Sunday August 3, 2014 10 questions as Gators prepare to open camp
Updated: 10:04am, August 3
Updated: 10:04am, August 3
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The wait is finally over.
In what will go down as one of the longest offseasons in Florida football history -- a 4-8 record has a way of doing that -- the Gators officially report to camp today.
Florida opens practice Monday to start head coach Will Muschamp's fourth season in charge of the program. But first, Muschamp and the Gators will tackle Media Day this afternoon at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
Muschamp will speak to reporters for approximately 30 minutes and then dozens of players will make the rounds.
At SEC Football Media Days in Hoover, Ala., last month, Muschamp displayed strong confidence about his team. He clearly expects the Gators to put last season's dismal campaign quickly behind them with a turnaround season.
It appears many college coaches share some of Muschamp's confidence in the Gators.
While the Gators will open the season unranked in the USA Today Coaches Poll for the first time, they are knocking at the door at No. 27 with 122 points, four behind defending SEC East champion Missouri.
With Media Day later this afternoon, here are 10 questions that have me intrigued:
--Can quarterback Jeff Driskel stay healthy and fulfill his potential? Driskel has all the physical tools to be an elite college quarterback. If Driskel can stay healthy and cut down on some of the mental mistakes that have plagued him in the past, the Gators can be back quickly.
--Who will back up Driskel? The candidates are redshirt sophomore Skyler Mornhinweg and a pair of true freshmen in Will Grier and Treon Harris. The backup quarterback battle is going to be watched closely in fall camp.
--Can running back Matt Jones rebound after missing the second half of last season? Remember, Jones missed fall camp a year ago due to an illness and then got hurt in the sixth game and missed the rest of the season. If healthy and productive, he gives Florida a dangerous weapon on offense.
--Is receiver Demarcus Robinson as good as everyone said he was coming out of high school? The Gators are still waiting on the final answer. If Robinson's play says yes, that will be a huge boost for the offense.
--Will first-year offensive coordinator Kurt Roper's no-huddle up-tempo system be the remedy that fixes UF's sputtering offense? Muschamp thinks so. So do the players. They seemed to pass the first test in spring practice by regaining some confidence.
--What can we expect from sixth-year receiver Andre Debose? Debose remains a special talent with the ball in his hands and open field around him. If he does nothing else than provide the Gators with a dangerous kickoff returner, that's a good start.
--Who are the real leaders on this team? Driskel, defensive back Vernon Hargreaves III, defensive lineman Dante Fowler Jr. and offensive lineman Max Garcia quickly come to mind. The Gators need a few more emerge in fall camp through their play and attitude.
--How good can the defense be? In Muschamp's tenure, a solid defense has been the one constant. Defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin enters his second season in search of more turnovers than a year ago. That means he will have his eye on potential playmakers during camp.
--What's the outlook in the kicking game? This is an area that cost the Gators at times a season ago. Austin Hardin had a strong spring to regain some confidence on field goals. Meanwhile, punters Kyle Christy and Johnny Townsend should have a good battle in fall camp.
--Which true freshman will shine early? As the Gators look to rebound from their first losing season in 34 years, they need some impact players from the freshman class. Harris, cornerback Jalen Tabor, defensive back Duke Dawson, defensive lineman Thomas Holley and running back Brandon Powell are among those that offer that potential.