Florida Gators: Kent Taylor

Florida's two-deep: B-position

June, 12, 2014
Jun 12
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Editor’s note: We’re breaking down the Gators’ two-deep depth chart every day for the next two weeks. We’ll cover every position as well as offer a glimpse into the future. You can read the whole series here.

B-POSITION

The starter: Senior tight end Jake McGee

The backup: Senior tight end Tevin Westbrook

The rest: Senior tight end Clay Burton, senior fullback Hunter Joyer, senior fullback Gideon Ajagbe, true freshmen tight ends DeAndre Goolsby and C'yontai Lewis, and true freshman h-back Moral Stephens

[+] EnlargeJake McGee
Lee Coleman/Icon SMITransfer Jake McGee led Virginia last season with 43 receptions for 395 yards.
The lowdown: First, an explanation that in Kurt Roper's spread offense the B-position is a combination of the tight end, h-back and fullback positions. You'll see them on the line, in the backfield, in the slot, split out wide and often in motion. Considering the definite lack of involvement in the passing game from those positions in the previous offense, the Gators were expecting a rough transition for the B-position in 2014. That was until they found a perfect fit in transfer Jake McGee, a 6-foot-6, 255-pound tight end who led Virginia in receiving last season. McGee, now on campus and rooming with Jeff Driskel, looks to be the quarterback's best friend. Driskel hasn't had one of those since 2012, when tight end Jordan Reed led Florida in receiving. If he can adapt quickly, McGee could be a major x-factor in reviving Florida's offense this fall. He hasn't played in Roper's scheme before, but the offensive coordinator recruited him in high school so there is familiarity. With McGee, the Gators won't have to force the ball to any of their other seniors who were rarely asked to do more than block in years past. Florida fullbacks Joyer and Ajagbe, however, showed in spring that they have some potential to contribute in the passing game.

The future: The Gators have had some bad luck in recruiting tight ends. Will Muschamp's second class in 2012 featured two of the nation's top four TE prospects in Colin Thompson and Kent Taylor. But Thompson's career appears over due to a foot injury, and Taylor did little before transferring to Kansas. Muschamp began to restock in the last recruiting cycle with Goolsby, Lewis and Stephens, and Roper believes they are good fits for his scheme. Goolsby is the most advanced after enrolling in January. He has had more time to add bulk and strength to his 6-4, 230-pound frame and got the benefit of a lot of reps in spring practice. Thanks to the presence of McGee, Florida likely will have the luxury of redshirting Lewis and Stephens to allow them time to learn and grow. Roper has said his offense affords a lot of opportunities for tweeners, which is why UF doesn't necessarily have to sign a prototypical tight end moving forward. The 2015 class already has a commit from Camrin Knight, a 6-4, 213-pound prospect with loads of athletic ability, potential to grow and willingness to learn.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Four catches.

It doesn't get much worse than the nearly complete absence of production from Florida's tight ends last season. Four catches is practically invisible, although some of the blame can be shared with a passing offense that ranked No. 107 out of 123 FBS teams in 2013.

Just one year prior, the Gators got a fine season from tight end Jordan Reed, who led the team in receiving with 45 catches for 559 yards and three touchdowns. Then the bottom fell out.

"It was a very offensive position when Jordan Reed was here," head coach Will Muschamp said recently. "It was an offensive position last year."

This fall, position coach Derek Lewis goes back to the drawing board to develop the players he has. There is also hope that new coordinator Kurt Roper will devise an offense that will better utilize UF's big targets over the middle of the field.

As we've gone through this week's series of the Gators' top positions with room to improve, it's not difficult to notice the focus has been on every offensive group except for running back. Here then is a look at Florida's tight ends.

[+] EnlargeDeAndre Goolsby
Jeff Barlis/ESPNWith very little production returning from Florida's tight ends, incoming freshman DeAndre Goolsby could make an immediate impact.
Battling for No. 1: Just how much emphasis was there on tight ends blocking in 2013? Well, Clay Burton started nine of 12 games and had just one catch in the final game of the season. He's started 15 of his 25 games in an Gator uniform, but with questionable hands and just three career catches, Burton leaves a lot to be desired. The same can be said for Tevin Westbrook, a converted defensive lineman who "led" Florida tight ends in receiving last season with three catches for 30 yards. Burton and Westbrook have good size and can block, but it's possible they've already reached their ceilings in terms of skill. If Roper opens up the offense and involves the tight ends, the best bets for receiving options are likely to come in the form of true freshmen.

