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Florida 2013 season preview

Will Muschamp's team went 11-2 last season, but with UF being shut out of the SEC title game by its head-to-head loss to rival Georgia, a Sugar Bowl loss to Louisville left a hollow feeling among Gator fans. The Gators' defense will lead the way for UF in the fall, with some legitimate star power at every level of the defense. The offense will look to turn around passing struggles last season that contributed to the loss to UGA, and dampened low-scoring wins over LSU and Missouri.

The Gators face one of the nation's toughest schedules with non-conference games against Miami and Florida State, a cross-divisional SEC game with LSU, and the usual powers that be in the SEC East. Several Florida seniors should be NFL-bound after the season, and a couple of juniors could come out early as well. Muschamp's program is beginning to make an impact on the NFL. Just a year after UF had only two players drafted -- neither in the first three rounds -- eight Gators were chosen in 2013, including two in the first round.

Top senior prospects

WR Andre Debose: Debose spent last season in Muschamp's dog house, making only three catches, and he has been lost for this season with a knee injury. So why does he list here? Because he will blaze an eye-popping 40-yard dash time if he is able to recover from his injury in time for next year's draft. And nothing helps NFL teams overlook negatives like pure speed. He also excels in the return game, having set a UF record with a 28.3-yard kickoff return average last year. His career highlight at UF was beating Dre Kirkpatrick, the Cincinnati Bengals' 2012 first-round draft pick from Alabama, for a touchdown on a go route.

DL Dominique Easley: Easley is somewhat small for an NFL interior defensive lineman (6-foot-2, 283 pounds), but he led the Gators in sacks with four and has the needed athleticism to be disruptive. Easley gave some thought to turning pro after last season.

OL Jon Halapio: Halapio is an outstanding drive blocker with great physical strength who has a chance to establish himself as one of the top guards in the 2014 class. Halapio (6-3, 315) has made 33 career starts and graded better than 90 percent last year against three of UF's toughest opponents: FSU, LSU and Texas A&M.

OL Jonotthan Harrison: A 13-game starter at center for UF last season, Harrison (6-3, 300) is versatile and athletic, having also seen action at guard in his career. He's also tough enough to play with some pain. Playing on the road can be tough on a center due to crowd noise, and Harrison played three of his best games -- Vanderbilt, Florida State and Texas A&M -- away from home last year.

DB Jaylen Watkins: Having made steady improvement over three seasons, Watkins looks to make the NFL notice him as a senior cornerback. At 6-0, 180, he doesn't have the size NFL teams prefer, but his coverage skills are better than he is credited for. Made three interceptions with eight pass breakups last season.

Top underclassmen

P Kyle Christy: Mark Christy down as a 2015 pick. Punters don't turn pro early, but this one has little else to prove. He was a Ray Guy Award finalist last year after averaging 45.8 yards per attempt, with a long of 62. Of his 66 punts, 49 were either fair caught, downed inside the 20, or both.

LB Dante Fowler: Fowler has enjoyed an excellent fall camp and figures to join Powell as a dangerous pass-rush duo for the Gators. The 6-3, 260-pounder made 30 tackles as a freshman last year with 2.5 sacks, and has all the physical tools to play at the next level.

LB Antonio Morrison: The Gators' most impressive freshman last year, Morrison made 34 tackles, with an unheard of solo-assist ratio of 27-7. Named to the SEC Coaches All-Freshman team, Morrison should be a centerpiece for the UF defense this fall, as long as he stays out of trouble. Though somewhat short at 6-1, he might be the most physical linebacker Florida has had since Brandon Spikes.

LB Ronald Powell: The 6-4, 235-pound rush linebacker comes off a knee injury that kept him out of action the entire 2012 season. If he hasn't lost a step in recovery, he could be an early-entry candidate for the 2014 NFL Draft. If he has, look for him to return for his senior year to prove himself physically. He led UF in sacks with six in 2011 as a sophomore. By all accounts, he has looked excellent in the preseason.

DB/WR Loucheiz Purifoy: For the time being, consider Purifoy as UF's most likely to turn pro early. The two-way athlete proved himself in the secondary last season, proved himself as a receiver in the spring, and is a special-teams ace to boot. If UF's pedestrian receiving corps doesn't make significant strides early this fall, Purifoy might spend the year on offense.

CB Marcus Roberson: The junior has more size (6-0, 195) than Watkins, and could be primed for a big season at cornerback. Roberson made only four starts last season but finished second on team in pass breakups with 12. Given a healthy and productive year, this could be his last season at UF.

Check out the top 10 all-time players from Florida.

Three must-see games of 2013

Sept. 7 at Miami (Fla.): The Gators' series with the Hurricanes comes and goes, and if the SEC ever moves to a nine-game schedule, it's likely gone for good. Enjoy it while it lasts.

Nov. 2 vs. Georgia (in Jacksonville, Fla.): Annual rivalry at a neutral site? What's not to like? Throw in SEC East title stakes, and it's not to be missed.

Nov. 30 vs. Florida State: The Gators knocked off the Seminoles on their own field a year ago -- FSU looks to return the favor in Gainesville.

Follow Chase Goodbread on Twitter @ChaseGoodbread.

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