MILLER REPORT: A slightly different watch list

Lists of “players to watch” have become quite popular during the long offseason waits. In the past, I have avoided the urge but hey, why not? This is a big season for the Florida Gators for so many reasons but none more than the fact that it will dictate whether Florida is on the verge of being “back” or on the verge of ushering in a new era of Florida football. Therefore, the emergence of new stars is critical for this team. Everyone knows that the Gators need more production from the quarterback position, an improved offensive line and some of the young talent in the secondary to step up and make that unit a team strength and not a liability. But, here are three players that I think could have a big effect on the 2014 season.

Jonathon Bullard: I have absolutely no doubt that Dante Fowler JR will be a beast for the Gators this season as long as he remains healthy, but just how disruptive he is will depend on somebody else on the defensive line keeping teams from constantly double and triple teaming Dante. In my mind, that will have to be Jonathon Bullard. Bullard has the size and speed to do just that. He has seemed right on the verge of stardom since he arrived in Gainesville but has yet to achieve that status. If Leon Orr is as solid inside as expected, a tandem of Fowler and Bullard could help hide the youth and inexperience in the secondary.

Bullard had five more tackles in 2013 than in 2012 but tackles for loss dropped from 5 to 2.5. While he has been solid, Jonathon has not been the dominant defender his lofty five star recruiting status would seem to have suggested. Coming into his junior season, now is the time for him to make his statement. If Bullard can reach the potential he came to Florida with he can take some of the heat off of Fowler and this defense could be as good as any in the country. If your defensive line can overwhelm the line of scrimmage, every other unit of your defense immediately becomes more effective. While depth is still a concern along the defensive line, if Fowler and Bullard are both dominating things will go well for the Gators.

Andre Debose: I know, we’ve seen this movie before haven’t we? Debose has had a less than stellar career at Florida so far despite holding the record for kick returns for touchdowns with four (which also ties the SEC record). Andre has a measly 29 catches in three seasons of play. He missed all of 2013 with a knee injury. There has been an assortment of reasons for his lack of production in the passing game including injuries, attitude and his failure to take coaching. But, make no mistake that this young man has the talent to be a playmaker. Even with his limited production, Debose has three touchdown catches of 65 yards or more.

In Kurt Roper’s offense, Debose has the potential to be a lethal weapon for the Gators. He can stretch the field and the opponent’s defense not only creating playmaking opportunities for himself but also opening up space for other Florida playmakers like Demarcus Robinson, Ahmad Fullwood and Kelvin Tayler. Andre claims to have a different attitude coming into 2014. If that is true, he could be the x-factor for the Florida Gators this season. Much has been made of the need for improvement by quarterback Jeff Driskel and nothing helps generate that kind of improvement better than playmakers. Andre Debose could very well become that player on offense that opposing teams have to account for on every play. If so, he would be the first such player in the Will Muschamp era.

Adam Lane: Kelvin Taylor is the starting running back. That much is a given. However, in the SEC you need a stable of running backs not one elite back. Matt Jones and Mack Brown both hope to see their opportunities increase in Roper’s up-tempo offense and that should happen. Personally, I think Lane is going to make it difficult to keep him off of the field. I went back and watched the Orange and Blue game again recently and one player that stood out for me was Adam Lane. He was extremely difficult to tackle. He was a good target as a pass receiver out of the backfield. Much more importantly, he picked up blitzes like he was a veteran. The one thing that keeps young running backs off of the field more than anything else is the failure to learn how to block effectively at this level. Lane did not look just adequate but adept at the task. It would not surprise me at all to see him pass both Jones and Brown on the depth chart. Adam will probably never have the kind of big play ability that Kelvin Taylor does but he could well be that bruising back that gets those critical first downs late in close games that are often the difference between winning and losing.

So there are my three “players to watch”. It is not quite the same list you are likely to see elsewhere but I think these three players can all be game-changers (or game-savers) for the Gators. More than anything, I am just ready for the summer to be over and there to be football on Saturdays. I hate wishing any part of my life away but Labor Day weekend cannot get here soon enough.


