Standout sophomores

The struggles through a four-win season during 2013 overshadowed some of the young talent on the Florida roster. The Gators played multiple true freshmen last season that are poised for big sophomore seasons.

For the sake of this story, we're only talking about true sophomores that are heading into their second year on campus.

Linebacker Jarrad Davis: While some of Florida's veteran linebackers underperformed last season, Davis made multiple important plays on special teams during the early part of the season. That turned into a chance on the Florida defense, and he didn't disappoint. The Gators had four freshmen linebackers on the roster, but Davis was the one that received the least amount of hype before making it to campus.

He changed that on the field, becoming a vocal leader but also turning heads with his play. Davis isn't afraid of contact and was rarely out of position in his first year in the Florida defense. Now with a full offseason under his belt before heading into 2014, Davis has a chance to be the next one in a long line of great Florida linebackers.

Cornerback Vernon Hargreaves: This sophomore's only competition for best player on the entire team is junior defensive end Dante Fowler. After opening his Florida career in the first game last season with the No. 16 jersey, Hargreaves wore No. 1 against Miami, citing the need for a number change because of special teams. And while that was true, it signified much more than that.

He was dominant statistically during the beginning of the season, picking off three passes in the first four games. Teams quickly learned to stop throwing at the true freshman and instead attacked the veteran members of last year's secondary. It didn't take long before Hargreaves started to build his own reputation as one of the best freshmen in the country. This year, he starts his run at being one of the best overall players in the country.

Safety Keanu Neal: Similar to Davis, Neal first showed he could make plays on special teams. He didn't get the chance with the defense because of Florida's deep secondary last season, but Neal continued to make plays on special teams, tying for the team lead with five special teams tackles. The spring was supposed to be an important one for him, but a hamstring injury suffered on the first day of spring forced him to miss over half of the practices.

The depth chart at safety is wide open. There are players like Jabari Gorman and Marcus Maye that have more experience, but Neal looked like the most talented safety on the team during the spring practices when he was on the field. It's hard to imagine the Florida secondary shaking out without him playing a big part at the safety spot.

Wide receiver Demarcus Robinson: The question here isn't talent. Robinson went through two separate suspensions for violation of team rules during his freshman season, totaling in three games missed, including rivalry games against Tennessee and Florida State. He has all the talent necessary to be one of the most productive receivers on the Florida roster and showed that during open practices before the 2013 season.

There are signs that make it look like he has turned things around. Ahmad Fulwood raved about Robinson becoming more dedicated to the game this spring, and Robinson has also become close friends with Hargreaves. If he can pick up the new offense from offensive coordinator Kurt Roper, it wouldn't be a surprise if Robinson becomes an integral part of the Florida offense this fall.

Running back Kelvin Taylor: When Matt Jones tore his meniscus at LSU, it became clear that Taylor was going to get his chance to shine for the rest of the season. Mack Brown began the season as the starter, but after Jones went down, Taylor got his chance and proved capable of handling the load. After having just six carries in the first five games of the year, Taylor finished with 462 yards and four touchdowns in the last seven games of the year.

Speed will always be the knock on Taylor. He doesn't have the breakaway speed to separate himself from defensive backs and be a threat to take every touch to the end zone. However, his strength and vision make him good between the tackles, finding hidden yardage after contact and always falling forward. With Jones' injury status still in flux and Brown still on the depth chart, it looks like Taylor is the most likely to lead the team in carries this fall.

Fightin Gators Top Stories