Gators 2014 Spring Football Preview: Offense

Spring practice for the Florida Gators football program begins on Wednesday, March 19 and lasts for 15 practices concluding with the 2014 Orange & Blue Debut spring game on Saturday, April 12. Below is the first of OnlyGators.com‘s two-part series that takes a look at the team on a position-by-position basis.

Due to extensive team injuries, more players started for Florida at times in 2013 than normal. In this case, the term “starter” is being used as applicable per position.

OFFENSIVE TACKLES
Returning starters (2/2): Junior D.J. Humphries, redshirt senior Chaz Green
Fresh faces: Redshirt freshman Roderick Johnson

By the time the 2013 campaign came to an end, the Gators lost three starting tackles for the season. The first of those absentees was Green, who had locked up the starting right tackle job over the summer but tore his labrum in practice and missed the entire season. Then came Humphries, who started the first six games at left tackle but missed the final five after an injured MCL kept him hobbled for the remainder of the year. Florida’s offense struggled mightily, in large part due to a weak offensive line, but Green and Humphries will almost assuredly start for UF as long as they can remain healthy. Johnson did not play in 2013 after suffering a physical setback early in camp but impressed the coaching staff with his athleticism when he was able to practice as a part of the scout team. He is a candidate to see a good number of snaps this year.

OFFENSIVE GUARDS
Returning starters (0/2): None
Fresh faces: Junior transfer Drew Sarvary, freshman Kavaris Harkless

With Jon Halapio and Kyle Koehne graduating – and Florida’s starting left guard changing positions (more on that below) – new offensive line coach Mike Summers will have the opportunity to hand-pick some players to help solidify the unit. Sarvary – a First Team All-Southwest Junior College Football Conference selection last season – and redshirt junior Trip Thurman will compete for the jobs, as will senior Trenton Brown and redshirt junior Tyler Moore, both of whom started games at tackle for the Gators in 2013. Florida’s guards are a work in progress, no two ways about it. Harkless could get in the mix as well though it is tough to know what UF can get from a freshman offensive lineman in the spring.

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Florida freshmen wideouts still works in progress

“It’s not, ‘Add water, instant player,’” is one of Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp’s favorite lines, something he often says when discussing how far most freshmen normally need to come from a development perspective before being capable of stepping onto a college football field.

Florida’s five-player freshman wide receiver class is apparently no exception to Muschamp’s slogan. At least not this season.

Despite the Gators being in desperate need of serious playmaking talent along the outside, the team has gotten very little out of some of its youngest wideouts.

Only three of the five have played this season with those that have totaling 18 receptions, 128 yards and one touchdown through 10 games.

“Everybody hears about how these kids are graded out in recruiting and everything is pretty at that time. But when you get in the game going against corners that are experienced in this league and defenses that are big and fast, you get lost sometimes in coverage,” explained offensive coordinator Brent Pease on Tuesday.

“You just got to compete. You’ve got to play faster … until you really have the strength to dominate somebody.”

Ahmad Fulwood, a four-star prospect out of Jacksonville, FL, is leading the charge with 11 receptions for 92 yards and the score, an impressive grab that came to Saturdays ago in Florida’s loss to Vanderbilt.

“Ahmad has come on and put himself into the rotation and done a good job,” Pease said. “What I see from him is he’s finally catching up to the speed of the game and gotten more consistent catching.”

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8/19: Muschamp updates injuries and defensive depth chart, discusses freshmen playmakers

Florida Gators head coach Will Muschamp met with the media before the team’s 20th fall practice (the third open to the media) ahead of the 2013 season.

INJURIES UPDATES POSITIVE…FOR ONCE

Sophomore running back Matt Jones remains out of action while recovering from a serious viral infection but is looking healthier than he has in quite some time and could be on his way to returning to practice if some Monday tests come back with the results that please team doctors. “Matt Jones is getting some blood work done this afternoon,” Muschamp explained. “He’s got his weight back up. He’s at about 223 [pounds]. When this happened, he was 226. So I’ll know a little bit more as we move through he week, but he’s been jogging and moving around a little bit more, which is good.”

While it is unknown when Jones will be cleared, Muschamp said the Gators have been operating with the assumption that he will miss Florida’s season opener against Toledo on Aug. 31. The good news is that Jones has a positive attitude and seems to be progressing exactly the way trainers have hoped. “I get a daily update,” he said. “He feels good. He’s doing more and more every day from a workout standpoint. That’s all I know. We’re playing it by ear.”

Beginning Thursday, the focus for the Gators turns to game week. Florida will begin additional preparation for Toledo, and Muschamp said Monday that he expects to have most of his nicked-up players back for the contest.

