There will be no more important battle on the football field this spring than the quarterback position. Treon Harris returns as the incumbent starter, but after a pretty nice start, he didn’t seem to really improve as the season went on. That isn’t to say he can’t do it, but it opens up the position for the 2015 season.
Enter Will Grier. Grier came to Florida with the intention of redshirting. Arriving in January of 2014, he showed up at 180 pounds on his 6-foot-2 frame. The hope was for Jeff Driskel to star in 2014 and Grier have his shot in 2015. With Driskel starting it gave Harris his opportunity. Not exactly what Grier had in mind, but it allowed him to add another 17 pounds to his body and he enters spring ball a much stronger 197 pounds.
Much has been made of Grier’s competition in high school, but there is no doubt he is a pro-style quarterback that has been reading defensive coverages for a long time given his father was the coach back in Davidson (NC). A record setting passer, Grier brings a stronger body and arm to the plate as he and Harris will go at this spring for the starting job.
Staying on offense, the line of scrimmage is the second most important thing to take care of this spring. The Gators return just eight offensive linemen from a year ago and lose four starters from a group that improved a great deal from the 2013 season. One of the returners they hope can step up is offensive tackle Andrew Mike.
All the way from Tucson (AZ) Mike came to Florida knowing the likelihood of redshirting was there. It isn’t unusual for offensive line to even wait a couple of years to get on the field, even if they are one of the best at the high school level. The Semper-Fi All-American actually made a big impression on offensive line coach Mike Summers last year. It was tempting to get him on the field and burn the redshirt. Now that isn’t a worry and Mike is up to 6-foot-6 and 302 pounds.
The battle will be great at tackle between Mike and sophomores David Sharpe and Roderick Johnson. While Mike is a true tackle, Johnson has played well at guard when pressed so that is an option up front. However it works out; expect Andrew Mike to get on the field a great deal in 2015.
One freshman that was expected to play a year ago is New York native defensive tackle Thomas Holley. With premium size and athletic ability Holley had when he arrived, playing on a thin line was not going to be too difficult.
However, he was sidelined by issues with scar tissue from a minor surgery and it kept that idea of playing in his first year from happening. At 6-foot-3 and 320 pounds Holley is now ready to take his basketball like athleticism to the field and show off the quickness that made him an Under-Armour All-American out of high school.
Staying on the defensive line, defensive tackle Khairi Clark was another player that was almost pushed into action a year ago. Now, at 6-foot-2 and 315 pounds he will be providing guys like Caleb Brantley some much needed depth at the Nose.
Clark came to Florida as an US Army All-American and likely should have gotten some time on the field a year ago. That won’t be a problem and he should add some instant help.
Possibly the most intriguing player on the entire roster is that of Taven Bryan. All the way from Casper, Wyoming, Bryan has gone from a 6-foot-4, 250 pound defensive end to a 6-foot-5, 275 pound utility guy maybe capable of playing both inside and outside.
Pegged as an offensive lineman by all the scouting services when he came out of high school, Bryan possesses a rare combo of size and quickness that makes him very intriguing as a defensive lineman. The fact that he played high school ball in Wyoming probably didn’t help with the speed of the game when he got to Florida, but his intangibles make him a guy that the staff will want to get on the field. With his size and the way things are going, it wouldn’t be shocking to see him on the offensive line, but you don’t want to pull someone off of defense with that size and quickness if you can help it.
Number six on our list is no surprise. He actually got a little time early in the season but aggravated a shoulder injury when he came back to early. Cornerback J.C. Jackson is primed and ready this year after still sitting out contact drills this spring as his shoulder still heals.
There was talk of Jackson moving to offense, and while it is a possibility he plays a few downs there, he will not be moving from corner where the numbers are needed and he has a great skill set for the position.
Jackson is blessed with great hips and flexibility. He is also tenacious as a cover guy and won’t give an inch in coverage. He has to fight through the urge to come back to early and the doctors will keep him out of any contact until August. But, expect Jackson to make a run at a starting spot in the fall.
The Gators need more than these six to step up from guys that didn’t play in the 2014 class, but I feel confident these six players will make an impact on the team in 2015.