Strength in numbers: Part of the problem with tight ends at Florida has been numbers. The Gators had just three on scholarship when Kent Taylor transferred after a lost 2013 season. That third tight end was Colin Thompson, who has hardly seen the field due to nagging foot injuries. Like Taylor, Thompson was one of the top tight end prospects in the nation in the Class of 2012. But even when healthy -- if he can get healthy -- Thompson profiles more as a blocker than a pass-catcher.

New on the scene: The Gators acted decisively in signing three skilled tight ends in their 2014 recruiting class. DeAndre Goolsby, an athletic 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds, is already on campus as an early enrollee. That's critical because he needs to gain more weight and upper-body strength, and having Goolsby compete in spring practice could give him the best chance of any tight end on the roster at becoming the pass-catcher Florida has lacked at the position. Like Goolsby, C'yontai Lewis has been working to gain weight and is up to 6-4, 230. Lewis caught the coaching staff's eye in camp last summer when he showed good ball skills and athleticism. The third tight end in the class, Moral Stephens, was a big wide receiver in high school who was offered a scholarship at UF when Taylor's transfer opened a spot on the roster. Stephens, is 6-3, 200, so he will need to add some bulk, but the coaches like his playmaking ability and see him as a tight end and H-back.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida coach Will Muschamp was all smiles on signing day, officially announcing his fourth recruiting class.

The Gators signed all 13 of their commits with no drama and added two more for a total of 24. UF moved up one spot to finish at No. 6 in ESPN's class rankings, just missing a third consecutive top five class.

We've already looked at Florida's nine early enrollees in this class. Here's a breakdown of the 15 who were added on Wednesday.

David Sharpe | Scouting report
Jacksonville, Fla./Providence School
Height/Weight: 6-foot-6, 288 pounds Ranking: No. 20 overall, No. 2 offensive tackle
How he fits: After splitting time between football and basketball in high school, Sharpe will focus solely on offensive tackle, where he has tremendous potential. "He's got great feet," Muschamp said. "You can't coach that." Sharpe is a terrific athlete who will play a position of great need at Florida, but there's a good chance he'll redshirt considering how much he still has to learn and grow.

Gerald Willis III | Scouting report
New Orleans/Edna Karr
Height/Weight: 6-3, 275 Ranking: No. 42 overall, No. 2 defensive tackle
How he fits: One of UF's recruiting prizes, Willis will have a chance to play right away because of his mature game and versatility. Like Sharrif Floyd and Dominique Easley, Willis can play inside or at strong-side end. "He really uses his hands very well," Muschamp said, "better than most high school defensive linemen."

Thomas Holley | Scouting report
Brooklyn, N.Y./Lincoln
Height/Weight: 6-4, 303 Ranking: No. 51 overall, No. 3 defensive tackle
How he fits: A basketball player for much of his high school career, Holley is a raw talent but one with perfect measurables to be a dominant presence inside. The Florida coaching staff loves the idea of developing an explosive athlete with Holley's size.

J.C. Jackson | Scouting report
Immokalee, Fla./Immokalee
Height/Weight: 6-0, 185 Ranking: No. 79 overall, No. 11 athlete
How he fits: With four upperclassmen gone, there is a lot of opportunity at cornerback. Jackson stuck with the Gators in order to take advantage of it. An explosive athlete with good size, Jackson also has a chance to contribute as a special teams return man.

Treon Harris | Scouting report
Miami/Booker T. Washington
Height/Weight: 5-11, 186 Ranking: No. 163 overall, No. 7 dual-threat quarterback
How he fits: With Kurt Roper bringing the spread and option back into UF's offense, it was imperative that Florida add to its QB depth with an athlete. Harris is that and more. Not the most-polished passer, he sometimes looks like a scatback when plays break down. But his instincts and ability to improvise could put him in the mix to compete for backup minutes this fall.

Moral Stephens | Scouting report
Perry, Fla./Taylor County
Height/Weight: 6-3, 200 Ranking: No. 201 overall, No. 27 wide receiver
How he fits: Much like Jordan Reed and Aaron Hernandez, Stephens has the look of a playmaker at tight end and H-back once he fills out a bit. The coaches were quick to add him to the class after a spot opened up when Kent Taylor transferred.

