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2017 Fierce 40 Previews: #20 Florida

by DJ Boyer on Aug. 9, 2017

#20 Florida Gators

2016 Recap:
It's always tough sledding in the SEC but Florida won the SEC East and reached the SEC title game before getting blown out by Alabama 54-16. Florida finished with a 9-4 record going 2-4 against ranked opponents and 7-0 against unranked ones. The season culminated with a 30-3 blowout over Iowa in the Outback Bowl.


Coaching:
Jim McElwain sports a 19-8 mark after two seasons since coming over from Colorado State.  The offense is still nowhere near where it needs to be to be a powerhouse but strong defense and timely playmaking keeps Florida overachieving and winning their half of the SEC.

 

Offense

Florida and the offensive woes they have experienced are usually traced back to the quarterback position. Quarterback used to be a position of strength for the gators but since the days of Tim Tebow it has been one of weakness. Feleipe Franks looks like he will be the starter as an incoming freshman. Antonio Calloway provides the young quarterback with a reliable target but Florida needs second and reliable third options to emerge to avoid Calloway being double teamed. Expect more from tight end DeAndre Goolsby and receiver Brandon Powell in order to lighten the load for Calloway and leave him open for more big play opportunities. The offensive line remains a strength and with Montez Ivey and the Gators have a number of players who can play multiple positions up front.
 

Best Draft Prospects: DeAndre Goolsby TE/FB 3rd Round 2018.

                                       Martez Ivey OT 2nd Round 2018 (Early Declaration Candidate).


Defense

We are talking about a unit that ranked fifth nationally a season ago and was sixth in scoring defense at 16.8 PPG. Florida has a taleneted defense returning because they are always so deep. You would think there would be uncertainty since only a pair of starters return but Florida has always done an exceptional job at rotating players in and out of the lineup that inexperience is not something to worry about. Yound ends Jabari Zuniga and Cece Jefferson both have double digit sack potential and getting to the quarterback will be key as the secondary could be the weakest point of the defense this season. Chauncey Gardner exudes big play ability but he will start the season at corner after moving from safety a season ago. The starting linebackers are all sophomores in Kylan Johnson, Vosean Joseph and David Reese and as usual speed is the key component for the unit.

Best Draft Prospects: Chauncey Gardner CB/S 2nd Round 2020..             

                                       Jabari Zuniga DE/OLB 3rd Round 2020.


Special Teams:

When the offense has struggled and you rely on your defense you need to tip the cards in your favor with strong special teams play. Nobody has a better all around special teams unit in the SEC than Florida and it could be responsible for a win or two by itself this season. The Gators will have to replace Teez Tabor and his return ability on kickoffs but Antonio Callaway takes care of the punts and he is among the conference and nations elite. The kickoff return duties could be handled by committee but kicker Eddy Pineiro and punter Johnny Townsend could both have futures in the NFL.


Schedule:

Florida has been guilty of scheduling some cream puff out of conference games in the past but this year they get Michigan to open the season at the neutral field in Arlington. Tennessee week 3 opens SEC play at home and the Volunteers took it to Florida last season after being on the cusp of beating them the previous three seasons. LSU and Florida State come at home and four of the first five conference games are at home so the schedule is actually one of the more favoprable SEC tilts.


Draft and Overall Outlook:

Florida continues to have its share of NFL talent and they are always among top schools for players declaring early for the draft so the Gators rely a lot on underclassmen to get the most out of their star athletes. The Gators should once again be poised to at least win the East or at the very least contend.

 

DJ Boyer