Opposition Danger Men: Florida

Back into the SEC we head with our opposition danger men preview series as the ‘Dores host Florida. You will not need reminding, of course, of the 34-17 Vandy win, one of the biggest scalps in program history. A lot has changed in Gainesville in the intervening months and there are a new group of Gators looking to put their program back on the right track.

Florida

Offense: QB – Jeff Driskel

You only have to look back at last fall’s mess to see how important Jeff Driskel is to this Florida team. The junior was only able to start two games in 2013 before breaking his leg and having to sit out the remainder of the year, with a medical redshirt being just a small token of comfort for a lost season.

In 2014 this is Driskel’s team. The offense has been tailored to suit him and he can no longer be all promise with little production. At 6-foot-4 and 239 pounds he has the size and athletic ability to be an NFL prospect. To this point, however, his production (I know he had 177 yards/3TDs on VU in ’12) has been nowhere near the promise and Florida has relied heavily on its defense to win games while Driskel did just enough to keep the offense moving.

With that in mind, new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper has designed an offense which both plays to Driskel’s strengths and hides his weaknesses. Expect to see a lot of read option and short passes to get Driskel comfortable in the system before the Gators even think about looking downfield. If Driskel can master the timing which is needed to run such a system effectively then Florida will likely have the best offense they have put on the field since the Urban Meyer era ended.

Defense: CB – Vernon Hargreaves III

In a massively down year by the Gators high standards Vernon Hargreaves III was truly outstanding. The freshman cornerback blazed onto the scene, starting the last ten games of the season and ended it by being named an AP Third Team All-American and the National Defensive Freshman of the Year. If his sensational freshman campaign was anything to go by then Hargreaves could well be the best cornerback in the entire country in 2014.

Entering the season as a consensus All-American and being named on all the award watch lists you can think of, expectations are obviously high for Hargreaves. The 5-foot-11, 194-pounder was ranked as the second overall recruit in the nation by Rivals last fall and his play backed it up. He ranked second in the SEC in passes defended per game (1.17) and seventh in the league in interceptions (3). Cornerback, though, is the strangest position on the field when it comes to stats because if you are good you just don’t see the ball thrown your way. That was Hargreaves life for most of the back end of last fall as his ability to blanket receivers and match them move for move downfield made quarterbacks afraid to test his abilities.

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