Khairi Clark| Scouting report
Hollywood, Fla./Chaminade
Height/Weight: 6-2, 329 Ranking: No. 211 overall, No. 16 defensive tackle
How he fits: A bull in the middle, Clark moves very well for his size. He might need a redshirt year to develop his technique, but there's no doubting his potential as a run-stuffing, lane-clogging tackle.

Justus Reed | Scouting report
Clearwater, Fla./Central Catholic
Height/Weight: 6-3, 215 Ranking: No. 285 overall, No. 25 defensive end
How he fits: Muschamp called Reed "a very explosive guy" and a hybrid outside linebacker/defensive end who probably needs to redshirt to add about 20 pounds.

Quincy Wilson | Scouting report
Fort Lauderdale, Fla./University School
Height/Weight: 6-1, 197 Ranking: No. 292 overall, No. 15 safety
How he fits: With a good blend of size and speed, Wilson could play some cornerback. But Florida typically fields elite athletes there, so Wilson could bring his skills to the safety position, where the Gators have good depth.

Ryan Sousa | Scouting report
Orlando, Fla./Lake Nona
Height/Weight: 6-0, 177 Ranking: No. 47 wide receiver
How he fits: Another prospect who benefited from the Roper hire, Sousa flipped from FSU as soon as the Gators offered. He's smart, plays fast and was ultra-productive in the slot and outside. If he can do the same in Roper's offense, he'll get on the field quickly.

Travaris Dorsey | Scouting report
Jacksonville, Fla./Raines
Height/Weight: 6-3, 314 Ranking: No. 26 offensive guard
How he fits: He has the size to play in the trenches right away but could use some time to refine his technique. There's no doubt the physical attributes are there, as Muschamp cited Dorsey's "really good lower body, punch and power" as well as his long reach.

Andrew Mike | Scouting report
Tucson, Ariz./Sabino
Height/Weight: 6-6, 278 Ranking: No. 32 offensive tackle
How he fits: Muschamp admitted Mike was "a guy that we kind of lucked into" after Florida jumped into his recruitment very late and got a commitment the night before signing day. Still, the size, reach and athleticism scream SEC lineman after a redshirt year.

C.J. Worton | Scouting report
Homestead, Fla./South Dade
Height/Weight: 6-1, 171 Ranking: No. 77 wide receiver
How he fits: He's another signee in whom Florida's interest shot up after Roper took the reins of the offense. The coaching staff loves his competitiveness, and as usual, Florida has a tremendous need for playmakers at receiver. Like Sousa, he'll get a chance to work in the slot.

C'yontai Lewis | Scouting report
Tuscaloosa, Ala./Northridge
Height/Weight: 6-4, 230 Ranking: No. 15 tight end/H-back
How he fits: Lewis earned his scholarship last summer when he came to UF's camp and showed off great hands and athleticism. The coaching staff is excited about his potential to grow into the position, as he's already put on at least 20 pounds since then.

Deiondre Porter | Scouting report
Tampa, Fla./Thomas Jefferson
Height/Weight: 6-1, 167 Ranking: No. 50 pocket-passing quarterback
How he fits: Porter will get his first look in the defensive backfield. The coaching staff loves his speed and smarts, so he could stick as a corner or safety. He could also find a home at receiver or even play some quarterback in a pinch.
Thursday delivered a mass exodus of offensive players from Gainesville, Fla.

Florida announced that six offensive players -- sophomore tight end Kent Taylor, true freshman quarterback Max Staver, redshirt freshman fullback Rhaheim Ledbetter and offensive linemen Quinteze Williams, freshman offensive lineman Trevon Young, and junior offensive lineman Ian Silberman -- will transfer.

On the surface, that's a lot of players, especially for a team that has struggled so much offensively in the last two seasons. It doesn't help that one of those players, Staver, was a quarterback, which is a position that still has a lot of questions surrounding it entering the 2014 season.

