Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Five things to watch during Florida Gators spring practice

Jeff Driskel enters the spring as the undisputed starter at quarterback.


Jeff Driskel enters the spring as the undisputed starter at quarterback.

Florida begins spring football practice today without a quarterback controversy but in search of someone to step up in multiple key positions, including running back, receiver and the front seven. Coach Will Muschamp is opening two practices to the public: Friday, from 4:35 to 6:35 p.m., and Saturday, 1:05 to 3 p.m.

The Orange and Blue spring game is at 1 p.m. April 6. Spring game tickets are $5; call toll-free 1-800-344-2867 (34-GATOR).

Here are five key things to watch over the next three weeks of spring practice:

DEVELOPMENT OF JEFF DRISKEL: He enters the spring as the undisputed starter, but there is no clear backup. And for a quarterback who has been injured in his two collegiate seasons, having a capable backup is a must. Driskel has acknowledged he struggled with second and third reads, had a tendency to jump out of the pocket too quickly and often held the ball far too long — leading to 39 sacks on the season (106th in the nation). "We've got to be a better throwing team and that starts with him," offensive coordinator Brent Pease said. "And a lot of it is based around understanding the protections a lot better, when he has to get rid of the ball and where he has to see his reads."

THE DEFENSE: The Gators had the No. 5 defense in the nation last season, but they will open the spring without five of seven starters on the front seven and playing for a new defensive coordinator — former linebackers and special teams coach D.J. Durkin. Defensive linemen Dante Fowler and Jonathan Bullard each had impressive freshman seasons and could earn a bigger roles in the spring. Linebacker Antonio Morrison will move inside, and linebacker Michael Taylor also adds depth. "We have a lot of guys coming back that contributed quite a bit," Durkin said. "We play 20-something guys in a game on defense, and we want to continue that. So we've got some up-and-coming guys we feel really good about. "

DEVELOPING NEWCOMERS: UF has eight early enrollees, six of whom are first-year collegiate players. Several freshmen who contributed last season got that early start. Among the favorites this year: running back Kelvin Taylor, son of former Gator great Fred Taylor and the state's all-time high school leading rusher, and two highly touted linebacker prospects in Alex Anzalone and Daniel McMillian.

WHO WILL CATCH THE BALL? As much as the Gators need Driskel to develop more as a passer, they also need to find consistent receivers. The coaching staff will allow Loucheiz Purifoy to get seven days during spring playing receiver (even though he's a potential NFL-caliber cornerback), showing how much the staff is searching for help at the position. Muschamp said Latroy Pittman has had a stellar offseason, and freshman Demarcus Robinson could help.

THE CHANGES: There are multiple position changes heading into the spring, and it'll be interesting to see how some develop. After three years of utility work, Trey Burton is moving full time to receiver. At least for spring. Muschamp said QB packages will remain in the game plan for Burton. Quinteze Williams is moving from defensive line to right tackle where he'll try to earn time while Chaz Green is recovering from ankle surgery. After three years of injuries and little playing time, Gideon Ajagbe moves from linebacker to fullback — a position where he excelled in high school. And Dominique Easley is moving from defensive tackle to end, though he'll still play both end and tackle.

Five things to watch during Florida Gators spring practice 03/12/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 13, 2013 4:16pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Longest home run at Trop and Erasmo Ramirez's pitching doom Rays (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Kevin Kiermaier returned. The problem was, so did Erasmo Ramirez.

    Seattle Mariners first baseman Yonder Alonso (10) scores on the double by Seattle Mariners designated hitter Nelson Cruz (23) in the first inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Friday, August 18, 2017.
  2. Rays journal: Kevin Kiermaier returns, Mallex Smith sent to Triple A

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — It didn't take CF Kevin Kiermaier long to make his presence felt during his return Friday to the Rays lineup. Kiermaier pretended to have Mariners DH Nelson Cruz's first-inning line drive lined up even as the ball went past him to his right and to the wall.

    Tampa Bay Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier (39) flies out in the first inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Friday, August 18, 2017.
  3. Rays vs. Mariners, 6:10 p.m. Saturday, Tropicana Field

    The Heater

    Tonight: vs. Mariners

    6:10, Tropicana Field

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    This is a 2017 photo of Jake Odorizzi of the Tampa Bay Rays baseball team. This image reflects the 2017 active roster as of Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017 when this image was taken. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
  4. Bucs journal: Starting defense disappointed holding Jags to 1 rushing yard


    JACKSONVILLE — The Bucs' starting defense held the Jaguars to a total of 1 rushing yard on seven carries in the first half of Thursday's 12-8 preseason win.

    And its members were disappointed.

    Jacksonville Jaguars running back T.J. Yeldon (24) is thrown for a 1-yard loss as he is stopped by Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Lavonte David (54) and defensive end Robert Ayers (91) during the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux) JVS102