Here are five questions that could be answered during Florida's Orange & Blue spring practice on Saturday:
Will the pass rush be better?
It has the potential to pretty good. Dante Fowler Jr. and DE Jonathan Bullard played a lot as freshmen, and Bullard ended up leading the Gators with seven quarterback hurries. Redshirt freshmen Bryan Cox Jr. and Alex McCalister are two young guys to watch. The staff really likes McCalister. He’s got great size (6-foot-5) but needs to bulk up a bit from 230 pounds. He’s got long arms, too, which makes him someone who can deflect passes at the line of scrimmage. If these guys get pressure in drills, then there’s reason to be encouraged -- especially with the impending return of Ronald Powell in the fall.
It’s never easy replacing an All-American like Elam, but the Gators are stocked with talent in the secondary. Senior Jaylen Watkins and redshirt junior Cody Riggs will likely start back there, although Riggs’ participation on Saturday is in doubt because of a groin injury. There are several other players vying for time, and they’ll all get on the field at some point: redshirt freshman Marcus Maye, junior Jabari Gorman and redshirt sophomore Valdez Showers. None are as talented as Elam, but the position will be fine.
Will having CB Loucheiz Purifoy on offense make a difference?
In the two previous open practices, he was clearly the Gators’ most talented receiver. He’s more explosive and more physical than redshirt junior Quinton Dunbar and more consistent and a harder worker than redshirt senior Andre Debose. Purifoy just lacks experience and doesn’t have a full grasp of the offense and the shifts and motions. He’s got a whole summer to learn that, though. He’ll get some snaps on offense on Saturday. At least one will involve a deep route. He may be the big-time playmaker the offense has missed since 2009.
Will offense be better in its second season under coordinator Brent Pease?
That’s the general opinion among the coaches and players, but how can the fans tell in a practice setting? Look for crispness and no hesitation or confusion among players shifting and going in motion. The offense rarely got in rhythm last season. Seeing that on Saturday would be an encouraging sign.
Is Antonio Morrison up for replacing Jon Bostic as UF’s middle linebacker?
Morrison has added 13 pounds and now weighs 229 pounds -- still a little smaller than a typical middle linebacker, but linebackers coach/defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin isn’t worried. Durkin said Morrison is a physical player -- ask former Florida State quarterback EJ Manuel -- who will have no problem standing up to the rigors of playing middle linebacker in the SEC. He’s also having no problems with on-field communication, Durkin said. Still, there won’t be a definitive answer until sometime in October. Making a couple of plays on Saturday, however, would at least begin to ease concerns.