Will Grier
Miller Safrit/ESPNWill Grier is the No. 2 dual-threat quarterback in the ESPN 300, and he's due to arrive on campus at Florida next month.
But before Gators fans start mashing the panic button even more, it's important to point out that only Silberman had any sort of significant role with the Gators in 2013. Silberman made seven career starts, but had spent most of his career at Florida as a reserve guard. He was making strides, but with Max Garcia and Tyler Moore returning, he likely would have spent his final year in Gainesville as a reserve.

Taylor arrived at Florida with a load of hype surrounding his name, as he was ranked as the nation's No. 1 tight end. But in his two seasons with the Gators, he caught just two passes for 5 yards and a touchdown. Both of those catches came last year, as he struggled to get any real time on the field at all this season. When you talk to people around the program, it sounds like Taylor's heart just wasn't in it in Gainesville, as he spent most of his time on the practice squad.

The loss of Staver might not hurt Florida's depth as much as it seems. As bad as the play became at quarterback this season, Staver, a pro-style passer, remained on the sideline in order to preserve his redshirt. But even with the quarterback position likely up for grabs next spring and fall, Staver probably saw the writing on the wall with the Gators moving to a new offensive scheme that will add more tempo and likely utilize more runs from the quarterback.

Jeff Driskel, who missed most of the season with a broken fibula, will return and will have two more years of eligibility if he gets a medicial redshirt. Florida also returns Tyler Murphy, who replaced Driskel last year, and Skyler Mornhinweg, who eventually replaced Murphy.

Not to mention, the Gators will welcome four-star ESPN 300 quarterback Will Grier in January. Four quarterbacks on the roster should be enough for Florida.

While losing players can unnerve people, Florida shouldn't hurt too much from the loss of these six players. Florida's offense had myriad issues last season, but chances are these guys weren't going to be the ones to help turn things around. That will come with a new offensive coordinator and an offensive identity.

TE Colin Thompson knows his role

August, 20, 2013
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida coach Will Muschamp didn’t sign tight end Colin Thompson to lead the team in receptions.

He wanted him to be a physical blocker to help open holes for the running game and contribute in the passing game -- not catch 45 passes like Jordan Reed did last season.

That’s just fine with Thompson, because that’s how he sees himself anyway.

[+] EnlargeColin Thompson
Kim Klement/USA TODAY SportsTight end Colin Thompson plans to bring a physical presence after missing his freshman season because of an injury.
"You’re going to see a lot of physical play," the 6-foot-4, 258-pound redshirt freshman said. "Jordan was physical, but in different ways. Obviously he was more of a receiver so he didn’t have as many opportunities to be [physical on the line of scrimmage], but you’re going to see physical play and guys that are tough and multiple tight end sets. That’s why I came here."

Thompson was the country’s No. 2 tight end coming out of Warminster (Penn.) Archbishop Wood in 2012 and was on pace to play as a freshman until he broke a bone in his foot on the day the Gators checked into the hotel in which they would be staying for preseason camp. It was the second time he broke that bone and this time it required surgery and cost him the 2012 season.

A completely healthy Thompson is now competing with juniors Clay Burton and Tevin Westbrook and sophomore Kent Taylor for playing time at tight end. Burton heads into the Aug. 31 season opener against Toledo as the starter, but Thompson will get significant playing time, especially when the Gators use two tight-end sets to run the ball.

"He’s what we thought. He’s a tough, hard-nosed guy that’s going to be able to block at the point of attack and do some things in the passing game to help us," Muschamp said. "When you sit out of the game for a year it hurts. You’ve got to get back in playing shape, the collision part of it. But he’s done that. He’s done some nice things for us. We’ve got to continue to develop his role.”

Thompson wasn’t much of a pass-catcher in high school -- he had 13 catches for 208 yards and four touchdowns as a senior -- but Muschamp said he has been pleased with Thompson’s receiving skills. Thompson isn’t going to make plays down the field, but he is a viable option in the short passing game.

"He works the middle of the field," Muschamp said. "He does a nice job on all the bounce and the option routes off the linebackers and safeties. He does a good job of getting himself open and creating space from the defenders."

Thompson snagged a couple of short passes during Monday’s open practice. He also was behind the defense for what could have been a touchdown but cornerback Marcus Roberson made a great play when he came off his man and was able to tip the ball just enough so that it wobbled off course and fell incomplete.

Thompson likes being involved in the passing game, but he knows that’s why he’s going to be on the field. When the Gators are in the red zone and he’s sent onto the field, it’s not for him to work the end line or catch a fade pass Rob Gronkowski-style. He’s there to block.

