Can freshmen save the Gators’ 2013 season?

By Adam Silverstein
October 24, 2013

The Florida Gators have now officially lost eight players, five of which were starters, to season-ending injuries. For a team that was already forced to replace 13 starters from the previous season and currently stands 4-3 (3-2 SEC) with some tough games ahead, it sounds like an insurmountable predicament.

But head coach Will Muschamp on Wednesday, during his only media availability of Florida’s off week, mentioned a number of freshmen who could join cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III and (more recently) punter Johnny Townsend in becoming key players for the Gators over the latter half of the regular season.

The first of which is running back Kelvin Taylor, who received five carries in garbage time during the first game against Toledo but only touched the ball once over the following four contests. When sophomore Matt Jones tore his meniscus against LSU and saw his season come to an end, Florida had no choice but to give Taylor more work behind redshirt junior Mack Brown.

Taylor averaged 5.2 yards per carry in that very game, looking sharper and more decisive than Brown. Against Missouri on Saturday, he took the majority of the carries, rushing 74 yards on 12 touches and scoring the first touchdown of his career. Muschamp admitted Wednesday that the Gators should have leaned on Taylor more in the game, and it would be no surprise if he earned his first career start against Georgia on Nov. 2.

“I thought he played well. I thought he ran the ball extremely well. He continues to improve in all facets of the game. We’ve been very pleased with where he is right now,” Muschamp said.

He has not been as impressed with another set of offensive playmakers – wide receivers Demarcus Robinson and Ahmad Fulwood. Muschamp said both players have had their opportunities to shine; Robinson has not taken advantage of his to this point, and Fulwood has struggled at times but is showing “continued improvement.”

Those three were never going to redshirt this season, but Florida planned on doing just that with a number of other players including a pair of its freshmen defensive linemen.

Defensive tackle Jay-nard Boswick and defensive end Joey Ivie have yet to step foot on the field but likely should have against Mizzou as UF, according to Muschamp, only had 13 healthy defensive players heading into the game. In addition to senior DT Dominique Easley being sidelined for the season after tearing his ACL, classmate and position-mate Damien Jacobs did not travel the team after suffering a head injury in Baton Rouge, LA. He is questionable to face UGA.

“We probably should have played [them] in the game,” he admitted. “We were very thin defensively. We probably should have played those guys and just gone with it. Those guys have been progressing very well. … Again, those are two guys that probably should have played.”

But they didn’t. And neither did offensive linemen Octavius Jackson. Offensive lineman Trenton Brown, a JUCO transfer and in his first year with the Gators, did see the field but has not seen as much playing time as he might deserve considering the fact that Florida’s front has been manhandled each of the last two weeks.

“I think Trenton’s a guy that needs some opportunities and some turns. We’ve got to get him in there and let him play some,” Muschamp said.

“Octavius Jackson has been repping with us. There’s some possibilities there. We’re continuing to get some continuity up front.”

Asked whether he thought some struggling veterans – especially the offensive linemen – would be angry about freshmen taking their places, Muschamp scoffed at the notion.

“I’m not worried about upsetting anybody,” he said. “My track record speaks for itself as far as playing young guys. If they’re ready to play, we’re going to play them and we’re going to go with them.

“You look at the amount of guys, since I’ve been at Florida, that have started as true freshmen, that have played a lot as true freshmen. If they’re ready to play, we’re going to play them. If they give us the best opportunity to win the game, we’re going to play them.”

And that is exactly what Muschamp and the Gators might have to do in order to mitigate an incredible rash of injuries that has left them shorthanded and save what could otherwise be a disastrous second half to the season.

Photo Credit: Gerald Herbert/Associated Press


  1. cline says:

    There has been lots of talking about others getting involved this season with little follow through. I am cautiously optimistic. Go Gators!

  2. Lava says:

    Uh, ya think? The fans knew this and we’re not being paid three million per season.

  3. Tractorr says:

    Considering how bad the current players look it can’t hurt.

    On a side note if the team really only had 13 defensive players ready to go that is crazy. Defense is Muschamp’s specialty and he should know that is not enough. The Mizzou game was within reach had the defense not simply got worn out and had we kept running Taylor.

    I hope at this point Muschamp realizes that we are going to have to do things he doesn’t want to do because of injuries. We will not be able to play grind it out football because of defensive injuries as much as anything.

  4. SJ210 says:

    Say what you will about the Zooker, but he was never afraid to play young guys. He rolled into LSU in 2003 with a true freshman Chris Leak at QB and beat the eventual national champs. I remember Marcus Thomas playing a bunch too. Getting that early experience helped mold guys that would eventually win a NC in 06. Hargreaves and Taylor could be our most talented players on either side of the ball. Like the first poster said, there’s been a lot of talk about playing young guys, but little follow through. We’ve got nothing to lose at this point.

