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SEC Football Preview 2014: Florida's Roster Is Just Trying to Stay Healthy

There were more than enough injuries for Florida last season. There's a lot of talent coming back this year, presuming that the top-notch players can stay on the field

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Beware of statistics about how much Florida brings back this year; as their fans can tell you, the numbers on such things can change quickly. After all, the two current Gators featured in this post both missed time with injuries last year, as Florida became one of the most-hurt teams in the banged-up SEC East.

But there are some encouraging signs. All four of the top rushers are back. Of the six Florida players who caught double-digit passes in 2013, only two are gone. And seven of the top nine tacklers are back in 2014. So if the Gators can stay healthy, they've got the kind of roster that can get you thinking about big things. As long as all the players get to the end of the season intact.

Last year, the Gators went into the season knowing that their hopes for a good season hinged on Jeff Driskel. Florida proceeded to prove this by following up a season-ending injury to Driskel with a short-lived spark against Tennessee and then the complete collapse of an already suspect offense. The thing is, Driskel has never really set the world on fire just yet. His career passer rating at Florida is 126.75 -- mediocre. Driskel's completion percentage is pretty good, but he's not asked to do much; he's completed more than 20 passes in a game once and attempted more than 25 four times in 16 starts over the last two years (not counting last year's injury-shortened start against Tennessee). Maybe Kurt Roper will ask Driskel to pass more. (And the quarterback better throw it when Roper does.) And maybe the new offensive coordinator will unlock the mystery of Driskel. Just how far Florida can go this year might depend on it -- again.

BIGGEST LOSS | WR Solomon Patton
Again, there's just not much to choose from here -- both because of the number of returning players and because of general lack of production by any players, returning or not. But Patton was about as productive as anyone else in 2013, putting up 105.8 all-purpose yards per game. Most of those came on kickoff returns -- Patton gained 642 yards on 22 returns, including one for a touchdown. But Patton was also the team's leading receiver, catching 44 passes for 556 yards and six scores. Driskel still has some targets to work with, but he has one fewer now that Patton has moved on.

If he can remain healthy after being snakebit last season, Jones could get his chance to shine. Right now, the junior is trying to lock up the starting job. The one thing that could hurt his chances at having a real breakout season is that Florida has a loaded backfield this year, with Jones, Mack Brown and Kelvin Taylor all competing for the ball. But even in his limited time in 2013, Jones had the highest per-game average (67.8 yards) for the Gators and gained a respectable 4.3 yards per carry. Given an entire season at full strength, Jones might finally be able to live up to his potential.