"Last year we ran the ball 27 times in a row against LSU or some unbelievable number," Thompson said. "We need tight ends who can block, so physical play is No. 1. Even running routes, physical play is also key. Being physical in the blocking game and the passing game is important."

The Gators have a lot of production to replace at tight end. Reed caught 73 passes for 906 yards and five touchdowns the past two seasons. He led the Gators in receptions in 2012 (45 for 559 yards) and was second in 2011 (28 for 307). The four tight ends battling for playing time this season have a total of four career catches (two each by Burton and Taylor).

"Obviously Jordan was such an elite athlete and he was such raw talent, a freak of nature," Thompson said. "When it comes to pure athleticism wise I don't know if we have that in the room but when it comes as a collective effort I think we can produce."

Muschamp: Bigger is better at UF

August, 16, 2013
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida fans better get a good look at senior wide receiver Solomon Patton this season because guys like him are going to be hard to find around here from now on.

Small guys.

The 5-foot-9, 171-pound Patton doesn’t really fit into coach Will Muschamp’s philosophy that bigger is better. Not just on the line of scrimmage, either. Big receivers. Big defensive backs. Big linebackers.

[+] EnlargeJon Halapio
AP Photo/Phelan M. EbenhackGuard Jon Halapio, at 6 feet 3 and 321 pounds, meets Will Muschamp's size criteria to compete in the SEC.
Size does matter at Florida now. Muschamp believes it’s the best way to have success in the Southeastern Conference.

"This is a big man’s league," he said. "When you go pay to watch a boxing match, you don’t go watch the featherweights fight. You go watch heavyweights fight. This is a heavyweight league.

"So we need have a big, physical team. You can still be really fast, but you better be big and physical if you want to win in this league right now."

Muschamp is in his third season and working on his fourth signing class, and he has certainly made the Gators a bigger, more physical team in that short period of time. To see the difference, look at UF’s roster from 2009. The Gators had five starters or key contributors who were 5-9 or shorter: Jeff Demps, Chris Rainey, Ahmad Black, Markihe Anderson and Brandon James.

This year’s team has only one starter that small: 5-9 safety Cody Riggs. Patton is a role player (he’s the jet sweep guy) and the shortest player on scholarship is 5-7 freshman running back Adam Lane -- who weighs 222 pounds.

Muschamp’s philosophy goes further than just the size of the players. He wants the bulk of his 85-man roster to be comprised of what he calls big-skill positions: offensive and defensive linemen, linebackers and tight ends. He wants 50. Right now he has 42 (see breakdown below).

Muschamp wants 15-17 offensive linemen, and the Gators are close to that number. They have five scholarship tight ends, too. The defensive line is where the problem is. The Gators are short on ends, especially speed rushers. There are eight scholarship defensive tackles, but only three have played in a game (Dominique Easley, Leon Orr and Damien Jacobs), and just two bucks (hybrid defensive end/linebacker).

It’ll take at least a couple more signing classes for the Gators to be as stocked along the defensive line as Muschamp would like. Muschamp believes long-term success at Florida -- and therefore the SEC -- depends on beefing up those defensive numbers.

And not just to compete with Alabama and Nick Saban, either.

"When big guys run out of gas, they’re done," Muschamp said. "We don’t ever want our big guys up front to play more than six or eight snaps in a row and have the intensity you’ve got to play with to be successful in this league. So you can’t ever have enough defensive linemen or pass rushers, especially the way the game’s going.

"You look in our league at Missouri and Kentucky and Tennessee, a lot of schools are going to a little bit of a Big 12 model, like Texas A&M, where they’re spreading the field, and you can’t ever have enough guys that can play in space and rush the passer. The most exerting thing in football is rushing the passer. Those guys are battling against a 315-pound guy and trying to push the pocket, so you can’t ever have enough of those guys."

Here’s the breakdown of what Muschamp calls the big-skill players:

Offensive line

Ideal number: 15-17

Number on the roster: 14. Tyler Moore, Quinteze Williams, Rod Johnson, Octavius Jackson, Cameron Dillard, Trip Thurman, Jon Halapio, D.J. Humphries, Jonotthan Harrison, Chaz Green, Max Garcia, Trenton Brown, Ian Silberman, Kyle Koehne.