    • Tractorr says:

      We aren’t winning any championships this year. I agree let’s get some young guys some experience. Let’s start building for next year.

    • MAR says:

      I like Muschamp over Zook in every category except picking an OC. Zook had Fedora who had UF at the top of almost every offensive category in the SEC during his time there. When the offense clicks even a little, our defense looks great. The defense carried us to 11-2 last year. I like what Muschamp is trying to create, he just needs the right guy calling the offense.

  5. HardToKillGtr says:

    Good. Deciding if they’re ready to play is tricky. Especially if they have already played and showed promise. They still weren’t ready to play then and now they are judged ready to play. I agree with a comment made in an earlier post. Take a different point of view. Watch how our HBC handles a different adversity this year and settle into becoming a very good coach. Eleven wins last year isn’t too shabby. This is a character building year for everyone. I want CWM to learn one thing. Throwing more hard work at our problem won’t cure it unless he understands the way he’s been working won’t fix things. Putting the young guys in means he’s able to change even if he doesn’t like to admit his old plan didn’t work. I’m not sure what I just said but I know I’m through.

  6. SWFL Joe says:

    Too bad Coach didn’t play more backups in Sept when those games were well in hand. Looks like that philosophy is coming back to bite him.

  7. Oldflyer says:

    Wow! Hindsight is a wonderful luxury.

    I don’t think anyone has any idea in September just how decimated the team would be by October. And based on the gushing reports on line last Spring, I also don’t think anyone would have predicted how badly the oline would be playing..

    • gatorboi352 says:

      Seriously you have to be a relative of Mushcamp or something.

    • Ken (CA) says:

      Actually, if you look way back at posts, people have been suspect of the o-line since the very first practice started for this season, most thinking they were way over-rated and hyped. If more backups had been played in Sept when games were in hand, or if offense pushed them to be in hand more quickly, maybe we wouldn’t be so decimated now as we would have had a lot more fresh bodies on the field on a regular basis. Even with the bad injuries we have had, This team with the recruiting we have supposedly had over the last few years should be significantly deeper than CWM is saying it is, otherwise all the recruiting is a bust and has to be re-evaluated, or the recruits aren’t being taught proper fundamentals in which case the coaching staff needs to be re-evaluated.

  8. Aligator says:

    Sounds to me like he continue to make mistakes with personnel that a rookie head coach makes. Time and time again he does stuff like this that makes no sense!

    • Tractorr says:

      Why would you knowingly go into a game with only 13 defenders? That boggles the mind. Not to mention some guys are graduating and going off to the NFL, let’s start developing young guys when we get the chance.

      • G2 says:

        My thoughts exactly, he’s too slow to do that. Hopefully Purifoy and Roberson will stay around another year, sure haven’t played well enough this year to be first rounders.

  9. 305Gator says:

    Kelvin Taylor should have been our starting RB 3 games ago. Just like Gilly should have been used ahead of Demps and Rainey during Meyer’s last year and Muschamp’s first. Don’t know why it is so difficult for a coach to realize what most fans, writers and commentators know.

  10. Michael Jones says:

    I don’t see how he considers that throwing a few balls Robinson and Fulwood’s way over the course of a 7 game season would constitute them “having had their chances but haven’t taken advantage of them.” Are they supposed to take one of our famous 5 yard hitches or slants or outs to the house the first time they touch the ball? What they’ve had isn’t a real chance and it’s BS to call it that.

    As for Trenton Brown, even if he is as inept as the other O-linemen have been so far, at least it takes longer to run around him.

    Champ struggles at developing talent. No question about it. Even Morrison seems to have taken a step backwards. He was more dominating as a true freshman. How in the heck can that be??

    • nugent1021 says:

      actually, I can argue the morrison angle. I think Champ really is a great defensive coordinator. The defense was great until Powell stopped playing (right after Easley stopped). Powell and Easley were 1st round draft picks. They take double coverage every down. That helps Morrison to make those big plays. Morrison is now the “big man” on the field, but unfortunately he’s not Powell and Easley. Yeah, Powell doesn’t really have the numbers, but go back and look when he benched it for the LSU game and how our defense literally went to nothing.

      The offense has to step in and get it done at some point. They have to carry their weight.

      • Michael Jones says:

        I’ve always thought Powell was 1st round talent. Fowler too and probably Bullard as well. I think you made some good points but even when Morrison does get the chance to make a play, he’s not the big hitter he was last year. When he hit people last season, he blew them up. Not so much this year. Where are the big hits that fire up a defense and intimidate an offense?

        Speaking of 1st round talent, I’m amazed at how poor Purifoy’s technique is. Great athlete. Poor technique. How can that be?

        And, of course, you are right about our offense. Painfully, obviously right.

  11. Michael Jones says:

    To answer the question: No, they can’t. But developing them now CAN save next season.

    GO GATORS!!!

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