For the purposes of this list, we’ll keep true freshmen and redshirt freshmen off it. These are the returning players to keep an eye on this fall for a potential breakout.
Wide receiver Ahmad Fulwood: This was the popular breakout pick last season. Fulwood was dominant in fall camp before the 2014 season, making multiple plays to get open behind a loaded Florida secondary. His sophomore season was expected to be the big one, but instead, it was Demarcus Robinson that turned into one of the best receivers in the Southeastern Conference.
Brandon Powell is now getting a lot of hype in the slot, but Fulwood still presents the best case to be Florida’s deep threat this season. At 6-4, 208 pounds, he has the size to go over smaller defensive backs for the ball. Fulwood had 199 yards and one touchdown last season, but an 86-yard catch in the Birmingham Bowl made up for a large number of his statistics. This fall would be the perfect time for him to have a breakout season.
Tight end DeAndre Goolsby: Jake McGee’s return for a sixth year will help the Florida offense, but it might delay a potential breakout for Goolsby by a year. Still, Jim McElwain and Doug Nussmeier have both heavily involved the tight end in their past offenses. It’s not a stretch to expect Goolsby and McGee to be involved in the passing game.
Last season as a freshman, Goolsby played in seven games but didn’t catch any passes. He looked good in open practices before his freshman season, but the previous coaching staff played Clay Burton and Tevin Westbrook over him when McGee went down. This year will give Goolsby a chance to break out.
Running back Adam Lane: The Birmingham Bowl looked to be exactly what Lane needed heading into a new coaching staff. After eight carries in the regular season, the redshirt freshman had 16 carries for 109 yards and one touchdown in the bowl game with his new head coach, Jim McElwain, watching from the press box. However, Lane missed time during spring practice that could’ve impacted his chance, but he’ll still have a chance to produce at running back this fall for the Gators.
Kelvin Taylor makes the most sense to lead the team in carries, and freshman Jordan Scarlett looks like a first-year player ready to make a big impact. But Lane’s size and power combination make him an interesting candidate for short-yardage situations. If he can handle that, his role could expand to something bigger.
Wide receiver Brandon Powell: If there were any questions about what the Florida coaching staff thought about Powell, they were answered when he was the Gators’ lone offensive representative at SEC Media Days last week. He was also one of two sophomores at the event, joining LSU star running back Leonard Fournette. It’s clear the Florida coaches have big plans for Powell.
After splitting time at running back and slot receiver last year, Powell will play exclusively in the slot this fall. McElwain hasn’t ruled out the chance he can motion into the backfield for a snap or two, trying to confuse the defense. Powell gives the Gators a receiver that can make defenders miss and score from anywhere on the field with his blazing speed.
Offensive tackle David Sharpe: On an inexperienced offensive line, Sharpe will be counted on to be an important part. While there’s no clear answer to which tackle position he’ll play, the 6-6, 355-pounder is the logical starter on the edge of the offensive line. He played in six games last year as a true freshman and held his own as a blocker. The Gators will need him to be an anchor this season.