Comment: The Gators will lose four players to graduation but have four offensive line commits for 2014, three of whom weigh more than 300 pounds. The line has gotten bigger, stronger and more physical since Muschamp called them soft at the end of his first season.

Defensive tackle

Ideal number: 8-10

Number on the roster: 8. Damien Jacobs, Joey Ivie, Leon Orr, Darious Cummings, Jay-nard Bostwick, Caleb Brantley, Antonio Riles, Dominique Easley.

Comment: Not a lot of experience here, but the four freshmen (Ivie, Bostwick, Brantley and Riles) will gain valuable experience as part of the rotation this season.

Defensive ends

Ideal number: 6-8

Number on roster: 4. Alex McCalister, Jonathan Bullard, Jordan Sherit, Bryan Cox.

Comment: Easley also can play end. This is perhaps the most flexible position, with several players having the ability to play inside on passing downs to get the best pass rushers on the field.

Bucks

Ideal number: 4-6

Number on roster: 2. Dante Fowler, Ronald Powell.

Comment: This position also needs to be beefed up quickly, with Powell likely leaving after this year if he has a good season. Some flexibility here, too, because Cox and McCalister could spend time here.

Linebackers

Ideal number: 9-12

Number on roster: 9. Michael Taylor, Matt Rolin, Jeremi Powell, Jarrad Davis, Neiron Ball, Darrin Kitchens, Daniel McMillian, Alex Anzalone, Antonio Morrison.

Comment: UF has one bona fide stud (Morrison) and a mix of veteran role players and freshmen. McMillian is a player to watch. He could become a starter by midseason. This is an important position group because it produces a lot of special teams players.

Tight ends

Ideal number: 3-5

Number on roster: 5. Clay Burton, Tevin Westbrook, Kent Taylor, Colin Thompson, Trevon Young.

Comment: A lot of players, but little production so far. Burton, Westbrook and Thompson are mainly blockers, but there’s optimism that Thompson can develop into someone who can work the middle of the field.

Opening camp: Florida Gators

July, 31, 2013
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Schedule: The Gators being practice on Friday with a split squad schedule. The first group will go at 6 a.m. ET, while the second group will go at 6 p.m. ET. Florida will hold open practice on Aug. 15, 17, 19 and 20. The first day in full pads will be Tuesday, Aug 6.

On the mend: Quarterback Jeff Driskel is expected to miss two weeks after undergoing appendectomy surgery on Tuesday. Hybrid linebacker/defensive end Ronald Powell is returning from two ACL injuries that cost him his entire 2012 season. Linebacker Matt Rolin (knee) and Trip Thurman (shoulder) could be limited during fall practice. Linebacker Alex Anzalone should be healed from his spring shoulder injury.

Key battle: Florida has to find consistent pass-catchers on offense. Junior wide receiver Quinton Dunbar stuck out as the top receiver, but there isn't much experience after him. Someone has to step up to be a consistent receiving threat for Driskel. True freshman Demarcus Robinson turned some heads this spring, but he has to get more familiar with the playbook. Latroy Pittman has to play with the same attitude he had last spring, too. The Gators will also work with four more true freshman receivers this fall. At tight end, the Gators are hoping Kent Taylor or Clay Burton develop into a real receiving threats, while Colin Thompson expands his role beyond being mostly a blocker.

Of note: Last year, running back Mike Gillislee became Florida's first 1,000-yard rusher (1,152) since Ciatrick Fason in 2004. Florida has never had back-to-back years with 1,000-yard rushers in school history. Sophomore Matt Jones replaces Gillislee at running back this fall.

Predicted order of finish at media days: Picked third in the SEC East at SEC media days.

They said it: Driskel on what his wide receivers think about being looked down upon heading into the fall: "It's an insult. It really is. That's what they do -- they're football players -- and anytime people say that you're not good at what you do, you're going to be insulted. They've really taken it upon themselves to really improve this year and really prove everyone wrong."

