2017 Florida Gators College Football Preview

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Head Coach: Jim McElwain
2016 Record: 9-4 (6-2 SEC)

Over 8 wins (-172); Under 8 wins (+140)
Odds to win SEC Championship Game: +850
Odds to win 2017 Title: +3900

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The Florida Gators stepped it up last season in finishing 9-4, but will nevertheless likely be headed a new direction at quarterback. Redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks emerged in the spring as the favorite to start, but he will still have to hold off junior Luke Del Rio and freshman Kyle Trask. Franks has a strong arm and can really move the ball down the field, but it may be that he is not quite as experienced as Del Rio. Keep a watch early on the QB position, because it will likely play a vital role in determining the fate of this year’s Gators team.

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In the backfield, RB Jordan Scarlett returns. He had 689 rushing yards a season ago, despite the Gators using a by-committee approach, by and large. Scarlett seemed even better in spring, so it could be that he becomes a featured back, at last. At WR, the Gators are fairly stacked, which really highlights the importance of the QB battle.

The Gators have junior Antonio Callaway, who was one of the best in the SEC last year. Tyrie Cleveland is also a strong receiver who can go up and get it. Dre Massey and Brandon Powell add some depth as slot receivers. TE DeAndre Gooslby and C’yontai Lewis are also both returning receivers in the mix.

The Gators have talent on the offensive end, but putting it all together has to be the team goal. Last season, Florida averaged just 23.9 points per game, ranking No. 107 in the nation. The pass was more effective than its ground game (215.8 yards per game), but still ranked a paltry No. 79. What enabled Florida to succeed, of course, was its stifling defense.

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And on defense, the DL has to find a way to replace Caleb Brantley, but the Gators are hardly short of options there. Taven Bryan and Khairi Clark both became trustworthy starting options during the spring, and the pair has plenty of experience with both entering their fourth season.

There is a strong bevy of pass-rushers too, with CeCe Jefferson, Jordan Sherit, Jabari Zuniga, Keivonnis Davis and Antonneous Clayton all in the mix. The biggest questions are at linebacker, but again, the Gators have some incoming talent there that could prove to be the answer. MLB David Reese was a Freshman All-American last season, and he will anchor the linebacking unit. Sophomore Vosean Joseph is also powerful and hits hard. Expect the Gators to go to more three-linebacker sets this season, too.

The secondary is a spot of concern for the Gators, in an otherwise rock solid defense. Cornerback lacks depth. Duke Dawson and Chauncey Gardner are the likely starters, but there is not much behind them at all. At Safety, Marcell Harris and Nick Washington both should prove experienced enough.

The secondary can be fine, but it will of course require a full bill of health for an entire season. That may be asking a bit much. Even so, the Gators are so deep at positions outside of CB, that it likely will not be some “major Achilles’ heel” for the team this year.

Eddy Piniero hit 21 of 25 FGA last season, and made 11 from 40-yards plus. Punter Johnny Townsend led the nation in punt yardage at 47.9 per attempt last season, and he returns as well. Callaway should be huge in returns, and he had two for TDs last year.

The defensive turnover has to be a concern considering that was Florida’s bread and butter last year. While the defense may accordingly take a step back, offensive improvement seems all but certain. Jim McElwain should ensure that.

So, in conclusion, keep an eye on the cornerback and quarterback positions as potential spots of weakness, but the Gators will again contend in the SEC while being nowhere near well-rounded or experienced enough to be in the running for a National Title. NCAA football oddsmakers expect a one-game regression to 8 wins this year, but it seems more likely that Florida hands in a repeat performance with a 9-win season and possible SEC title.

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Posted by on Aug 14 2017. Filed under College Football, Headlines. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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