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  1. To think that Andre Debose will ever do anything is a stretch. He caught THREE passes in 2012.Talented? I’d describe him differently. As for Bullard, he has not been a good player so far. The only time I remember him touching a quarterback last year was when he should have been called for roughing the passer at Missouri. If he was great at setting the edge in run defense, you might excuse his inability to rush the passer, but he’s not very good at that either. As for Lane, I have no idea, like everything else we have to wait a month to be able to know anything relative to whether UF can compete with the good teams on it’s schedule. He does sound intriguing, he’s so short that defenses will have a hard time locating him, with the fire hydrant body he has, not finding him before he’s on top of you could be problematic for a defense.
    As for Fowler, it remains to be seen if he will become the player you are so sure of becoming dominant. Durkin described Fowler’s past season when he said that Fowler came close to being a dominant player at times last year, but there were also games where he didn’t show up. To be a great player, the first thing you need to be is consistent. Fowler was not consistent last year. He could look like a dominant player against Tennessee and then be a player that was dominated so bad at LSU it looked like he was a high school player playing out of his league. There were times LSU pushed him ten yards off the line of scrimmage. And don’t forget that it was Fowler, not Morrison, that failed to drop back into coverage against Georgia that allowed Gurley to catch a dump off pass that resulted in a long touchdown. I see all the draft projections that say Fowler is a top ten overall draft pick. But these same guys saying this also told us that Purifoy and Roberson were first rounders at this time last year. he NFL looks at your tape, not what guys like Kiper and McShay say.
    All the right words are being said about Fowler now, he has to prove it is warranted in EVERY game this year, not vanish is some.

  2. Nomoregsmb I’m sorry if facts are “nonsense” to you. Every word I wrote about Fowler is true. UF’s defensive coordinator, in case you don’t know who Durkin is, said that Fowler didn’t show up in some games. It is true that La”El Collins and LSU destroyed Fowler last year. IT is true that it was not Antonio Morrison that was responsible for not doing his job against Georgia last year. I was Fowler who was supposed to drop back off the line. Teams do send a linebacker and have their linemen drop back off the line to confuse a quarterback. Why do you think Muschamp was so frustrated? The Gators had the right call on defense, but, like happened too often last year, one guy didn’t do his job. The result? A touchdown for Georgia. The Gators lost by three points, that one play may have cost UF the game. Of course, you can’t really say that because you have no way of knowing what would have happened if Fowler had done his job, but the point is that Fowler has yet to prove he is a great player, so it’s not a slam dunk he will become one this year
    .I guess D.J. Durkin doesn’t know what he’s talking about either, it’s just “nonsense” for him to say that Fowler was not a great player last year. I am just reporting facts, not hopes and dreams. It’s not “nonsense” to tell the truth, even if it is contrary to a preconceived idea. Let me know when something I say is incorrect, calling something “nonsense” if you don’t have any fact to dispute it. I’ll give you a clue how to debate in a coherent manner. You could have said that Durkin did not say that about Fowler, but since he did, where is the logic in your retort?

    • Well, Durkin has said that Fowler is going to have a big year. Since you based your comments on what Durkin said last year, you should be saying that Fowler is going to be great this year. As usual, you’re talking out of your buttocks, because your head knows better. The institution you’re in needs to limit your internet time, because it’s not helping with treating your mental illness. Just because you wear a helmet, that doesn’t make you an expert on football. That helmet is to keep you from hurting yourself.

  3. Snowprint
    I am truly wondering whether or not you are a true Gator fan. I have only been aware of this website for a few short months, and it seems virtually every comment you post has some negative tilt or connotation. Not that you know me from Adam, but I for the LOVE of Gator Nation do us all a favor and please exercise your right, if you don’t have anything to say don’t say anything. It’s borderline annoying and distasteful. Most people come to website like these to be informed and gain some insight as to what the team will look like in the near future; not fall victim to your vitriolic subliminal gator-hating. The unfortunate truth is Spurrier nor Meyer are banging on Jeremy Foley’s door begging to get back to the swamp; and I am inclined to believe it is in part because of “fans” like yourself.

  4. GIg-Gator Let me know when you ever heard a coach say that he doesn’t think one of his players is going to have a great year. How about letting me know when a coach is not saying a player is going to be better? What else is a coach going to say? You want to hear him say, ” I’m sorry folks, this guy didn’t play well last year, and I don’t expect him to be any better this year, he’s reached his ceiling. I would put someone else in but all the guys behind him suck. Please accept that he’s trying his beat, he just isn’t capable of being any better.” You’ll never hear a coach say that, but, believe it or not, it’s true sometimes. Fowler has the potential to be a great player, I hope he becomes one this year. But until he does it on the field, it’s just a lot of talk, and it doesn’t matter who says it. Hargreaves told us that Jeff Driskel is the nation’s best quarterback, Urban Meyer told us that Debose was the next Percy Harvin, I think you get the hint that words mean nothing.