Florida football preview for 2016, including keys to success for the Gators, best players and season prediction.
What You Need To Know About The Florida Offense
The offense worked just well enough when it absolutely had to over the first part of the season, and then Will Grier got nailed for PEDs, and nothing seemed to work right. This year, the coaching staff is turning to a few transfers with Oregon State’s Luke Del Rio likely handling the work, with Purdue’s Austin Appleby pushing for the job.
The running game will carry the way as much as possible with JUCO transfer Mark Thompson a thumper working behind a good-looking line that should be able to power away.
Florida needs the passing attack to produce, though, to have any chance to win the East again. It’ll be up to a few young prospects – and for Del Rio to be terrific – to go along with Antonio Callaway and a dangerous group.
Biggest Key To The Florida Offense
The quarterback play has to be anything but totally awful. It’s not like Will Grier was Aaron Rodgers, but he played the part when he had to over the first half of last season before getting suspended on the way to the end of his Gator career.
The offense went nowhere over the second half of the season with Treon Harris unable to do much of anything through the air – Florida failed to hit more than 50% of its passes in six of the final seven games. The new quarterback options don’t have to bomb away, but they need to move the chains and keep defenses from loading up against the run.
What You Need To Know About The Florida Defense
Eighth in the nation in total defense last season, despite the lack of any sort of support from the offense at times, the Gator D did what it could to keep the team alive. This year’s group should be just as good, if not better.
The talent is there on the front seven after losing DE Jonathan Bullard and LB Antonio Morrison, but can the pass rush be there on a consistent basis? Absolutely, with the pressure coming from several different spots – seven different Gators came up with three sacks.
The secondary that lost Vernon Hargreaves III and Keanu Neal to the first round of the NFL should be almost close to as strong with CB Jalen Tabor and SS Marcus Maye two All-America-caliber talents to work around.
Biggest Key To The Florida Defense
The pass rush has to keep rolling from several spots. The Gators didn’t lose four games because they didn’t get to the quarterback, but the lack of a pass rush late in the season didn’t help.
They averaged 3.6 sacks per game in the ten wins, and one sack in the four losses, failing to generate one against Michigan in the bowl thumping and against LSU – the only two games they didn’t.
Alex McCalister and Jonathan Bullard tied for the team lead with 6.5 sacks, and they’re both gone, but Cece Jefferson and Bryan Cox Jr. are just a few of the returning options to come up with the pressure.
Florida Will Be Far Better If …
The offense scores when it gets its shot. And that’s why Eddy Pineiro becomes one of the SEC’s key new players.
The star JUCO kicker has a big, thumping leg, but the Gators need him to hit the easy ones along with the bombs after last year’s kickers combined to hit just 7-of-17 field goals.
The placekicking was awful, the offense had to take a few extra chances, and the result were terrible when the opportunities were there in the red zone, and the Gators scored on just 8-of-20 trips over the last seven games.
Best Florida Offensive Player
WR Antonio Callaway, Soph. – Soon enough all the suspension drama will be over and he’ll be the dangerous all-around superstar who can change games all by himself. The team’s leading receiver as a freshman, he’s a terrific return man, a good enough runner to get a few carries, and has the talent to make defenses worry. But he has to get out of the doghouse to make it all happen.
Best Florida Defensive Player
CB Jalen Tabor, Jr. – Vernon Hargreaves III was the marquee name in the Florida secondary, and Keanu Neal got taken in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft, too, but Tabor was every bit as good last season. A likely top ten pick in next year’s draft, he’s a shutdown weapon taking two of his four picks for touchdowns while making 40 tackles. Now he has to get used to teams staying away from him.
Key Player To A Successful Season
QB Luke Del Rio, Soph. – With the woeful kicking issues apparently settled with the addition of Eddy Pineiro, the other issue – the quarterback play – gets all the attention. Del Rio didn’t lock up the gig this spring over Austin Appleby and freshman Feleipe Franks, but it’s his job to lose.
After starting out his career as a walk-on at Alabama, and moving on to Oregon State, the son of Oakland Raider Jack Del Rio is a heady, accurate passer with pro-style skills. All Florida needs is a guy who can hit the third down throws and not make a slew of big mistakes – Del Rio can do that.
The Florida Season Will Be A Success If …
It ends with another SEC East title. The offense still isn’t going to be good enough, but it’ll be better than it was at the end of last season. The defense will be fantastic again, and the kicking game will be night-and-day improved. So why not win the division again?
Going to Tennessee and Arkansas won’t be easy, and Georgia and LSU are probably better than the Gators, but in there isn’t a game on the slate they can’t win.
Sept. 24 at Tennessee – The pressure is 100% completely and totally on the Vols. This is the moment when they’re supposed to finally show that they’re ready to be as good as the hype and the talent level, and Florida will almost certainly come into Knoxville a solid underdog. The Gators needed five fourth down conversions – and Will Grier – to win last year, but if they can pull out this season’s battle, all of a sudden they’ll be back on track to take the division.
2015 Florida Fun Stats
– First Quarter Scoring: Florida 91 – Opponents 29
– Fourth Down Conversions: Opponents 12-of-20 (60%) – Florida 14-of-27 (52%)
– Penalties: Florida 91 for 737 yards – Opponents 70 for 506 yards
2016 Florida Season Prediction
What’s going to happen to Florida this season? Check out what the final record is going to be …