Florida Gators Preview 2022: Previewing, predicting, and looking ahead to the Florida season with what you need to know and keys to the season.
Florida Gators Preview
Head Coach: Billy Napier, 1st year at Florida
5th year overall, 40-12, 2021 Preview
2021 Record: Overall: 6-7, Conference: 2-6
Keys To The Season | Season Prediction, What Will Happen
Florida Top 10 Players | Florida Schedule & Analysis
Florida Gators Preview 2022
And that’s how these things work in the SEC.
2020 Florida pushed an epic Alabama national championship team to the wall in the SEC Championship, lost all the star parts before a bowl blowout to Oklahoma, came back in 2021 and was good enough to be within a bad two-point conversion play call of taking Bama to overtime – after, by the way, having to completely overhaul the offense with different skill parts – lost two tight road games to Kentucky and LSU that could’ve gone either way, and then had a bad month when things didn’t work quite right.
Dan Mullen, gone. It was just that quick.
You can probably come up with about four plays that had they gone the other way, the coaching staff would’ve still been around, but now Florida is at the forefront of one of the more interesting test cases among the major college programs.
While Dabo and Nick can’t yell at enough clouds or shake fists harder about how the college football world is changing, here comes the young guy who gets exactly what’s happening and appears to understand better than just about anyone that you need to adapt or die.
Billy Napier will be 43 by the time the season starts. He probably should’ve been the Arizona State head coach in 2018 after serving as the offensive coordinator – I should at least get a basket of mini-muffins from Napier’s agent for spending years touting him for every big gig – but he needed that one “prove it” type of head coaching stint to prove he was ready.
All he did was go 40-12 in four years at Louisiana with two Sun Belt championships, two top 16 finishes, three double-digit win seasons, and four division titles.
Now Napier and his high-powered offense comes to Gainesville, but it’s more than that. From the very start he embraced the transfer portal, NIL, and all the key changes and aspects to the modern college football landscape that’s going to be a must to succeed going forward.
He’s not going to necessarily be a CEO as opposed to your normal college football head coaching dictator, but this will be the look and feel of how things are going to be going forward.
There’s a Director of Recruiting Innovation. There’s a GameChanger Coordinator, a Director of Research and Evaluation, a Director of Player Engagement and NIL, and on and on and on.
Of course, all the big programs have that to some extent, but Napier has delineated it all a bit better.
Now he just has to make sure he doesn’t have a midseason three-game losing streak … ever.
Florida Gators Preview 2022: Offense
It’s not like the offense was bad. Give the former coaching staff credit for doing what it could to pivot from Kyle Trask and a high-powered passing game that statistically rivaled the epic Joe Burrow-led LSU attack of 2019 to a different look and feel with a whole slew of new parts.
The Gators finished 15th in the nation in total offense, but all those yards didn’t lead to enough points with too many major power outages, That’s about to change.
Billy Napier knows how to get a ground game moving, and so does his right hand man offensive coordinator Ron Sale. It helps that Sale knows offensive lines, and he worked hand-in-hand with Napier to create the Ragin’ Cajun juggernaut attack over the last few seasons.
It was one of the biggest keys in spring ball – the coaching staff seems to be comfortable with the front five. A few transfers from Louisiana will help and already good situation. The production should be better with the returning experience and a slightly more focused attack.
Louisiana transfer RB Montrell Johnson should be big right away, but there’s going to be a good rotation of options ready to bust out. The top three rushers from last year are gone, but the combination of Nay’Quan Wright, Lorenzo Lingered, and Demarkcus Bowman will get plenty of work.
It all starts at quarterback. The last coaching staff flip-flopped a bit too much, but now Emory Jones is at Arizona State and the O will be all about Anthony Richardson, a 6-4, 237-pound pro prospect who should be in for a massive statistical season.
Leading receiver Jacob Copeland is now at Maryland, but Justin Shorter leads a good group that should grow into the job. Landing Arizona State receiver Ricky Pearsall makes a good situation even better. This might not be 2020 in terms of high-powered passing flash, but it’ll be more settled.
Florida Gators Preview 2022: Defense
The defense needs more tweaking than the offense. The Gators were tenth in the SEC in scoring defense, 51st in the nation overall, and had major issues against the run in way too many big games.
There needs to be more pressure, more of a pass rush, and a whole lot more takeaways and big plays. It’s not going to require a total overhaul, but …
The defensive line might take a little bit. Brenton Cox at one end is a given as the team’s top pass rusher, and parts of last year’s interior should be close to set with Jalen Lee likely on the nose and Gervon Dexter a sure starter next to him. After that, it’s going to be a rotation of very good, very young players.
Leading tackling linebacker Mohamoud Diabate is off to Utah, and a few other parts of last year’s corps are gone, too. However, Ventrell Miller is back after suffering a torn biceps early on last year – he led the team in tackles in 2020 – as the leader and main man, and fourth-leading tackler Amari Burney is a good veteran who has to do more in the backfield.
The secondary has the talent held over from a slew of strong classes, but it still might take the rest of the offseason to get this group set, at least at corner.
The team’s leading tackler – Trey Dean – is back at safety after making 91 stops, and third-leading tackler Rashad Torrence is back after coming up with 87 tackles and coming up with a team-leading three picks.
Now everyone has to force more takeaways.