Spring Practice Primer: Florida
The Gators won 11 games in 2012, but not the one that mattered most. Can they finish the job in 2013?
College football never ends. During the next few weeks, teams will be getting ready for the 2013 season in their spring practice sessions. Here's a look at the Florida Gators and what they'll be working on this spring.
Spring practice begins began: March 13
Spring game: April 6
2012 record: 11-2 (2nd SEC East, lost Sugar Bowl to Louisville)
Returning starters: 11 (six offensive, five defensive)
The Least You Should Know About Florida This Spring
-- There's no quarterback controversy or question marks! For the first time since Tim Tebow -- his own self -- was roaming the practice fields of Gainesville, Fla., the Gators come into spring camp settled at the quarterback position, thanks to Jeff Driskel's productive -- if rarely spectacular -- 2012. But that doesn't mean the junior can take things easy; building on last year's 11-2 record to a 12-1 or 13-0 championship season will require Driskel to improve dramatically on the Gators' 118th (118th!)-place finish in FBS passing yardage. The good news: If Driskel does just that, there seem like few other immediate holes in the Gators' lineup. That improvement has to start this spring.
-- Of course, some playmaking at receiver would be nice too. It seems impossible that a recruiting juggernaut like the Gators could be so bereft of weapons at wide receiver, but facts are facts: no Gator has finished with even 600 receiving yards since 2009, and one of the top candidates to reach that mark in 2013 (jet-quick wideout Solomon Patton) will be limited to noncontact work throughout spring camp after last season's arm injury. So it's no wonder starting corner Loucheiz Purifoy is getting a tryout at receiver that should lead to fall playing time on offense. Still, the rest of the receiving corps -- Quinton Dunbar, Andre Debose, Trey Burton, others -- has to show more this spring than they have in the past.
-- Sharrif Floyd might not be missed. The former Gator defensive tackle is in contention to go No. 1 overall in this year's draft, but even with his early departure, Florida should be fine along the defensive line: Dominique Easley is a potential All-SEC end (or tackle) in his own right, Leon Orr and Damien Jacobs have flashed major potential at times from the interior of the line, and former stud recruit Dante Fowler should mature into one of the league's best pass-rushers after 8.5 sacks as a freshman. A solid spring from this group would be a great sign that even the Gators' Floyd-size hole can be filled.
-- Matt Jones has some work to do. Mike Gillislee's graduation means there's a huge opportunity for the Gator tailbacks, starting with sophomore Jones, the team's leading returning rusher outside of Driskel. But he'll have to have a big spring to hold off the challenge of fellow sophomore Mack Brown, injured in 2012, and early enrolling five-star signee Kelvin Taylor. Any of the three (or even a dark horse) could enter fall camp with a leg up.
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