Gators fall camp preview

July, 31, 2013
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Ronald PowellJoe Robbins/Getty ImagesAfter missing all of the 2012 season with a torn ACL, Ronald Powell is ready to return to the Gators. He was the No. 1 overall recruit in the 2010 ESPN 150.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida begins August camp on Friday. Here’s a primer to get you ready:

Three questions the Gators must answer in camp

Can the receivers contribute? It must sound like a broken record, but the development of the receivers is the key to the season. They haven’t been very good for the past three seasons, and that really hurt the Gators in 2012 because of quarterback Jeff Driskel’s inexperience. H-back/wildcat QB Trey Burton, with 69 career catches, will line up at receiver. That will help, but he’s not a downfield threat or someone that scares a secondary. Redshirt junior Quinton Dunbar and sophomores Raphael Andrades and Latroy Pittman must become consistent with their routes, adjustments and blitz reads. At least two of the five freshmen -- including early enrollee Demarcus Robinson -- have to become significant parts of the rotation, too. New receivers coach Joker Phillips, who has 18 years of experience and two former pupils in the NFL (Randall Cobb and Steve Johnson), should make a difference. But remember, a chef is only as good as his ingredients.

Can the linebackers hold up their end? The Gators are loaded in the secondary and with pass rushers, and the defensive line should be fine. The question mark on defense is at linebacker, especially with starting middle linebacker Antonio Morrison suspended for the first two games. There’s little doubt that Morrison is going to be a big-time player, but there are questions at every other spot. Buck/strongside linebacker Ronald Powell is coming back from a torn ACL and the top two candidates at weakside linebacker (Darrin Kitchens and Michael Taylor) have been role players throughout their careers. Taylor will likely start in the middle while Morrison is out. That’s a steep drop-off from Jon Bostic and Jelani Jenkins, and the Gators need to find playmakers. Don’t be surprised if freshman Daniel McMillian takes over as the starter on the weak side by the middle of the season.

Will either kicker turn out to be reliable? It’s unfair to expect Austin Hardin or Brad Phillips to have the same kind of impact as Caleb Sturgis. He was the best kicker in school history and was accurate from long range. But it isn’t unreasonable to ask either of those guys to be consistent in the 40-yard range, and neither was during spring practice. It’s a battle that will continue throughout camp -- and possibly into the season. Sturgis consistently bailed out the offense in 2012, and the Gators won’t have that luxury if the offense struggles again (see receivers above).

Three position battles to watch

[+] EnlargeTyler Moore
Brad Barr/US PresswireTyler Moore made four starts on the offensive line at Nebraska as a true freshman. He is battling Chaz Green to be the Gators' right tackle.
Right tackle: Chaz Green, who has started 18 games in his career and 10 last season, sat out spring practice after undergoing offseason ankle surgery. Tyler Moore, a Nebraska transfer, took all the first-team reps and heads into camp with a slight lead. The 6-foot-5, 315-pound Moore has 10 pounds on Green, which isn’t a big deal. What is, however, is the fact that Green has missed six games over the past two seasons because of injuries. The loser of the battle will still get a lot of playing time in the Gators’ jumbo package.

Tight end: Clay Burton, Tevin Westbrook, Colin Thompson and Kent Taylor are competing for playing time. The group struggled during the spring and Burton has a slim lead. Thompson was more of a blocker in high school, but his size makes him an intriguing option in the middle of the field and the red zone. He’s a better blocker than any of the other tight ends and could win the job if he can show some consistency and prove he’s a reliable receiver. Westbrook is more of a blocker and Taylor is a flex tight end with potential, but the coaching staff isn’t happy with his toughness. There’s not a lot of experience here -- they’ve combined for four catches for 17 yards in their careers -- and it’s unlikely any can be the weapon in the passing game that Jordan Reed was the past two seasons (73 catches, 866 yards, 5 TDs).

Safety: If the season started today, cornerbacks Jaylen Watkins and Cody Riggs would be the starters. That’s not a bad thing because both are solid players who understand the defense and won’t give up big plays. But what is a concern is that none of the other safeties showed enough consistency in the spring to earn one of the spots. Marcus Maye, Jabari Gorman and Valdez Showers have four weeks to prove they can get the job done.

Three players you might not have thought to watch in camp, but really should

Bryan Cox: A redshirt freshman defensive end, he showed flashes of potential in the spring and made a few plays during the final scrimmage. He’s playing behind Jonathan Bullard, so he gets overlooked, but he’s got good size (6-foot-3, 260 pounds) and athleticism and could be a breakout player on defense.

