For me, seeing is believing and I will be the first to tell you that there were a lot of things that went on behind closed gates and at the practices for Florida football this spring that we heard about, but we just haven’t seen for ourselves. With that in mind, know that some of these questions pondered here could actually have real answers. But I believe we won’t know until they kick the ball off September 3, against UMass.
I am kind of torn as to the biggest question and it is between one offensive unit and one defensive unit. But, I will go with the linebackers.
If you really think about it, we really aren’t too sure about anything right now past starter and possible All-American Jarrad Davis. Davis is a huge piece of the puzzle for sure and he is likely a great one. But, the guy we think is number two right now is Alex Anzalone, and he’s made all of 23 tackles in his three years and most of those three years have been spent rehabbing some kind of injury. He was in a no-contact jersey this spring for the same reason. Now I am of the belief that Anzalone will be back and he is going to be a heck of a player. But we have no way of knowing for sure until he does that.
That is pretty much it as far as guys that have seen the field for meaningful snaps. Then you have to turn to newcomers like junior walk-on Cristian Garcia, redshirt freshmen Rayshad Jackson, and Kylan Johnson, and true freshman David Reese as guys that we likely see hit the field this fall. Of that group Reese drew the most praise this spring, but did we see enough to know for sure he is ready to do big things? Not really. The best we can say is that there is a lot of promise.
Offensive line depth, especially at tackle…
I knew the work on the offensive line was going to be a process, a fairly lengthy one that would take more than a season. We knew last year would be the toughest having to rely on true freshmen in three starting spots to provide the work up front as the season wore on. Things are only a bit better this year with the chance to really improve a lot as the season wears on.
For this writer, I feel pretty comfortable with the interior of the offensive line that practiced this spring together. Of the three starters, junior guard Antonio Riles, junior center Cameron Dillard, and sophomore guard Tyler Jordan, I feel Jordan is a possible all-star candidate and the other two had pretty good springs to make me feel better about the group.
Likewise, there is a quartet of redshirt freshmen on the inside that have really parlayed the spring into a real battleground and have gotten better as a group. Center T.J. McCoy and guards Brandon Sandifer, Nick Buchanan, and Richerd Desir-Jones bring some quality depth to the unit. They aren’t ready yet, but their work ethic and all of the competition will pay dividends into the season and at least a couple should emerge and get on the field in big moments.
It is at tackle that we just don’t know about, especially behind the starters this spring. By all accounts junior David Sharpe had a strong spring and is supposedly ready to take on a leadership role from his left tackle position. He found himself in a couple of tough spots in the Orange and Blue Debut last Friday, but in all he’s one of the best two linemen up front.
Sophomore Fredrick Johnson is really athletic and has a huge upside. He’s the best they have right now at right tackle, but he is technically still behind and makes his share of mistakes. Behind those two, they don’t have anyone that they feel is ready.
This is why I believe that Martez Ivey, when he returns from injury, will slide out to one of the tackle positions and help solidify the whole group. Wherever he ends up, Ivey will start, putting him at tackle takes a lot more pressure off the position and will allow those young interior guys to still fight and make the interior stronger as well.
Regardless of what Ivey does, the tackle position is one with a lot of questions at this point.
How comfortable will Eddy Pineiro be?
Let me start by saying I am the biggest Eddy Pineiro fan. What I am about to say is no slight on him. But without a rush in the Orange and Blue Debut, how much do we know he is going to be able to kick the ball through the uprights.
Again, I actually believe in the young man. But, there are always going to be questions in my mind about him doing it until he actually does it.
One thing to take into account is the kind of pressure he has been under since the recruiting process. He first committed to Nick Saba and the Alabama Crimson Tide. But coming into the Florida situation where he has to be the man from day one and knowing about all of the poor play at the position for the last few years, he is meeting that pressure head on.
I think he is going to do great because of his mindset, but we certainly can’t say it is a foregone conclusion that will happen.
Depth at corner…
The starting tandem of cornerbacks at Florida should be as good as any in the country. Junior Jalen Tabor will be a preseason All-American and junior Quincy Wilson will be one of the most underrated players nationally. That part of the unit is great.
We know that true freshman Chauncey Gardner can play some at the NICKEL spot where Dawson will likely start in the fall. Gardner will also play safety, but has shown the aggressive nature, good strength, and enough athleticism to be effective guarding bigger slot receivers.
Behind that you have Chris Williamson who has improved and got good reviews from the staff, but I would feel much more comfortable if we had seen more with our own eyes when allowed to do so. You have true freshman McArthur Burnett who was here this spring and has an aggressive nature about him, but we didn’t see enough. The rest have yet to arrive on campus so we have no idea where they will be by the time the season starts.
Wilson, Tabor, and Dawson need to stay healthy.
Other safety opposite Maye…
We all expect Marcus Maye to have a big year. He almost left early for the NFL but the redshirt senior returned and should have a big year. He’s big and likes to stick his nose in the melee.
Another answer could be redshirt junior Marcell Harris. He’s a little bigger and plays a little more physical. He’s more apt to make a mistake at this point, but he has gotten better with his assignments. This position on the field will continue to be a fight.