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)

Gators start spring practice with many questions

GAINESVILLE — Florida opens its spring practice, possibly the most critical of coach Will Muschamp's tenure, today.

The Gators are coming off a 4-8 season that has Muschamp on the hot seat — if not with his boss, at least with many fans. There have been staff changes, and Muschamp is opening nine practices, including the spring game, to the public.

"Excited about being on the field," Muschamp said. "Very frustrating, disappointing fall for all of us. We need to get things turned back around."

Here are five story lines to watch:

1. Jeff Driskel's return: Last season began to unravel when the quarterback broke his right leg during the third game. After surgery and rehab, how healthy is he and how quickly can he regain form?

2. Kurt Roper's offense: Florida hopes to revamp its stagnant offense (113th in Division I-A last season at 316.7 yards per game) with new coordinator Kurt Roper, who was hired from Duke. The Gators will make what Muschamp described as "a drastic change schematically," which means players have 15 on-field days to work on the new scheme. That also means Driskel, a junior in the fall, and touted incoming freshman Will Grier will, essentially, start from scratch together. And while Driskel is the projected starter and expected to get the majority of reps, Muschamp has said all jobs are up for grabs after last season. Which players, including running backs, emerge with the best grasp of the system?

3. Kicking woes: New special teams coordinator Coleman Hutzler, who comes over from New Mexico, has his work cut out for him. Two years ago, punter Kyle Christy was a Ray Guy finalists, averaging a school-record 45.8 yards. Last season, he struggled so much, averaging 39.6, he lost the job. Johnny Townsend, at 42.0, was only marginally better. Both return. In addition, the touted Austin Hardin made just 4 of 12 field goals as a freshman. Said Muschamp: "Our kicking situation was atrocious last year."

4. Receivers and offensive line: Two of the top three receivers from last season are gone. Senior-to-be Quinton Dunbar (40 catches for 548 yards and no touchdowns) will be the most experienced. Look to see if sophomore-to-be Ahmad Fulwood (17 catches for 127 yards and a touchdown) will improve and if redshirting as a freshman has Armwood High graduate Alvin Bailey ready to make an impact. New line coach Mike Summers, who has 34 years of coaching experience, has to revamp a unit that lost four players who combined for 32 starts last season: Jon Halapio (10), Jonotthan Harrison (12), Kyle Koehne (six) and Ian Silberman (four). Expect some shifts, including redshirt senior Max Garcia (who played left guard and left tackle) to center.

5. Defensive backs: Marcus Roberson, Cody Riggs and Loucheiz Purifoy have to be replaced. Wharton High graduate and sophomore-to-be Vernon Hargreaves played so well last season (three interceptions) he's probably the only player not fighting for his job.


Open practices: 3:35 today, Friday, Saturday, Monday, March 26, 31; April 2, 11 (other times to be announced)

Orange and Blue Game: 1:30 April 12, Ben Hill Griffin Stadium

Gators start spring practice with many questions 03/18/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 19, 2014 7:49am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. For starters: Rays at Twins, looking for another with Odorizzi starting


    UPDATE, 11:01: No Dickerson today as the Rays go with seven right-handers.

    Here is the lineup:

  2. Why the Lightning would consider trading Jonathan Drouin

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — This summer, the Lightning could trade one of its most dynamic young players ever.

    Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Jonathan Drouin (27) celebrates with his team on the bench after beating Chicago Blackhawks goalie Scott Darling (33) to score his second goal of the period and to tie the score at 4 to 4 during second period action at the Amalie Arena in Tampa Monday evening (03/27/17).
  3. Why the Lightning should keep Jonathan Drouin

    Lightning Strikes

    Keep him.

    Jonathan Drouin is live bait. The Lightning is ready to run the hook through him and cast him out there again. Drouin has enough talent for the Lightning to meet some defensive needs in a deal.

    Keep him.

    Lightning wing Jonathan Drouin celebrates after beating Los Angeles Kings goalie Peter Budaj during the first period of Tuesday's win in Tampa. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times]
  4. This Tampa Bay Lightning wing rides the newest wave of fan interaction

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — There are photos of Lightning fan Shaun Egger as a toddler at center ice at the then-Thunderome, aka Tropicana Field. He's played in the Lightning's high school hockey league for Palm Harbor University. But his closest personal encounter with players had been waving through a crowd after a training camp …

    Tampa Bay Lightning player J.T. Brown wears his anti UV glasses as he talks over the headset with a hockey fan while they play against each other on line in an XBOX NHL video game in Brown's game room at his home in south Tampa. The fan chose to be the Washington Capitals and Brown, of course, was the Tampa Bay Lightning. Brown interacts with fans through video game systems as he streams the games live on Twitch with plans for the proceeds to go to charity.
  5. ‘Biggest fight' behind her, Petra Kvitova returns ahead of schedule


    PARIS — Five months after a home invader's knife sliced into her left hand, Petra Kvitova will return to competitive tennis at the French Open, a last-minute decision to make her comeback earlier than expected.

    Petra Kvitova adjusts her hair during a news conference at Roland Garros Stadium, where she will make her tennis return at the French Open. Kvitova's left hand was badly injured by a knife-wielding intruder in December; she has recovered ahead of schedule. [Associated Press]