Senior defensive tackle Damien Jacobs (knee), junior fullback Hunter Joyer (hamstring) and freshman cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III (shoulder) should all be ready to practice next week. Additionally, senior defensive back Jaylen Watkins (foot) returned to practice on Sunday, and senior defensive lineman Dominique Easley (shoulder) is practicing after getting dinged during practice last week.

Muschamp also expects to have redshirt senior right guard Jon Halapio (pectoral) back but said he is still awaiting approval from doctors, which he could get on Friday. “Right now, everything has gone extremely well [with his recovery],” he said. “They feel like the cavity has filled in where the pec was torn. They feel good about it, but I won’t know more until Friday.”

Sophomore wide receiver Raphael Andrades (turf toe) – “It’s a pretty good one.” – will miss at least 10 days.

Though UF appears to be suffering through a variety of ailments and injuries, Muschamp pointed out that the team is “probably healthier than [it was] a year ago” because most of the “setbacks have been non-football and non-contact,” including the two anterior cruciate ligament tears. “That’s been the frustrating part,” he said. “We’re healthier now than we have ever been since I’ve been at Florida, at this point in camp.”

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Gators 2013 freshmen pick uniform numbers

Athletes care about their uniform numbers and now that Florida Gators football team is a month away from beginning fall practice, it was time for the remaining freshman – aside from the eight early enrollees which received uniforms in the spring – to choose theirs. Below is the list according to the school’s most recent media guide:

TRANSFERS
» No. 55 – Darious Cummings (Titusville, FL), junior defensive lineman (EE)
» No. 73 – Tyler Moore (Clearwater, FL), redshirt sophomore offensive lineman (EE)
» No. 74 – Trenton Brown (Milledgeville, GA), junior offensive lineman

FRESHMEN (EARLY ENROLLEES)
» No. 9 – Matt Rolin (Ashburn, VA), freshman linebacker
» No. 11 – Demarcus Robinson (Fort Valley, GA), freshman wide receiver
» No. 13 – Daniel McMillian (Jacksonville, FL), freshman linebacker
» No. 21 – Kelvin Taylor (Belle Glade, FL), freshman running back*
» No. 34 – Alex Anzalone (Wyomissing, PA), freshman linebacker
» No. 91 – Joey Ivie (Dade City, FL), freshman defensive lineman

FRESHMEN
» No. 5 – Ahmad Fulwood (Jacksonville, FL), freshman wide receiver
» No. 12 – Max Staver (Brentwood, TN), freshman quarterback
» No. 14 – Chris Wilkes (Orlando, FL), freshman walk-on quarterback
» No. 16 – Vernon Hargreaves III (Tampa, FL), freshman defensive back
» No. 17 – Jordan Sherit (Tampa, FL), freshman defensive lineman
» No. 22 – Adam Lane (Winter Haven, FL), freshman running back
» No. 22 – Nick Washington (Jacksonville, FL), freshman defensive back
» No. 26 – Marcell Harris (Orlando, FL), freshman defensive back~
» No. 35 – Johnny Townsend (Orlando, FL), freshman punter
» No. 40 – Jarrad Davis (Kingsland, GA), freshman linebacker
» No. 42 – Keanu Neal (Bushnell, FL), freshman defensive back
» No. 45 – Antonio Riles (Lawrenceville, GA), freshman defensive lineman
» No. 50 – Octavius Jackson (Moultrie, GA), freshman offensive lineman
» No. 55 – Roderick Johnson (Delray Beach, FL), freshman offensive lineman^
» No. 57 – Caleb Brantley (Crescent City, FL), freshman defensive lineman
» No. 71 – Cameron Dillard (Canton, MI), freshman offensive lineman
» No. 80 – Trevon Young (Bradenton, FL), freshman tight end
» No. 81 – Marqui Hawkins (Columbus, GA), freshman wide receiver
» No. 85 – Chris Thompson (Gainesville, FL), freshman wide receiver
» No. 89 – Alvin Bailey (Seffner, FL), freshman wide receiver
» No. 99 – Jay-nard Bostwick (Port St. Lucie, FL), freshman defensive lineman

* Kelvin Taylor’s father, Fred Taylor, also wore No. 21 for the Gators.
~ Mike Harris’s father, Mike Harris, wore No. 13 for UF. His son doubled his number.
^ Roderick Johnson is not yet enrolled at Florida.

NUMBER CHANGES
» Sophomore LB Antonio Morrison switched from 12 to 3.
» Redshirt sophomore walk-on DB Evan Schroeder switched from 21 to 22.
» Redshirt freshman walk-on WR Darius Masline switched from 81 to 80.

