The Florida Gators entered spring practice with question marks in a number of different areas -- the program lost a lot of starters off of last year's team. At the spring game Saturday, fans will get some sense for how those questions are being addressed. However, not much of a sense, as injuries mean the game will be more of a scrimmage:
#Gators coach Will Muschamp says with only 6 healthy offensive linemen, Orange and Blue Debut's format will be revamped.— Scott Carter (@GatorZoneScott) April 2, 2013
UF's Will Muschamp says spring game will be somewhat of a game, but portions of it will be practice drills.— Jason Lieser (@PBPjasonlieser) April 2, 2013
The Gators signed one of the country's best recruiting classes in February, and while most won't head to campus until the summer, several key recruits enrolled early and have themselves in a position to earn immediate playing time. Running back Kelvin Taylor is one such player, though indications are that sophomore Matt Jones is the leader for the starting job. Still, Taylor should factor into the offense this fall and get a look on Saturday.
Demarcus Robinson, another early enrollee, is in the mix at wide receiver and a strong performance in the spring game could help him crack the rotation come the start of the season. The Gators lost their leading receiver from last season, Jordan Reed. Head coach Will Muschamp is giving defensive back Loucheiz Purifoy snaps at wide receiver in an effort to bolster that position. Said Muschamp back on March 19:
"We’re trying to introduce the concepts to [Purifoy],’’ Muschamp said. "We want to be able to expand what he can do at receiver. I don’t think it’s diminishing his skill at all as a corner. After the seventh practice he is going to come back to defense. He is going to have a role on our offense in the fall. That’s why I wanted to do this now."
Muschamp expects Purifoy to contribute in all three phases, and added that he "needs to be in really, really good shape."
On the defensive side, a trio of linebackers enrolled early, including five-star prospect Alex Anzalone, and the Gators need help there with the departures of Jonathan Bostic and Jelani Jenkins. Unfortunately for Florida, Anzalone suffered a torn labrum earlier in the spring that will keep him sidelined for about four months.
One area that won't be a concern this season is defensive end. SB Nation's Alligator Army believes it's the team's strongest position:
Florida has three five-star defensive ends on the roster, in Ronald Powell (training at BUCK, but with significant defensive line chops), Jonathan Bullard, and Dante Fowler, Jr.; I named both Bullard and Fowler to my list of the top 15 freshmen in college football in 2012, and I think both have the starting positions at defensive end sewn up if Florida starts in a 4-3 alignment. Heck, Bullard and Fowler could play at tackle and end, respectively, in a 3-4 alignment.
Florida may not be able to match its stellar defensive production from 2012 simply because of the sheer number of players it lost on that side of the ball, but with such a solid foundation up front, the defense still figures to be a tough group. The spring game could offer some insight into just how tough.