The Florida State Gators check in at No. 15 in the preseason college football rankings. Here are five things that matter heading into Florida’s 2016 season.
Will Muschamp hasn’t left the building
The 2016 Florida Gators are a quintessential Muschamp-esque team, with a pounding ground game, great-looking defense, improved special teams, and – potentially – a steady game-manager of a quarterback. Actual Florida head coach Jim McElwain might like more of a high-flying team, but that’s not what he has.
However, there are more than enough pieces in place to get tough on both sides of the ball. Another SEC East championship season could be in the works if Florida creates the right breaks like it did over the first half of last year.
Which offense will show up?
The season didn’t go into the tank once former-quarterback Will Grier was suspended, but the offense definitely went bye-bye. This year, there’s power in the offensive backfield helped by the addition of JUCO transfer Mark Thompson, and the receiving corps should be fine as long as Antonio Callaway is back in everyone’s good graces, but it’s all going to come down to Luke Del Rio. If he can hit a third down throw, the offense will be serviceable. After the way last year ended, the Gators will take that.
Can the defense be better with a little more support?
Considering the Gators’ offense did absolutely nothing last season, the defense finishing eighth in the nation in total defense was a minor miracle. This year the offense should be able to do a little more to help give the defense a rest, and that’s all it’ll need.
The secondary will be outstanding despite the loss of Vernon Hargreaves III and Keanu Neal, and the front seven has instantly reloaded. It might not always be pretty, but great defenses win lots of games in the SEC.
Really? The Gators have a kicker?
Florida kickers connected on a grand total of seven of 17 field goal chances last year. Enter Eddy Pineiro, a JUCO star who has a big enough leg to bomb away from 50+ yards. As long as he’s steady Eddy, with this team’s style of play, he’ll win a few games with a key kick.
What’s going to happen?
The Gators might be a wee bit better, but so is the rest of the SEC East. The defense will be fantastic and the offense will be ultra-efficient at times, but losses to Tennessee and Georgia will kill any chance of repeating as division champs. There will be promise this year that will lead to a big 2017, but for fans looking for more fun ‘n’ gun, that’s not happening.