The departure of Urban Meyer left the historic Florida program in a bit of a funk that they could rarely get out of, especially on the offensive side of the ball. After going 52-36 from 2011-2017, the Gators brought in Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen last year. Now, I think that most programs would probably be happy with that mark, but for a national brand like Florida, it was definitely disappointing.
Year one under Mullen was up-and-down, but the Gators drastically improved on offense and won ten games for just the second time since Meyer’s departure. The question is, can Mullen keep it up?
Feleipe Franks was a guy that took a lot of flack under Jim McElwain, but they don’t call Dan Mullen the quarterback whisperer for no reason. Mullen transformed Franks into a great dual-quarterback by the end of the year, and the good news is that Mullen has him for two more seasons to continue to build on that success.
Lamical Perine (6.2 yards per carry!) returns at the runningback spot along with backup Dameon Pierce (6.1) and sophomore Malik Davis, who was out for the year with an injury in 2018 after averaging 6.7 yards a carry as a freshman in 2017. The receiving corps returns the top seven pass-catcher from last year’s team, and while no one guy really stood out in 2018, as a receiving by committee group they were excellent.
Just one starter returns on the line, which is my biggest concern, but they do bring back guard Brett Heggie, who started in 2017 before dealing with injuries, and add in Texas transfer Jean Delance. The line is the key, but the talent in the skill corps is undeniable and I see this being an improved offense again.
When Mullen came to Gainesville, he brought with him one of the most well-spoken of coordinators in the country, Todd Grantham, who previously coached defenses at Louisville and Georgia. The Gators took a step forward on defense last year in just his first season, but with eight starters back, they now could be one of the best in the country.
The line gets their top three back including all-conference end Jabari Zuniga (6.5 sacks, 4.5 TFL) and the Gators also return one of the most talented secondaries in the country, led by corner CJ Henderson (5 TFL, seven PBUs, two INTs). My one issue is the linebacking corps, where they lose three draft picks between Vosean Joseph, Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, and Jachai Polite. MLB David Reese II does return and they add in an interesting name in Jonathan Greenard at the buck pass-rushing spot, who was out for the year with an injury in 2018. Even if the day one starters work out in the LB corps, the two-deep is chock full of highly-touted recruits, and I’ll call for this defense to be one of the best in the nation.
Florida has underdelivered on expectations for so long now that I actually think the Gators are underrated this year. Playing in the brutal SEC, their record might not accurately reflect how good they are, but this is a legitimately great team capable of a darkhorse national title run. The schedule, with games away from home against Miami, LSU, and Georgia, is tough, but beat Georgia on November 2nd and the Gators will likely be playing in the SEC title game.
|Date||Opponent||OPp. rank||Proj. Margin|
|24-Aug||vs. miami (orlando, fl)||18||5.6|
|19-oct||at south carolina||21||3.6|
|2-Nov||vs. georgia (JACKSONVILLE, fL)||2||-12.3|
Average Projected Record: 8.3 wins, 3.7 losses (4.8 wins, 3.2 losses)