As the 2016 Florida Gators football season inches closer and closer, everyone is anxious to see who will step up and make a big impact for the Gators this year.
This season, Florida looks to make major improvements on the dismal offense from 2015 and stay the course to have another dominating season on the defensive side of the ball. With so much talent lost to the NFL, especially on defense, there will be some big shoes to fill with an urgency.
The young guys from a year ago have another year of experience in their pockets, and this will be the year many of them will have a chance to show their full potential on the field. A lot of pressure is riding on the shoulders of these players to equalize the talent they will be replacing. It will be important for this list of players to make a greater impact than ever before for the Gators this season.
The sophomore running back appeared in nine games as a freshman last season behind Kelvin Taylor. He put up 96 yards against Georgia in his best game of the season. He has good speed and size, at 5-10 and 213 lbs., as well as great field vision. Much of his limited action last season was due to issues with ball security in practice. It will be important for him to step up his consistency, because he is the only true home run threat the Gators have in the backfield. He will be a key to the Gators’ offensive game in 2016.
Martez Ivey came in as one of Jim McElwain’s most prized recruits in his first season as head coach at Florida. Injuries sidelined the offensive lineman in the first two games of the 2015 season. After undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery, he played in the final 12 games of the season. He started in the final eight games. He underwent surgery again, this time on his shoulder, at the beginning of the offseason and did not participate in the spring. Ivey’s injuries kept him from reaching his full potential in his first season as a Gator. The big man, at 6-3 and 312 lbs., can matchup with any offensive lineman in the SEC. His versatility makes him a valuable commodity for the young offensive line. Staying healthy is the biggest concern for Ivey moving forward. He will be vital to the Gators’ success this season.
The redshirt junior made appearances in every game in the 2014 and 2015 seasons for Florida. He started in four games last season. Washington has been a leader on special teams the last two seasons, and has seen limited time at safety behind some of the best in the country. He is a veteran who will need to take advantage of his opportunity this season to help replace the talent the Gators lost in the secondary, in Keanu Neal and Brian Poole. He is an aggressive, hard hitter. His aggressiveness has gotten him in trouble at times and allowed long plays to take place. For him to make the impact the Gators need, he will have to be able to control his aggressiveness.
Dawson’s talent has been overshadowed by those of his teammates in the last two seasons. His career got off to a quick start, as he intercepted his first career pass for a pick six. He had 14 tackles in his freshman season. That number dropped to just five as a sophomore as he transitioned from cornerback to nickelback and played behind senior, Brian Poole. This year, Dawson looks to take over the nickelback position for the Gators. His talent at the position was proven with his two interceptions, one returned for a touchdown, in the 2016 Orange and Blue Debut. He brings an attitude to the position and has a knack for the big play. The coaches are very high on Dawson with hopes that he will explode onto the scene this season. He will be a huge factor for Florida’s success on defense.
Anzalone has been struggling with injuries since he stepped foot on the Florida campus. The only season he was able to stay healthy was his sophomore season. He played in every game as a starter on special teams and was used sparingly as a backup linebacker as a sophomore. He looked to finally have his breakout season as a starter in his junior year. He started the first two games, and played well, before suffering a season ending shoulder injury. He will have to meet high expectations, as he will be taking over for Antonio Morrison. Anzalone has the ability to be an every-down player, with his leadership skills, athleticism, and great play awareness. If he can avoid injury, this season could finally be his season.
Jefferson played in every game for the Gators last season as a freshman, but only started in four of those games. He made the most of his opportunities in the playing time he was given and showed great potential. He will have to take on a much bigger role this season in the place of Jonathan Bullard. Jefferson has already proven his talent, the biggest challenge for him this season will be taking on a full time starting position and learning to be a leader on the defensive line. He has the ability to be the same type of player Jonathan Bullard was for the Gators the last couple of years. Jefferson has a great motor with game changing impact, and the unique ability to play on the edge and interior of the defensive line. The sky is the limit for his potential.
These Gators are just a few of the players who will have to step their games and leadership up at their respective positions this season. A huge part of Florida’s success lies in their hands, as they will now have the chance to play a much bigger role in Florida’s scheme.