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Gators quarterback Jeff Driskel gets a fresh start in Kurt Roper's up-tempo offense.

Sunday August 24, 2014Gators Spotlight: 10 Players Key to 2014 Success

Gators quarterback Jeff Driskel gets a fresh start in Kurt Roper's up-tempo offense.

Scott Carter
By SCOTT CARTER
GatorZone.com Senior Writer

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The Florida Gators enter the 2014 season in search of a quick turnaround.

Gators coach Will Muschamp has said repeatedly over the summer that he expects a winning season from his fourth UF team. Muschamp is confident the Gators have the talent to compete for the SEC East title.

For that to happen Florida will need big seasons from several key players – and avoid the rash of injuries that engulfed the program last season. With the season opener less than a week away, here is a look at 10 players who must produce in 2014:

1. QB Jeff Driskel, R-Jr. – No one has ever doubted Driskel’s physical tools. The 6-foot-4, 230-pound Driskel is a dangerous dual-threat quarterback who should thrive in first-year offensive coordinator Kurt Roper’s up-tempo offense. The key for Driskel is making the right decisions and making them fast. If he commands the offense and uses his natural run-pass abilities, Driskel could have the breakout season Florida fans want to see.

2. CB Vernon Hargreaves III, So. – He made an immediate impact as a freshman and quickly earned a starting position in a secondary loaded with veterans. Those veterans are gone, which makes Hargreaves’ role even more important in his second season. With some growing pains expected, if Hargreaves can perform at the high level he did last season that will help a secondary loaded with talent but short on experience.

Jake McGee

3. TE Jake McGee, R-Sr. – He shores up a position that lacked production in 2013. McGee transferred from Virginia, where he hauled in more than 40 receptions last season. When the Gators went 11-2 in Driskel’s first season as the starting quarterback two years ago, his favorite target was tight end Jordan Reed. Look for McGee, who drew the praise of teammates and coaches for his playmaking ability during camp, to get plenty of balls thrown his way.

4. DL Dante Fowler Jr., Jr. – An All-SEC Preseason First-Team selection, Fowler is the Gators’ most accomplished player on the defensive front. Fowler has the talent to be a future star. To get there, he’ll need to disrupt the quarterback more consistently and be a presence on Florida’s front seven that other teams must account for every snap.

5. WR Demarcus Robinson, So. – In the spotlight since he arrived at UF, Robinson has the skills to be a dangerous vertical threat down the field. He was plagued by maturity issues and a lack of consistency as a freshman. If Robinson proves he has grown up and allows his natural ability to take over, he could be the big-play receiver Florida has lacked in recent years.

Antonio Morrison

6. LB Antonio Morrison, Jr. – After a memorable freshman season, Morrison often got lost in the shuffle as a sophomore before his season ended due to a knee injury. Morrison has dropped approximately 15 pounds and brings an edge to the defense. When healthy and playing with attitude, Morrison provides the kind of charge other players feed off.

7. RB Matt Jones, Jr./RB Kelvin Taylor, So. – Jones was never fully healthy last season and was lost at midseason when he suffered a knee injury. In Roper’s offense Jones is expected to still get plenty of carries between the tackles, but his most dangerous attribute might be his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. Taylor came on in the second half of his freshman season and offers a much different look than Jones in the run game. Taylor is shifty and has the ability to make defenders miss with his cutting ability.

8. LT D.J. Humphries, Jr. – Another victim of the injury bug a season ago, the Gators hope Humphries can stay healthy in 2014 and provide Driskel with the kind of back-side protection that NFL teams shell out a lot of money for. Humphries put on some weight in the offseason to help defend against the wear and tear of the SEC and has the talent to be a premier SEC offensive lineman.

9. K Frankie Velez, R-Sr. or Austin Hardin, R-So. – The battle between Velez and Hardin was a good one in fall camp and both could get an opportunity. Hardin has the stronger leg but Velez has proven to be more consistent. Regardless, the Gators missed 10 field goals last season and failed to hit one longer than 44 yards. That needs to improve for Muschamp to feel good about sending the field-goal unit onto the field.

Leon Orr

10. DT Leon Orr, R-Sr. – The Gators lost Dominique Easley and Damien Jacobs on the interior defensive line and Orr is one of the players the Gators will rely on to fill the void. The 6-foot-5, 305-pound Orr has the size to plug running lanes and the quickness to pressure the quarterback. If he can put the two together consistently, Florida’s defense will be sturdy up front in the middle.

 

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