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The Russell Report: Breaking down Gator spring football

Published: Mar. 8, 2021 at 5:09 PM EST
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - Alright folks, today we’re going to talk some Gator spring football.

Quarterback Emory Jones has patiently waited his turn to run the Gator offense and the offense will be tweaked to suit his strengths as it should be with coach Dan Mullen calling more designed run plays or run/pass options. Jones is a dynamic runner and electric with the ball in his hands but the big question is how good of a passer he will be. Take the Cotton Bowl for example. He ran for 60 yards on 10 carries but was only 8-of-16 for 86 yards throwing the ball. How well he develops as a thrower could be a key to how successful the offense is next year. He’s got a great group of backs and a receiving group that is good but one that lost a lot of talent to the NFL the last couple of years.

But the biggest area of improvement to make the offense elite will have to come from the offensive line. Jon Hevesy is a good coach but the Gators just have not recruited five-star talent in this area. Can you think of Florida’s last great offensive lineman? DJ Humphries was a first-round pick, Jawaan Taylor a second-round pick but you really have to go all the way back to the Pouncey twins to talk elite at this position. If you’re good here, chances are your offense will be good too.

The defense... Let’s be honest, it was not a good year last year for this group. The biggest issues we all saw were problems of getting calls in on time when teams were running hurry-up offenses. Guys were running around, confused, looking to the sidelines to find out what the call was and oftentimes they never got lined up right and big offensive plays burned them. That has to be fixed this year. Maybe the talent at linebacker and at the safety position left something to be desired too and this year the talent at safety and cornerback will be young. Perhaps two new coaches coaching the safeties and the DB’s will make a difference as well.

Coach Dan Mullen enters his fourth season. Progress has been made but this seems to me like a very important season to see exactly where this program is headed. Even though Florida was near the top four for parts of the season last year, it still lost four games and comes off that embarrassing loss in the Cotton Bowl. Georgia isn’t going away, and neither is Alabama. But spring is for getting better, and let’s hope the Gators are doing just that.

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