QUARTERBACKS | C+
Jim McElwain is a renowned quarterbacks guru and was brought to Gainesville to revive a dormant passing attack. Florida has yet to name a starter, but redshirt freshman Will Grier took the majority of first-team reps in training camp and appears to have a leg up in the competition with sophomore Treon Harris. Grier, a former five-star prospect with oodles of promise, is up to 215 pounds and has ironed out some of his mechanical issues from last fall. Meanwhile, Harris, a former standout at Miami Booker T. Washington, went 4-2 as a starter last season, but the diminutive quarterback (5-10, 195) struggled throwing the ball outside and igniting a consistent aerial attack. Harris completed just 49 percent of passes as a freshman, and he has done little to erase his accuracy concerns. Vanderbilt graduate transfer Josh Grady has looked sharp but is solely an emergency option.
RUNNING BACKS | B+
There’s not a ton of depth at tailback, but the Gators certainly have some serious upside at the position. Kelvin Taylor is finally poised to carry the load, as the junior aims to overcome last season’s sophomore slump. Although he has impressed in camp, the junior will still be pushed for carries by former South Florida stars Jordan Scarlett and Jordan Cronkrite. Scarlett (5-11, 210) — a former University of Miami commit from Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas — has a rare combination of size, speed and power and appears ahead of the curve for a freshman. With Adam Lane’s mid-camp transfer, the former Westminster Christian star Cronkrite rocketed up the depth chart.
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RECEIVERS/TIGHT ENDS | B
Demarcus Robinson is Florida’s most explosive playmaker (810 yards, seven touchdowns in 2014), and the junior should be even better in McElwain’s offense. Sophomore Brandon Powell (Deerfield Beach) is a staff favorite and a potential X-factor as a hybrid slot receiver and tailback. Jake McGee returns from last season’s broken leg to shore up an inexperienced but promising tight end group (namely C’yontai Lewis). The Gators have a litany of former blue-chippers (Ahmad Fulwood, Chris Thompson, Latroy Pittman) who haven’t taken the next step. Sophomore C.J. Worton (Homestead South Dade) and freshman Antonio Callaway (Miami Booker T. Washington) drew rave reviews.
OFFENSIVE LINE | C-
Florida’s offensive line is essentially starting from scratch. The Gators — who lost four players to the NFL Draft and another to a career-ending injury — return just one lineman (senior guard Trip Thurman) with a single career start to his name. The unit could feature as many as four freshmen in the eight-man rotation. Football Championship Subdivision All-American transfer Mason Halter and five-star freshman tackle Martez Ivey boost a fragile group. Mammoth sophomore tackle David Sharpe (6-6, 355) eyes a breakout season, and third-year players Cam Dilliard and Antonio Riles aim to cement starting roles. Pass protection, especially inside, continues to be a source of concern. The good news: The inexperienced unit wasn’t an unmitigated disaster in camp, so while growing pains are expected, the group could develop into a functional line. Still, if the injury bug hits, watch out.
DEFENSIVE LINE | B+
The Gators must replace a defensive lineman (Dante Fowler Jr.) selected in the first round for the third consecutive season, but the group remains well-stocked with blue-chip talent — especially on the interior. Versatile senior Jon Bullard can play end or tackle, anchoring the team’s run defense. Redshirt juniors Bryan Cox Jr. and Alex McCalister are Florida’s primary pass rushers, but five-star freshman CeCe Jefferson made waves during the preseason and will play immediately. Redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Caleb Brantley, who is expected to have a monster year, and redshirt freshman Taven Bryan, nicknamed the Wyoming Wildman, are terrific interior pass rushers.
LINEBACKERS | B
Antonio Morrison’s health looms as the major question mark for a unit high on upside but low on numbers and experience. Morrison was an All-SEC linebacker in 2014, leading the Gators with 101 tackles. The senior continues to recover from a serious knee injury sustained in the team’s bowl game, and his status for the season is unknown, so a trio of juniors — Alex Anzalone, Jarrad Davis and Daniel McMillian — are slated to see the majority of snaps. It’s an athletic group with a nice combination of pass rushing and coverage skills, but also a trio without significant experience.
SECONDARY | A
The Gators’ secondary is stacked, with as many as four players possibly leaving early for the NFL after the season. All-American cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III is the unit’s headliner, and junior safeties Keanu Neal (a devastating hitter and proven playmaker) and Marcus Maye are veteran linchpins. Sophomore cornerback Jalen Tabor was a freshman All-American last season, but this fall he’s fighting for his starting spot with sophomore Quincy Wilson (Davie University School). Senior nickelback Brian Poole is among the most underrated players in the SEC. With talented underclassmen Deiondre Porter, Duke Dawson and Chris Williamson waiting in the wings, Florida’s defensive back depth chart is as good as any in the country. The Gators ranked 10th nationally in passing defense efficiency and yards per attempt last season (6.0).
SPECIAL TEAMS | B
Junior kicker Austin Hardin (7 of 10 on field goals) cemented his starting job in the spring, and punter Johnny Townsend, who redshirted last year after an All-SEC freshman season in 2013, takes over for the departed Kyle Christy. The Gators ranked 24th in the country in special teams efficiency in 2014, but it was a unit plagued by implosions (surrendering returns and blocked kicks against Missouri, South Carolina).
COACHING | B+
McElwain is tasked with resurrecting a former SEC giant, and he has imitated the organizational style of former mentor and boss Nick Saban of Alabama. With a CEO approach, McElwain beefed up Florida’s support staff and surrounded himself with assistants chalked with SEC experience and strong recruiting ties to the state of Florida. Veteran offensive line coach Mike Summers was the only assistant retained from UF’s 2014 staff. Doug Nussmeier, who followed McElwain at Alabama, will now run the Gators’ offense, and former Mississippi State defensive coordinator Geoff Collins, nicknamed the Minister of Mayhem, brings his aggressive, attacking defense to Gainesville. Former Miami player and head coach Randy Shannon is aboard as Florida’s associate head coach and linebackers assistant.