Sep 21, 2013; Gainesville, FL, USA; Florida Gators quarterback Jeff Driskel (6) works out prior to the game against the Tennessee Volunteers at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
The Florida Gators sure hope 2014 will be better than their dismal 2013 campaign.
The Gators went a disappointing 4-8 last season, their first losing season since 1979.
They were hit by multiple injuries, including losing starting quarterback Jeff Driskel in week 3, and struggled all year long.
Florida has lost a number of key players on defense as Marcus Roberson, Loucheiz Purifoy, Dominique Easley turned pro. On offense Solomon Patton and Trey Burton won’t be returning. However, the Gators are poised to have a good season nonetheless.
BP: Florida’s defense. If you take a look at the Gators on defense under Will Muschamp it’s astounding that they have such a mediocre record. They’ve been a top 12 defense in all three years he’s been at the helm. There’s some depth issues in the front seven and some inexperience in the secondary, but both are incredibly talented. I don’t think there will be much of a drop off if any.
Also, the return of Andre Debose for his sixth year of eligibility is big for the return game. He owns the UF-record and is tied for the SEC lead for kickoff returns in a career. Having him returning kicks should greatly help take the pressure off of the offense and even help the Gators score some points.
BP: The main weakness is still the offense. It will be a work in progress as they work out the kinks in Kurt Roper’s offense. The system better suits a lot of the skill players at Florida, so by the end of the season, this could be one of the strengths.
Depth is also an issue. There aren’t many upperclassmen on this team for one reason or another so behind the 22 starters, there is a lot of inexperience. They are extremely talented however. Look for the freshman to get a lot of playing time to season them for tougher games down the line.
Three Players to Watch
Jeff Driskel – This offense fits Driskel so much better than Brent Pease’s and it will show in the statistics. He’s also gone 12-3 in games he’s started, so he’s a winner. I like him as a darkhorse Heisman candidate. He’s been spectacular in practice so far. He hasn’t thrown an interception.
Kelvin Taylor – The son of Fred Taylor has a lot of compliments to his style in the backfield, but look for him to break out this season. We saw him start to take the reigns towards the end of last season, but he certainly could be in contention for some major hardware at the end of the season.
Demarcus Robinson – Robinson is a physical freak with prototypical size and speed, incredible athleticism and moves that shake defensive backs out of their cleats. He’s been a big time performer in practices and look for it to translate to games this season.
Notice there aren’t any defensive players on the list. We know what we’re getting from them.
Oct 12, 2013; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; Florida Gators defensive back Vernon Hargreaves III (1) against the LSU Tigers during the second half of a game at Tiger Stadium. LSU defeated Florida 17-6. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Dante Fowler and Vernon Hargreaves will have All-American seasons. Hargreaves is only a sophomore, but he might just be the best player on the team.
Three Can’t Miss Games
Sept. 20 @ Alabama – This will be Florida’s first test of the season and a harbinger of things to come for the Gators. If the game is close, look for Florida to possibly win 10 games. If it’s a blowout, it could be a long year for Muschamp and the Gators.
Nov. 1 vs. Georgia – Muschamp NEEDS to win this game. If Florida goes 7-5 or 8-4 with a win versus Georgia, then he’ll likely keep his job. If he goes 8-4 or 9-3 without that coveted win against the Bulldogs, he could be fired. I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but just a reminder that Muschamp is 0-3 against his alma mater.
Nov. 15 vs. South Carolina – Florida’s old Head Ball Coach comes back to The Swamp with his most talented team since he went to South Carolina. This winner of this game could be the representative for the East division in the SEC Championship.
BP: I really like this team. A lot of last years struggles were due to injuries at key (read: nearly all) positions. The offensive line play was atrocious. The offense was stagnant. That will all change this year with Roper leading the offense. He has more talent than he ever had at Duke and he knows what to do with it. That being said, I think the Gators win either 8 or 9 games with a shot at the SEC Championship. It’s a tough schedule. A Capital One Bowl or TaxSlayer (Gator) Bowl are possible bowl destinations.