Tight end Deandre Goolsby: The Gators were searching for improved play at tight end last season when Jake McGee got hurt, and Goolsby looked set to get his chance. He enrolled early and went through spring practice last year, and by the time fall camp started, he was making plays in the passing game and looked like he could contribute for Florida.
When McGee got hurt, the Gators used seniors Clay Burton and Tevin Westbrook at the position and Goolsby’s playing time actually decreased. This spring could be a big opportunity for him. McGee’s return means the senior will be the leader at the position, but a second trusted tight end would go a long way for the Gators. Goolsby has a chance to prove that he’s capable of handling the role since he’s the only other tight end on the roster with experience.
Quarterback Will Grier: All eyes will be on the quarterback position this spring. Treon Harris served as the backup last year while Grier bulked up and added weight. This spring, the job is open for the two. Grier was on campus for spring last year, and he showcased a big arm in the open practices last season. The issue was with his touch on the short throws.
Jim McElwain taking over as the head coach with Doug Nussmeier as the offensive coordinator is a perfect fit for the quarterback position at Florida. Both have lengthy track records for development at the quarterback position and should improve Grier and Harris. If Grier can improve his touch on short and intermediate throws to go along with his arm strength, he could be the big story of the spring.
Running back Adam Lane: The Birmingham Bowl provided the big breakout for Lane. He was named the game’s MVP after rushing for 109 yards and one touchdown, but it was just one game. A consistent spring would be important for his future, and strong play in practice would be much more important for him to get involved in the offense next year than his Birmingham Bowl performance.
He’s a strong candidate to be the player that benefits the most from getting a clean slate with the new coaching staff. Lane couldn’t get on the field under the previous staff, but with Kelvin Taylor being the only other experienced running back returning, Lane has a chance to lock himself into a big role in the fall.
Redshirt freshmen offensive linemen: There are too many important players here to just choose one, and the Gators need more than one to step up and prove reliable this spring. Travaris Dorsey, Kavaris Harkless and Andrew Mike are the three that Florida needs to show they can handle snaps this year. Mike looked good at tackle during open practices last season, but it looked like he might not be ready for the physicality of the position as a true freshman. With a year under his belt, he could get involved.
The challenge will be that the Gators need linemen on the interior. With Rod Johnson and David Sharpe returning at tackle and the nation’s No. 1 offensive tackle Martez Ivey joining the team in the summer, that position looks set. Dorsey is a 333-pounder that would really help the team with a strong spring and prove he can handle playing time at guard.
Wide receiver C.J. Worton: The Gators need help at receiver. Demarcus Robinson will be the top target next year and Ahmad Fulwood still has the height to be a threat downfield, but neither of those are slots receivers. That’s where Worton fits in. After breaking his hand last year, the coaches raved about him when he was cleared to play.
He returned against LSU and was thrown into the mix, but he dropped a pass in the flats and was rarely seen again. Still, coaches and players were very high on him as a freshman last season. A complete offseason in the training program could have him ready to make a bigger impact in 2015.