The Gators open training camp on Friday with coach Will Muschamp’s (now annual) split-squad schedule -- freshmen and various other underclassmen are separated from the rest of the team for the first couple of days.
UF will practice in full pads for the first time on Tuesday, Aug. 6.
Later this afternoon, the team will host Media Day to kick-start the season. But before we meet with players and coaches, here’s a quick preview of UF’s training camp.
FIVE STORYLINES TO FOLLOW
1. Will this be the year a productive wideout finally emerges? Probably not. Maybe. We’ll see. Muschamp worked tirelessly to infuse Florida’s black hole position with new talent (five freshmen) and an improved coach (former UK head coach Joker Phillips). Demarcus Robinson is the anticipated savior, but so was Andre Debose four years ago.
2. Is the looming rivalry game versus Miami (Sep. 7) already on Florida’s mind? Last season, the Gators swore they approached every opponent/game the same way. Malarkey. Rewind the Louisiana-Lafayette tape. The Gators kickoff the season against a respectable Toledo team, but where will their heads truly be?
3. What will Loucheiz Purifoy’s offensive role truly look like? Muschamp says the versatile junior will play both ways. How much?
4. Is Ronald Powell primed to be a (once-promised) breakout star? The linebacker returns to action following two ACL injuries, a year away from football and a position change (now a strongside linebacker).
5. How long is Antonio Morrison’s suspension, and who (potentially) temporarily replaces him? The likely answer to the latter is redshirt junior (and career-backup) Michael Taylor. As for Morrison, the charges against him have been dropped so does Muschamp reduce the punishment with his own “as of right now” escape clause?
FIVE POSITION BATTLES TO WATCH
1. Safety – It’s not just one spot to fill, but two. Matt Elam and Josh Evans are off to the league, while De’Ante ‘Pop’ Saunders was (not-so) kindly asked to transfer. With ridiculous depth at cornerback, senior Jaylen Watkins is an obvious candidate (size, experience) to fill one void. The other? Redshirt freshman Marcus Maybe is probably the frontrunner following a nice spring, but Muschamp is super high on promising freshmen Marcell Harris and Keanu Neal.
2. Right tackle – It’s a Chaz Green vs. Nebraska-transfer Tyler Moore showdown. Plagued by injuries and inconsistencies, Green, a redshirt-junior, would likely be the backup if the season started today. But it doesn’t and the kid does possess some talent. Moore struggled early in spring practice before ultimately working his way back into football shape, while Green missed the entire camp recovering from ankle surgery.
3. Tight end – There’s not exactly a who’s who collection of studs here. Quarterback Jeff Driskel will certainly miss his safety valve and favorite target, Jordan Reed, and Florida will be hard-pressed to duplicate Reed’s production (team-leading 45 receptions in 2012) even spread amongst a group that includes Clay Burton, Colin Thompson and Kent Taylor. Burton and Thompson are blocking-oriented tight ends, while Taylor has potential as an athletic flex-option but the staff has openly questioned his toughness.
4. Backup quarterback – Florida’s uninspiring group of quarterbacks face a unique opportunity with Driskel sidelined for the first couple weeks of camp. Tyler Murphy (RSJR) seems content in his role as a career backup, but it’s not a given he will beat out freshmen Skyler Morhinweg and/or Max Staver. Also entering the group is former Ole Miss signee and San Diego Padres pro prospect, Chris Wilkes. With heralded recruit Will Grier entering the fray in 2014, it’s not exactly a loser leaves town battle, but it’s pretty close.
5. Kicker – Caleb Sturgis was the best kicker in UF history, a lifesaver for UF’s offense in 2012 and an All-American. Austin Hardin, a redshirt freshman, and Brad Phillips, a walk-on senior, won’t win any awards in 2013.
FIVE NEWCOMERS TO MONITOR
1. WR Marqui Hawkins – Robinson aside, fellow freshmen receivers Alvin Bailey and Ahmad Fulwood have received the majority of preseason hype, but Hawkins may be the most polished of the three.
2. LB Daniel McMillian – An early enrollee and potential weakside linebacker starter by midseason.
3. RB Kelvin Taylor – The state’s all-time leading rusher and son of former Florida great Fred Taylor.
4. CB Vernon Hargreaves III – UF’s most heralded recruit in the 2013 class. An instant impact performer.
5. TE Trevon Young – A late addition to UF’s most recent recruiting class. He’s a monster (6’6, 270) who can move well for his size, but he’s raw. Really raw.
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