has also struggled with injuries in his career, which hindered him each of the last two seasons. He’s one of the most experienced linemen on the team, but he found himself in and out of a struggling rotation last season. He’s made some changes to his body since the new coaching staff took over and he had a pretty good spring. This is Jordan’s last shot to get things right and Florida needs him to hold down the left guard spot in 2018.