A wise man once said you can’t know where you’re going until you understand the past. He probably got his inspiration from the man who said that if you don’t understand history, you’re doomed to repeat it.
If one word were to sum up the history of Florida football the last four years it would be frustration followed closely by inadequate. Frustration in terms of so much detail, effort and attention to defense while not enough was paid to the offensive side of the ball. Inadequate as in recruiting the kind of athletes and speed you have to have to compete in the Southeastern Conference.
Frustration and inadequate are why Will Muschamp is coordinating the defense at Auburn and why Jim McElwain has been brought in to right the ship. It’s not a case of making chicken salad from chicken poop because there are some talented athletes left behind by the former staff. It’s just that there are far too many holes that must be filled and a genuine lack of speed on the offensive side of the ball. If he doesn’t balance the roster and bring in more speed, then he will repeat the history of the previous coach.
When analyzing what McElwain has to deal with, start with the numbers issue. The Gators have 77 on scholarship. Lots of folks get by with 77 so the overall number isn’t that big of a deal. The problem is how the numbers are spread out. For example, ideally, you want five quarterbacks on scholarship. The Gators have three. Ideally you want a combination of 8-9 running backs/fullbacks. The Gators have five. Ideally you need at least 16-18 offensive linemen to compete in the SEC. The Gators have 12. And, ideally you need at least 12 linebackers and 10 at a bare minimum. The Gators have eight.
Then there is the issue of speed. Muschamp inherited one of the fastest teams in the SEC when he took over in 2011. The one he leaves behind might not be the slowest, particularly when you look at the players in the secondary and the kind of freaky athletes with speed on the D-line, but there isn’t a single player on the offensive side of the ball that is going to strike fear into an opponent’s defensive coordinator, making him think, “Oh my gosh, do we have anyone fast enough to stay with that guy?”
The cupboards aren’t so bare that McElwain can’t put a winner on the field in the fall. If he can keep his eight linebackers healthy then there is a real chance the defense will be as good as you’ll find in the SEC which means if Mac and offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier can manufacture something like 17 points a game, the Gators are going to be in the hunt. Now 17 points doesn’t sound like much, but when you have a grand total of 10 starts to work with on the offensive line and you don’t have a game breaker to back up the safeties, scoring 17 might require smoke and mirrors.
There are eight scholarships available and with the fifth year graduate transfer rules that are in place, McElwain might be able to locate a few experienced players who could come in and help plug some gaps. A couple of offensive linemen and a couple of linebackers would be a great place to start, and if someone with sub 4.4. speed wants to play wide receiver, there’s no place with a bigger need that UF.
Here is a look at the 2015 roster:
Jeff Driskel definitely needed a change of scenery, which is why he transferred to Louisiana Tech, but it would have been interesting to see if McElwain and Doug Nussmeier could have exorcised four years of bad habits. As it stands, Treon Harris is the incumbent starter with six starts and a 4-2 record. He’s not a pure pocket passer nor does he have the size you’re looking for to run a pro style attack, so it will be interesting to see if the coaches try to tailor an offensive package around his skills or if Harris is adaptable to the scheme. Redshirt freshman Will Grier has the size and the arm strength to be a good pocket passer but he sat out last year and played against inferior high school competition. Skyler Mornhinweg will see the field only in emergencies. He was apparently passed up in the spring by walk-on Jacob Guy.
Analysis: Both Grier and Harris have to (a) get a whole lot better between now and August and (b) better stay healthy because the situation beyond those two is grim. Since there are eight scholarships available, this would be a good position to bring in a graduate transfer who has one year of eligibility remaining. On the recruiting trail, it’s imperative that the Gators sign two for the class of 2016.
RUNNING BACKS/FULLBACKS (5)
Analysis: Kelvin Taylor has gained more than 1,000 yards in two years and has proven that he can run the ball between the tackles. Adam Lane is a fireplug who looked good in his one start in the bowl game, but he’s a between the tackles, guy as well. Both Jordan Scarlett and Jordan Cronkite have go the distance speed. Scarlett could be the starter before the end of September. D’Anfernee McGriff has to qualify first, then when he gets on campus the coaches might make him a backup QB (played QB at Tallahassee Leon) or move him to another position. On the recruiting trail, the Gators probably need two running backs. They could go for a fullback or turn one of the six tight ends on scholarship into an H-back/fullback.
