What to watch Saturday

The Gators unveil their new-look offense to the fans for the first time in The Swamp on Saturday in the Orange and Blue Debut. All eyes will be on the up-tempo, spread offense that followed first-year offensive coordinator Kurt Roper to Gainesville. The Gators have a chance to build optimism in the fan base with an offense that has to be better this season.


It's not one position on the offense that needs to improve. It's the entire group. After three years of underwhelming offense since Will Muschamp took over in Gainesville, the Gators have to get better this season. The man in charge of making that happen is Kurt Roper, who has his first chance to introduce his scheme to Florida fans on Saturday.

Roper downplayed the opportunity this week. He said it was just another opportunity for the players to get better with the difference being that it happened with fans in the stands. But there's no doubt that some offensive firepower on Saturday would go a long way to building optimism among the Florida fan base over the long summer.

Even if that isn't the best predictor of success for the offense in the fall, Florida fans are dying to see something positive from the team's offense for the first time since 2009. Roper has the chance to provide it on Saturday.


The Gators have practiced some in The Swamp this spring, but Saturday will be the first opportunity for quarterback Jeff Driskel to play there in front of fans since he broke his leg against Tennessee and saw his 2013 season come to an end. Hearing him talk this week, you could tell that it means a little more to him than a normal spring game.

Driskel knows he didn't live up to expectations in his nine quarters of action last season, and he wants to remedy that this season. He's hoping a strong performance on Saturday can springboard him into the fall. He'll be in a non-contact jersey on Saturday, just as he has the entire spring, that will take away most of his ability to run the football, which will be an important part of the offense this fall. The redshirt junior quarterback needs to show more consistent accuracy throwing the ball on Saturday.


Don't be surprised to see Dante Fowler take limited reps on Saturday. The coaches know what he can do and don't need him on the field to prove that. The questions come behind him, where they need to see what young players can do in front of a crowd. Players and coaches have praised Bryan Cox, Jr. throughout the spring and Saturday would be a big day for him to show his improvements to everyone.

Cox has been impressive this spring

The other player I'll be focused on is Alex McCalister. Florida defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin raved about him on Thursday, saying he's up to 245 pounds and gives the Gators a unique look on the pass rush with his 6-7 frame. A big spring game would give him something positive to take into an important offseason for him.


Driskel will be throwing at a secondary without much experience on Saturday. There are names that have started like Jabari Gorman, Vernon Hargreaves and Marcus Maye, but the Gators continue to search for their most consistent group before deciding on starters. Hargreaves is locked into one spot at cornerback. The other four spots, and five considering the Gators played 70-80 percent in the nickel last season, are up in the air.

The second cornerback spot has been between Brian Poole and freshmen Duke Dawson and Jalen Tabor this spring. All three have had their moments, and the Gators will add more freshmen in the summer. Saturday is an important day for the youth in the secondary because it gives the coaches a chance to see how their young players handle the atmosphere in front of fans. The coaches will also be on the sideline, something new they'll be dealing with. You can't take too much from one day on the field, but it does allow the coaches to see how the young players handle the closest thing they'll see to a game day atmosphere until the fall.


This is always the most important part of every spring game. The Gators have seen bad luck in the spring game in recent years, most notably when Ronald Powell tore his ACL two years ago in the spring game. Regardless of what happens on Saturday, the most important thing in the eyes of the Florida coaches is a healthy roster when the game is over.

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