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Florida Gators 2013 National Signing Day bios

P Johnny Townsend: commit No. 30 | OL/TE Trevon Young: commit No. 29 | JUCO DT Jarran Reed: commit No. 28 | DT Jay-nard Bostwick: commit No. 27 | Muschamp discusses class; assistants evaluate signees | Video interviews with coaches | “Closing”, quarterback situation

Courtesy of the University of Florida‘s University Athletic Association:

EARLY ENROLLEES (8)

Alex Anzalone • Linebacker
6’3″ • 220 • Wyomissing, PA (Wyomissing Area)
PRIOR TO FLORIDA: Helped Wyomissing High to its first Class AA state championship in 2012, finishing 16-0, a school single-season record for wins…Selected to the 2013 Under Armour All-American Game…Finished his senior year with over 1,000 rushing yards and 30 touchdowns from the fullback position and registered more than 100 tackles…Earned a spot on the 247Sports Class of 2013 All-America team…Named senior Class AA Player of the Year as part of the 2012 Pennsylvania Sports Writers All-State Team…As a junior, was named first team all-state, all-region and all-county…In 2011, ran for over 900 yards and scored 13 touchdowns and was named to the all-state team…Invited to “The Opening”, an all-star summer prospect camp held on the Nike Campus…Chose Florida over Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State, USC, UCLA, Miami, Tennessee, Pitt, Stanford, Georgia and Florida State…Coached by Bob Wolfrum.

Darious Cummings • Defensive tackle
6’1″ • 310 • Titusville, FL (Astronaut/Florida St./East Mississippi CC)
PRIOR TO FLORIDA: Played in all 10 games during the 2012 season at EMCC, tallying 26 tackles (12 unassisted) with 4.0 TFL (12 yards), 3.0 sacks, two quarterback hurries and one forced fumble…EMCC finished 8-2 on the year and ranked 15th in the final NJCAA poll…Anchored a defense that allowed just 74.2 rushing yards per game…Notched a season-high four tackles twice during the season, against Pearl River CC and Itawamba CC…Played under head coach Buddy Stephens at EMCC…Spent two years at Florida State before transferring to EMCC…Played in three games as a true freshman and two games as a sophomore before suffering an injury that caused him to miss most of the 2011 season…Totaled seven tackles in five career games at FSU…Missed the spring of 2012 at FSU after arthroscopic knee surgery and then transferred to EMCC in the summer of 2012…Entered his senior year of high school with 159 tackles, including 22 for loss and 15 sacks…Was the first commit in FSU’s 2010 signing class…Was a Florida Super 75 selection by the Times-Union…Named to SunStateFootball.com all-state first team in 2009…Attended the same high school as former Gator football players LB Wilber Marshall, WR Cris Collinsworth and TE Aaron Walker…Chose Florida over offers from Ole Miss, Texas A&M, Mississippi State and Arkansas.

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Sixteen Gators ranked in final ESPN 300 for 2013

Released Thursday afternoon, the final edition of the ESPN 300 for the class of 2013 is filled with players verbally committed to play for the Florida Gators next season. Eleven Florida commits are part of the top 150 players in the group and five more are listed among the top 300 recruits in the nation.

Three major changes to the list include running back Kelvin Taylor (Belle Glade, FL) adding a fifth star, four-star wide receiver Demarcus Robinson (Jacksonville, FL) moving up 104 spots and four-star defensive end Jordan Sherit (Tampa, FL) dropping out of the rankings due to his ACL injury.

Below is a breakdown of where the Gators’ commits are ranked:

3 EVEN – DB Vernon Hargreaves (Tampa, FL, FL)
8 7 – RB Kelvin Taylor (Belle Glade, FL)
33 13 – LB Daniel McMillian (Jacksonville, FL)
42 4 – DT Caleb Brantley (Crescent City, FL)
53 104 – WR Demarcus Robinson (Jacksonville, FL)
65 2 – DB Keanu Neal (Bushnell, FL)
68 2 – DB Marcell Harris (Orlando, FL)
77 6 – WR Alvin Bailey (Seffner, FL)
80 4 – LB Matt Rolin (Jacksonville, FL)
97 UNK. – LB Alex Anzalone (Wyomissing, PA)
110 61 – WR Ahmad Fulwood (Jacksonville, FL)
154 19 – DB Nick Washington (Jacksonville, FL)
175 7 – RB Adam Lane (Winter Haven, FL)
199 19 – WR Marqui Hawkins (Columbus, GA)
263 3 – QB Max Staver (Brentwood, TN)
278 2 – LB James Hearns (Tallahassee, FL)

Florida’s 2013 commitments:
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Florida wins battle for WR Demarcus Robinson

A back-and-forth-and-back-again recruiting war for four-star wide receiver Demarcus Robinson (Fort Valley, GA) has finally ended with the prized prospect deciding to join the Florida Gators‘ impressive 2013 recruiting class.