WIDE RECEIVERS (12)
Valdez Showers (6-0, 193, RSR)
Raph Andrades (6-0, 200, SR)
Latroy Pittman Jr. (6-0, 215, SR)
Demarcus Robinson (6-2, 197, JR)
Ahmad Fulwood (6-4, 208, JR)
Chris Thompson (6-0, 171, JR)
Alvin Bailey (5-11, 188, RSO)
C.J. Worton (6-0, 189, SO)
Brandon Powell (5-9, 181, SO)
Ryan Sousa (6-0, 194, RFR)
Antonio Callaway (5-10, 180, FR)
Kalif Jackson (6-4, 201, FR)
Analysis: While Demarcus Robinson oozes potential and should build on last year’s 58-catch season, he isn’t the scary deep threat that will back the safeties off another 10 yards. Ahmad Fulwood is another one with vast but yet unreached potential. He figures to start opposite Robinson. Valdez Showers and Brandon Powell will probably get the first looks at the slot. Chris Thompson is probably the fastest receiver on the team but he’s in his third year and has four catches to show for it. There are enough bodies (12) but not a lot of experience or game breaking speed. Finding receivers with 4.4 or better speed has to be a priority on the recruiting trail.
TIGHT ENDS (6)
Analysis: Jake McGee is a proven pass catcher but he’s coming off a serious injury from last year’s first game so consider him an unknown quantity until he shows he hasn’t lost a step in August. Goolsby and Lewis both looked good in the spring but they aren’t prototypical tight end size and because of the lack of offensive line experience, the Gators are probably going to keep the tight end in to block quite a bit. There are enough bodies (6) but only McGee has any experience and none of the tight ends have a glorified tackle’s body.
OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (13)
Tripp Thurman (6-5, 310, RSR)
Cameron Dillard (6-4, 309, RSO)
Antonio Riles (6-4, 312, RSO)
David Sharpe (6-6, 350, SO)
Travaris Dorsey (6-2, 323, RFR)
Kavaris Harkless (6-5, 292, RFR)
Andrew Mike (6-6, 302, RFR)
Tyler Jordan (6-4, 295, FR)
Brandon Sandifer (6-4, 329, FR)
Fredrick Johnson (6-7, 303, FR)
Nick Buchanan (6-4, 285, FR)
Martez Ivey (6-6, 290, FR)
Richerd Desir-Jones (6-3, 282, FR)
Analysis: In terms of numbers and inexperience, this is where we see the imbalance in Will Muschamp’s recruiting. Even if D.J. Humphries and Tyler Moore hadn’t declared for the NFL and even if Roderick Johnson was healthy, the numbers would be inadequate. You need 16-18 O-linemen to have adequate depth in the SEC. Tripp Thurman is the only experienced lineman and he has played in 27 games with 10 starts. If he isn’t healthy (missed spring with an injury) in the fall, Florida will take the field with one of the most inexperienced offensive line in modern SEC history. There will be no redshirting any of the linemen and freshman Martez Ivey figures to be thrust into the starting job at right tackle the moment August camp opens. The way the line shapes up at the moment, it will look like this: LT David Sharpe, LG Tripp Thurman, C Cameron Dillard, RG Travaris Dorsey or Antonio Riles, RT Martez Ivey. On the recruiting trail, the Gators have to sign at least five, although seven would be preferable.
KICKING SPECIALISTS (2)
Austin Hardin (5-10, 205, RJR)
Johnny Townsend (6-1, 198, RSO)
Analysis: The way Hardin kicked the ball in the last half of the season gives hope that he will have a much improved 2015. Townsend is a solid punter. On the recruiting trail, the Gators need to bring in one placekicker and one punter in this class.
DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (16)
Jonathan Bullard (6-3, 277, SR)
Bryan Cox Jr. (6-3, 261, RJR)
Alex McCalister (6-6, 238, RJR)
Joey Ivie (6-3, 293, JR)
Caleb Brantley (6-2, 319, RSO)
Jay-nard Bostwick (6-3, 283, RSO)
Jordan Sherit (6-4, 254, RSO)
Taven Bryan (6-5, 275, RFR)
Khairi Clark (6-2, 315, RFR)
Thomas Holley (6-3, 320, RFR)
Justus Reed (6-3, 226, RFR)
Andrew Ivie (6-2, 280, FR)
Jabari Zuniga (6-2, 265, FR)
Luke Ancrum (6-4, 220, FR)
Keivonnis Davis (6-3, 220, FR)
CeCe Jefferson (6-3, 258, FR)
Analysis: Muschamp left 12 D-linemen and a lot of talent behind but beyond Jonathan Bullard, Bryan Cox Jr., Alex McCalister and Joey Ivie, there isn’t a lot of experience. From a talent and depth perspective, the Gators are in good shape for years to come. From an experience standpoint, there are a lot of young guys that have to grow up in a hurry. Redshirt freshmen Thomas Holley and Khairi Clark have to be ready to contribute on the inside while true freshman CeCe Jefferson is expected to be an impact player from day one. On the recruiting trail, the Gators have commitments from two defensive ends but at least one of them might be moved to linebacker.
Antonio Morrison (6-1, 225, SR)
Alex Anzalone (6-3, 234, JR)
Jarrad Davis (6-2, 229, JR)
Daniel McMillian (6-1, 221, JR)
Jeremi Powell (6-0, 214, RJR)
Matt Rolin (6-3, 217, RSO)
Rayshad Jackson (6-2, 215, FR)
Kylan Johnson (6-3, 205, FR)
Analysis: This is another area that the defensive coaches are going to have to get by with smoke and mirrors due to failures on the recruiting trail by the previous staff. Ideally, you want 12 linebackers – nine active and three redshirting. The Gators only have eight and that’s with moving freshman Kylan Johnson to linebacker from safety, where he played in high school. Antonio Morrison and Jarrad Davis have the most experience while Alex Anzalone and Daniel McMillian have seen action as backups. Both had good springs so that was encouraging, as was the play of Matt Rolin, who has missed the last two seasons while recovering from ACL surgeries. Freshman Rayshad Jackson will play from day one. There are available scholarships so this would be a good position to add a fifth-year graduate transfer. The coaches might also be tempted to move Marcus Maye or Marcell Harris from safety to linebacker. On the recruiting trail, the Gators have one commitment. They need to bring in three or four more.
Brian Poole (5-10, 208, SR)
Marcus Maye (6-0, 205, RJR)
Keanu Neal (6-1, 209, JR)
Vernon Hargreaves III (5-11, 198, JR)
Marcell Harris (6-2, 208, RSO)
Nick Washington (6-1, 193, RSO)
Jalen Tabor (6-1, 192, SO)
Quincy Wilson (6-1, 209, SO)
Duke Dawson (5-10, 200, SO)
J.C. Jackson (5-11, 196, RFR)
Deiondre Porter (6-0, 176, RFR)
Chris Williamson (6-1, 185, FR)
Analysis: Muschamp left behind one of the most talented secondary groups in the nation including the nation’s best cover corner in Vernon Hargreaves III. Get a good look at him this year. He will be taken among the first 5-6 selections in the 2016 NFL Draft. Brian Poole can play corner but he’ll spend more time at nickel because so many teams the Gators play will spread the field. Jalen Tabor has the ability to be the next great corner. There is enough talent at safety with Duke Dawson and Keanu Neal that the coaches might consider moving Marcus Maye or Marcell Harris to linebacker where the numbers are inadequate. On the recruiting trail, the Gators have two safeties committed and an athlete who figures to settle in either at corner or safety. They will lose Hargreaves and Poole so the probably will sign a minimum of four, possibly five.
Do you think McElwain needs to be on the lookout for fifth year graduate transfers or should he try to make it work in 2016 with what he’s got and bring in players who will spend 3-5 years in his system?
When they broke onto the national scene after a few years on the club circuit in the south, The Commodores stated they wanted to become “The Black Beatles.” They never achieved that lofty status although they did have nine top ten hits between 1974-81 with two making it to #1. Any hope they had of building on that success ended when lead singer/song writer Lionel Richie left the band to pursue a solo career in 1982. The move worked well for Richie for four years, but then his career fizzled. Had he stayed with The Commodores the band might have gone on to legendary status. As it is, they were pretty good for awhile. Today’s music is “Still,” from the 1979 “Midnight Magic” album. The single hit #1 on the Billboard charts while the album peaked at #3.