With a reigning Heisman Trophy winner in Tim Tebow, finding a backup is the issue. Cameron Newton is big, strong and a great runner. John Brantley is a pure passer with a strong arm, but has been plagued with injuries. Neither has won it outright.
On paper, loaded with talent, led by senior Kestahn Moore, right, and including USC transfer Emmanuel Moody, redshirt freshman Chris Rainey and freshman Jeff Demps. Moore is expected to double up at tailback and Percy Harvin adds to the mix when he moves from receiver into the backfield. New RB coach Kenny Carter is expected to make this a viable unit to take pressure off Tebow.
The Gators will start a rookie center (Maurkice Pouncey), but has four starters returning, including three fifth-year seniors. For the first time in many years, there's depth. More important, there's versatility, with several players capable of playing more than one position.
The loss of TE Cornelius Ingram to a season-ending injury was a huge blow, and presents problems for the planned two TE sets. Sophomore Aaron Hernandez has to step up big. Tate Casey has returned for a fifth season and could turn out to be a key in the offense. WR Percy Harvin needs to stay healthy, but with Louis Murphy, Riley Cooper, Brandon James, etc., depth is no issue.
Defensive coordinator Charlie Strong promises to bring more pressure this season, recognizing the Gators have to find a legitimate pass rush. The improvement of DE Carlos Dunlap will be critical. New DL coach Dan McCarney said the line will improve due to depth and talent.
It's a team game, but let's call this one like it is: This unit's success depends on Brandon Spikes. The theory is last season Spikes was so focused on learning, he couldn't just play. Now that he knows what he's doing on the field, UF is also counting on him to be a leader off the field. Solid at stopping the run last season, depth should help continue that trend.
Whether the returning safeties and corners have honed their shaky skills remains to be seen. Even so, there's little in experience and quantity behind them and the Gators may need more man coverage. Expect freshmen Janoris Jenkins and Will Hill to play, despite their inconsistency.
The nation's second-leading punt returner is back (Brandon James), and he's also a kickoff threat. P Chas Henry returns (39.3 yards) and there's a kicking battle between Jonathan Phillips and freshman Caleb Sturgis.
Compiled by Antonya English, Times staff writer