Gideon Ajagbe: Hunter Joyer was the only fullback on the roster until the staff moved Ajagbe and redshirt freshman safety Rhaheim Ledbetter there in the spring because the staff was worried about overworking Joyer during the season. Ajagbe adjusted well and should give Joyer some valuable rest and therefore reduce his risk of injury.

Chris Wilkes: It was obvious that the staff wasn’t happy with backup quarterbacks Tyler Murphy and Skyler Mornhinweg, which was one of the reasons UF added Wilkes. He was an Ole Miss signee in 2008 but instead chose to sign a baseball contract with the San Diego Padres. Wilkes enrolled in May and missed spring practice and hasn’t played football in five years, but he’s a former pro athlete and should at least push Mornhinweg and Murphy a bit.

Gator Breakdown: Clay Burton 

July, 25, 2013
7/25/13
10:00
AM ET
During the summer, GatorNation will analyze each of the scholarship players on the Florida roster -- excluding the Gators’ 2013 recruiting class -- in our Gator Breakdown series. Starting with No. 1 Quinton Dunbar, we will go through the roster numerically, finishing with No. 97 Brad Phillips.

No. 88 Clay Burton

Junior tight end

Gator Breakdown: Tevin Westbrook 

July, 24, 2013
7/24/13
10:00
AM ET
During the summer, GatorNation will analyze each of the scholarship players on the Florida roster -- excluding the Gators’ 2013 recruiting class -- in our Gator Breakdown series. Starting with No. 1 Quinton Dunbar, we will go through the roster numerically, finishing with No. 97 Brad Phillips.

No. 87 Tevin Westbrook
Junior tight end


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Gator Breakdown: Colin Thompson 

July, 22, 2013
7/22/13
9:00
AM ET
During the summer, GatorNation will analyze each of the scholarship players on the Florida roster -- excluding the Gators’ 2013 recruiting class -- in our Gator Breakdown series. Starting with No. 1 Quinton Dunbar, we will go through the roster numerically, finishing with No. 97 Brad Phillips.

No. 84 Colin Thompson
Redshirt freshman tight end


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Gator Breakdown: Kent Taylor 

June, 17, 2013
6/17/13
9:00
AM ET
During the summer, GatorNation will analyze each of the scholarship players on the Florida roster -- excluding the Gators’ 2013 recruiting class -- in our Gator Breakdown series. Starting with No. 1 Quinton Dunbar, we will go through the roster numerically, finishing with No. 97 Brad Phillips.

No. 18 Kent Taylor
Sophomore tight end


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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Not everybody can get on the field right away. Some players take longer than others to develop.

Florida signed 23 players in 2012 and several made an immediate impact: offensive tackle D.J. Humphries, defensive linemen Jonathan Bullard and Dante Fowler Jr., and linebacker Antonio Morrison were Freshmen All-SEC. Others, however, didn’t get a single snap of playing time.

Here’s how we see the rest of the class shaping up:

Top of the class


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GatorNation's Rankings Week concludes with a list of the Gators’ top needs in recruiting for the class of 2014, as well as a list of the top players the Gators are pursuing at those positions.

Ranking UF’s needs for 2014

1. Offensive line

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida released a post-spring depth chart on Wednesday. There were no big surprises, although seeing running back Mack Brown behind Matt Jones and ahead of Kelvin Taylor did earn a raised eyebrow.

Here’s the breakdown:

Offense

LT: D.J. Humphries (6-5, 285, So.)/Trenton Brown (6-8, 363, Jr.)

LG: Max Garcia (6-4, 307, RJr.)/Ian Silberman (6-5, 290, RJr.)

C: Jonotthan Harrison (6-3, 303, RSr.) /Kyle Koehne (6-5, 314, RSr.)

RG: Jon Halapio (6-3, 317, RSr.)/Trip Thurman (6-5, 313, RSo.)

RT: Tyler Moore (6-5, 315, RSo.) OR Chaz Green (6-5, 305, RJr.)

TE: Clay Burton (6-4, 247, Jr.)/Tevin Westbrook (6-5, 258, Jr.) OR Colin Thompson (6-4, 250, RFr.) OR Kent Taylor (6-5, 223, So.)

RB: Matt Jones (6-2, 228, So.)/Mack Brown (5-11, 215, RJr.)

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