Florida Football: 5 Players Who Should See Their Roles Expand in 2014
The Florida Gators don’t have a starting job that is safe this upcoming season. Losing makes everybody uncomfortable and eventually leads to backups and younger players seeing an expanded role the following year.
The Gators have to play with the lineup and try different things in order for this year to be successful. That means you’re going to see certain players who may not have been involved as much a year ago on the field quite a bit.
We can start with a pair of wide receivers and an experienced defensive lineman who is just itching to prove himself.
These Florida Gators won’t be holding the clipboard any longer.
Jarrad Davis, LB
Jarrad Davis made his mark towards the end of last season when the Gators were bitten by the injury bug. He finished the season with 24 tackles and a forced fumble.
With many linebackers not participating in spring ball, he’ll have a chance to capitalize on that momentum, but regardless, Davis is going to see the field often this season.
Davis is a quick, athletic linebacker who can play sideline-to-sideline. He’s also a sure tackler and is comfortable against both the run and the pass.
He’s an overall solid player, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he pushes somebody for a starting job sooner rather than later.
Regardless of where Davis is listed on the depth chart, Florida fans are going to see a lot more from this young man. He’s simply too productive to leave off the field.
Marcus Maye, S
Safety isn’t the deepest position on Florida’s roster, which is why Marcus Maye will likely be a starter once the season begins. He played in every game last year and made two starts, racking up 11 tackles.
Maye can quickly become that physical presence in the defensive backfield that every defense needs. He isn’t the fastest player on the field, but he has a knack for being in the right place at the right time and can make plays. Maye is also comfortable playing close to the line of scrimmage and can be a force in run support.
With Cody Riggs transferring and Jaylen Watkins graduating, there’s a few question marks along the safety spot. Maye’s level of play should help put Gators fans at ease, as he'll be asked to do more than ever before in his Florida career.
Demarcus Robinson, WR
With a new season upon us, it’s time to focus on the positives. Truth is, Robinson is probably the most talented receiver on the depth chart. He has the size at 6’2”, he runs great routes and he’s about as sure-handed as they come. Robinson also isn’t too shabby at blocking downfield, which really makes him the complete package at the position.
Robinson is a player the Gators absolutely need to have a breakout season if the offense is going to improve. The skill set is there, so it’s difficult to bet against him having an incredible sophomore season. Of course, that's if he can remove himself from the dog house.
Bryan Cox Jr., DL
Bryan Cox Jr. played in eight games last year and finished the season with five tackles. He should become one of those players who takes a monster step forward in the third season.
Cox is a versatile player who can play linebacker or with his hand in the dirt as a traditional defensive end. He gets off the line quickly for somebody who is 260 pounds, and he plays with a relentless motor. He has similar tools as his father, Bryan Cox, who was a three-time Pro Bowl selection in the NFL. It now just comes down to putting it all together and becoming a little tougher in run support.
Florida needs depth along the defensive line, particularly to give Jonathan Bullard a rest. Cox is experienced and talented enough to become that reliable backup.
Chris Thompson, WR
Yes, another Gator receiver is going to be more involved in the offense this season. Imagine that. Florida has serious issues on the offensive end and a handful of receivers who need to emerge from the pack.
One of the receivers that the coaching staff really likes is Chris Thompson. He played in seven games last year as a true freshman, but he finished his season with just two receptions. He’s a speed demon who can really spread the field and take the top off of the defense.
With three spring practices in the books, Thompson is getting the most playing time as a deep threat, according to Thomas Goldkamp of 247Sports (subscription required):
The speedy receiver role, which has been headlined by Chris Thompson so far, has run mostly two routes: the fly and the drag. While Thompson has gotten involved on other routes, the basic premise has been hit him deep or hit him coming across the middle shallow with other routes designed to clear out space for him to run.
Florida needs speed and big plays. Thompson brings both to the table.