Robinson, a long-time Clemson Tigers commitment, rescinded his soft verbal pledge to the school on Dec. 12 when he first flipped to the Gators. Just five days later on Dec. 17, Robinson had a change of heart and rejoined the Tigers’ class.

However, upon arriving at the 2013 U.S. Army All-American Bowl for practice last week, Robinson said he was no longer committed to Clemson and was reopening his recruitment with Florida and Notre Dame also under consideration. Furthermore, he promised to make a decision with his mother over the weekend and enroll early at the school of his choice as a surprise on Monday or Tuesday.

Monday morning, after spending a week in San Antonio, TX practicing for the game and meeting with coaches from both schools, Robinson announced his decision via his Twitter account by writing, “#Gatornation here I come !” Minutes later he added, “I love my gators can’t wait to arrive on campus!” He also confirmed to multiple outlets that he has finally settled on the Gators.

Robinson is the third pass catcher listed at 6’2” or taller and the fifth overall wide receiver to make a pledge for Florida this cycle. The Rivals100 and ESPN 300 receiver is a big target with plenty of strength and more than enough speed to succeed in the grueling Southeastern Conference.

Arguably Florida’s most important commitment since head coach Will Muschamp took over the program, Robinson is a top talent at a major position of need for the Gators. UF’s leading returning receiver, redshirt sophomore Quinton Dunbar, reeled in 36 receptions for 383 yards and four touchdowns during the 2012 season.

Ranked as the No. 48 overall prospect nationally by Rivals, Robinson is the highest-rated receiver to commit to Florida since Andre Debose (No. 21) in 2009. He is listed as the 157th best player in the country by ESPN.

Robinson’s flip from Clemson was originally fueled, in part, by UF’s hiring of new wide receivers coach Joker Phillips, who along with Muschamp and running backs coach Brian White paid the prized recruit a visit in his home shortly before his original commitment and subsequent visit to the school.

The Gators’ newest recruiting class now consists of 26 total pledges including 25 that count as part of the 2013 cycle.

Robinson joins four-stars Ahmad Fulwood (Jacksonville, FL) and Alvin Bailey (Seffner, FL) and three-stars Marqui Hawkins (Columbus, GA) and Chris Thompson (Gainesville, FL) as wide receivers in the class.

Florida also has an offer out to three-star WR James Clark (New Smyrna Beach, FL) who visited the school over the weekend and picked up the offer directly from Muschamp. The Gators would happily take six receivers this cycle.

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Robinson spurns Florida, flips back to Clemson

Less than one week after four-star wide receiver Demarcus Robinson (Fort Valley, GA) decommitted from the Clemson Tigers and pledged to join the Florida Gators’ 2013 recruiting class, the top-tier pass catcher had a change of heart and decided to rescind his promise to Florida and recommit to play for Clemson next season.

According to Rivals affiliate TigerIllustrated.com, which first reported his flip, the Gators have lost arguably their most important commitment since head coach Will Muschamp took over the program as Robinson was a top-tier talent at a major position of need. UF’s leading returning receiver, redshirt sophomore Quinton Dunbar, reeled in just 31 receptions for 306 yards and four touchdowns during the 2012 season.

Robinson was the third pass catcher listed at 6’2” or taller and the fifth overall wide receiver to make a pledge for Florida this cycle. He is a Rivals100 and ESPN 300 talent who is respectively listed as the No. 48 and No. 157 overall prospect in the nation.

A big target with plenty of strength and more than enough speed, Robinson would have been the highest-rated receiver to sign with the Gators since Andre Debose (No. 21) in 2009. His flip to Florida was believed to be fueled, in part, by UF’s hiring of Joker Phillips as receivers coach.

Robinson had been long considering a switch to the Gators and chose to do so following a meeting with Muschamp, Phillips and running backs coach Brian White last Wednesday. He met with members of the Tigers’ coaching staff late in the week and chose to make a change even after visiting Florida over the weekend.

The Gators do still have four remaining receivers committed for the 2013 cycle in four-stars Ahmad Fulwood (Jacksonville, FL) and Alvin Bailey (Seffner, FL) and three-stars Marqui Hawkins (Columbus, GA) and Chris Thompson (Gainesville, FL).

Florida now has 25 total pledges including 24 that count as members of the 2013 recruiting class. The Gators will likely look to add a fifth receiver to their class.

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