F lorida appears to be one of the best teams in the SEC entering the 2013 season. There was that awful Sugar Bowl, but that should not be viewed as an indictment of the progress of Florida. (See Alabama-Utah if you doubt that.) So, what are the Gators chances for getting to Atlanta? Read on in our 2013 Florida Gators Football Preview.
2013 Florida Gators Football Preview
On the heels of a very surprising 11-2 season, the Gators are one of the most intriguing stories in the SEC. Despite losing several key players including standout defensive tackle Shariff Floyd, Florida still has a stable of weapons on both sides of the ball. Offensive coordinator Brent Pease has crafted a scheme that optimizes the talent he has to work with. It may not be the fun and gun that Gator fans loved under Steve Spurrier, or the Urban Meyer spread that terrorized the SEC (at least until Nick Saban made him quit). But eleven wins is eleven wins, including a win over golden boy Johnny Manziel and the Texas A&M Aggies.
The Gators went out and recruited one of the best high school running backs in the land in Kelvin Taylor. Taylor’s high school stats were ridiculous, rushing for 2,423 yards and 41 touchdowns his senior year alone. A pure speed rusher, Taylor can blow past defenders and most games will be the fastest player on the field. However, Taylor still hasn’t fully grasped Brent Pease’s offense and will start the season backing up starter Matt Jones.
Jones is a power back, and will be one of the biggest components on a Gator offense that looks to run first, second, and at every other point possible. Matt Jones can run into the trenches for tough yards. Between the two backs, the only way to stop Florida’s run game is to close the holes early and make Driskel throw the ball.
Without a doubt, making Jeff Driskel throw is the goal of any Gator opponent. A far cry from the great Gator quarterbacks in the past. He’s a tough kid, but lacks true football I.Q., pocket presence, or precision to make defensive backfields worry about a vertical threat from the Gators. Maybe this will change in 2013, and for Florida to make plans on making it to Atlanta, it will have to. The goal of any defensive coordinator is to make his opponent one dimensional. As it stands, the Gators are one dimensional before any game begins. Against bad teams Driskel won’t have to do anything more than manage the game, but against a tough SEC defense Jeff Driskel will be called upon to do things he hasn’t shown he can do to this point.
Fortunately for Driskel, he has several receiving threats that at the very least can run the wildcat as well as serve for decoys to assist the running game.
If any receiver will take the reigns of this Gator’s offense, it will be the lengthy DeMarcus Robinson. With only one other Gator-esque threat at wide-out for Florida, Robinson will need a good showing in 2013 to make much needed plays in the passing game. And if there’s one attribute Driskel has to love about Robinson, it’s his ability to make plays on poorly thrown balls. Along with tight end Kent Taylor, Robinson will be the go to on third downs and in the red zone.
On the opposite side of DeMarcus Robinson is Andre Debose, one of the biggest question marks in the SEC. Two years ago Debose caught 40 passes and averaged 27 yards per catch, but last year had minimal impact. Andre has elite speed and great hands, but the word is that his work ethic leaves a lot to be desired. Debose is truly the wild card of this team because although they don’t need him to win, solid productivity from Debose would make wins much more comfortable for the Gators.
If the Gator offense is their “Ying,” the defense is the “Yang.” Almost the opposite of the offensive side of the ball, Florida will struggle early on the defense. By the time Florida faces Georgia, they should have their legs under them. But early games against Miami, LSU, and probably Tennessee and Arkansas will make life difficult as the Gator defense grows up. Once an opponent establishes the run, fun through the air is soon to follow. If Florida’s defense doesn’t get better at stopping the run, they will have serious struggles against any team with a decent running game and an adequate play action passing attack.
In short, all of the Gator’s eggs are in its offensive basket as they look to manage the clock and wear out defenses with their lethal one-two rushing combo. But if the Gators fall behind in a game early, playing catch up through the air just isn’t a reality. And neither will be getting back to Atlanta.
Thanks for checking out our 2013 Florida Gators Football Preview. Tomorrow we look at the Auburn Tigers as we make our way through the SEC.
—Special to the Capstone Report by Alex DeRemer.