Will Muschamp's first year at the helm of the Florida Gators had a lot of ups and downs. The Florida Gators ended last season on a high beating Ohio State in the Gator Bowl but were pounded by LSU, Alabama, and FSU. Will Muschamp will need new offensive coordinator Brent Pease to improve a unit that was shaky at best. This squad has a lot of talent coming back on the defensive side of the ball and could have the best unit in the nation if they reach their full potential. The offense will need some work and if they can at least improve on one of the worst in the nation, they'll be right in the thick of the SEC race and BCS Title race.
The Florida offense returns 7 starters on a unit that finished ranked 105th in total offense, 73rd in rushing offense, and 89th in passing offense. John Brantley has graduated from Florida and a quarterback battle between Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett will go into fall camp. Neither one had impressive numbers in their playing time with Driskel throwing for 148 yards on 16 of 34 with 2 interceptions and 0 touchdowns while Brissett threw for 206 yards yards on 18 of 39 passing with 4 interceptions and 2 touchdowns. Both quarterbacks failed miserably to move the ball against Florida State in an embarrassing 21-7 loss that saw the Gators only have 95 yards of total offense. Coach Muschamp has remained mum about who has the edge heading into the fall so be prepared to see both get equal playing time against Bowling Green. Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey are gone from the Gators with Mike Gillislee coming back as the team's leading rusher. Gillislee rushed for 328 yards and 2 touchdowns last year on only 56 carries for an average of 5.9 yards a carry. He will be used heavily by Pease as they try to implement a more pro-style running game. Wide Receivers Quinton Dunbar and Andre Debose return at starter along with tight end Jordan Reed. Debose had 16 receptions for 432 yards and 4 touchdowns while Dunbar had 14 receptions for 216 yards and 2 touchdowns. Reed had 28 catches for 307 yards and 2 touchdowns. Frankie Hammond will probably be the third option wide receiver for the Gators and had 15 catches for 121 yards last year. The offensive line returns four of five starters with center Jonotthan Harrison, right guard Jon Halapio, right tackle Matt Patchan, and left tackle Xavier Nixon. James Wilson looks to step into the left guard position on a unit that will be the second best in the SEC. This offense was the achilles heel for the Gators last year and will need vast improvements if they want to compete in the SEC. Several games were lost last year because of this offense and they will try too amend that this year.
The Florida defense will return 10 starters this year on a unit that ranked 8th in total defense, 40th in rushing defense, and 7th in passing defense. This unit will cause a lot of chaos in the SEC and could end up being the best in the nation. The defensive line returns defensive ends Shariff Floyd and Ronald Powell. Floyd had 46 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, and 1.5 sacks last year while Powell had 32 tackles, 9 tackles for loss, and led the team with 6 sacks. Dominique Easley returns at starter as an interior lineman and Omar Hunter look to fill in at the nose position. Hunter had 31 tackles last year, 2.5 tackles for loss and 1 sack while Easley had 37 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. The linebacking corps returns all three starters and will be a force to be reckoned with. Lerentee McCray returns at the Sam with Jonathan Bostic at the Mike and Jelani Jenkins at the Will. Bostic led the team in tackles last year with 94 and also had 10 tackles for loss and 3 sacks. McCray had 24 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks while Jenkins had 75 tackles, 6 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, and 1 interception returned 75 yards for a touchdown. The secondary returns all four starters with corners Marcus Roberson and Jaylen Watkins and safeties Matt Elam and Josh Evans. Roberson had 22 tackles, 0.5 tackles for loss, and 1 interception while Watkins had 34 tackles and 1 tackle for loss. Elam had 78 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, and 2 interceptions while Evans had 51 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, 1 sack, and 1 interception. This defense is poised to improve against the run and can be one of the best in the nation.
Florida's scheudle is quite manageable. They open the season with Bowling Green at home before making back to back road trips against Texas A&M and Tennessee. Kentucky comes home before the bye week which is followed by hosting LSU. The Gators then go to Vanderbilt before coming back home to host South Carolina. October 27th sees the annual trip to Jacksonville to play Georgia and then the Gators come home to host Missouri. Back to back creampuffs are on the schedule as the Gators host Louisiana-Lafayette and Jacksonville State before heading up to Tallahassee for the showdown with FSU. I really think that the Gators will improve this year but their record will not show it. I think the Gators go 7-5 this year with a 4-4 conference record. I see the Gators losing to Texas A&M, LSU, South Carolina, Georgia, and FSU. I think the offense will be much improved this year but that Texas A&M game will trip them up early. If the Gator defense can hold their opponents to the high teens and this offense is able to score more than the 25.5 points they scored last year, they will be able to be way better than 7-5. This team has a very big upside and it will be up to Muschamp to turn things around quickly or that seat will grow much, much warmer.