The Gators return to the practice field this week for the first time since November looking to put their first losing season since 1979 behind them. Hope springs eternal with the opening of spring practices on Wednesday. The Gators have 15 practices, including the April 12 Orange and Blue game, to regain some footing following a 4-8 season. UF coach Will Muschamp began by hiring a new offensive coordinator (Kurt Roper), new offensive line coach (Mike Summers) and new special teams coordinator (Coleman Hutzler). The Gators ranked last in the SEC in points and yards last season. Meanwhile, Muschamp recently called UF’s 2013 kicking game “atrocious.” Every coach and player faces an uphill climb until the Aug. 30 opener against Idaho. Here are five storylines to watch as the Gators’ begin. 1. Time crunch The Gators’ offense is on the clock and in the spotlight this spring. Roper will install the up-tempo scheme he brings from Duke, Summers will retool the offensive line and redshirt junior quarterback Jeff Driskel will return to action nearly seven months after breaking his leg in the season’s third game, against Tennessee. No returning wide receiver caught more than one touchdown in 2013, while the tight ends combined for four receptions. Sophomore tailback Kelvin Taylor displayed a hard-running style, but the Gators lack a home-run threat anywhere on offense to change a game in one play. A new offense takes time to come together. How quickly this unit can likely holds the key to 2014. 2. Line dance Summers is a 34-year coaching veteran facing one of his toughest assignments yet. The Gators allowed 66 sacks the past two seasons and lost two quarterbacks to season-ending injuries in 2013. UF’s run game averaged 3.6 yard per carry. Worse, the Gators lost their two best linemen, veterans Jon Harrison and Jon Halapio. Summers will move redshirt senior Max Garcia from guard to center to replace Harrison. Tackles D.J. Humphries (knee), Chaz Green (shoulder) and Tyler Moore (elbow) have experience but each returns from injury. Fitting the pieces together and keeping them together will be imperative to UF’s success.
Gators aim to push past losing season as they open spring football
Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel | Mar 19