Head Coach: Jim McElwain
2014 record: 7-5 overall, 4-4 SEC East
2014 Postseason results: Beat East Carolina 28-20 in the Birmingham Bowl
2015 returning starters: 4 offense, 7 defense
Odds to win 2016 College Football Championship game: 85/1
Odds to win 2015 SEC Championship Game: 33/1
Odds to Win 2015 SEC East Division: 6/1
Regular season wins: over 7 -115 /under 7 -115
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After four seasons of mostly uninspired football, Florida fired coach Will Muschamp. The biggest problem was a lackluster offense at a school known for offense from such coaches as Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer. While Muschamp is now the defensive coordinator at Auburn. Florida hired Jim McElwain as the new head coach. McElwain revived the Colorado State program but before that he was the offensive coordinator at Alabama under Nick Saban.
Last year, Florida went 6-5 in the regular season with the only signature win being an upset over rival Georgia. Florida had the season opener against Idaho cancelled due to inclement weather. The Gators would beat East Carolina 28-20 in the Birmingham Bowl.
McElwain gets 11 starters back but just 4 on offense. He will have his work cut out for him in his first season.
Florida averaged 368 yards per game last year on offense, which was #96 nationally. The Gators averaged 188 rushing yards per game but only 180 passing yards. Florida was #106 in passing nationally out of 128 teams. The Gators averaged 30 points a game last year.
McElwain hired Doug Nussmeier as the new coordinator. He has been the coordinator at Washington, Alabama and Michigan in recent years. Only four starters are back on offense for the Gators.
Last season, Jeff Driskel and Treon Harris split time at quarterback. Driskel passed for 1,140 yards with 9 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, and rushed for 180 yards and 4 touchdowns. Driskel has transferred to Louisiana Tech and will be able to play immediately as a graduate transfer. Harris completed 49.4% of his passes for 1,019 yards with 9 touchdowns and 4 interceptions, and he also had 75 carries for 332 yards and 3 touchdowns. Harris will compete with redshirt freshman Will Grier for the starting job. Grier is more of a true pocket passer and fits better into McElwain’s system, but Harris is more of a dual threat quarterback.
Running back Matt Jones is now with the Washington Redskins after rushing for 817 yards on 166 carries with 6 touchdowns, plus 11 catches and a touchdown. Kelvin Taylor is back after he had 116 carries for 565 yards and 6 touchdowns. Incoming freshman Jordan Scarlett was a highly touted recruit and will get a lot of carries as well. Adam Lane had 24 carries for 181 yards and a touchdown. Harris will also get a lot of carries if he is named the quarterback.
Receiver Demarcus Robinson is back after making 53 catches for 810 yards and 7 touchdowns. Quinton Dunbar is also with the Redskins after making 21 catches for 353 yards and 2 touchdowns. Tight end Jake McGee sat out last season after transferring from Virginia, where he was a reliable target. Brandon Powell moved from running back to wide receiver but battled a nagging foot injury in the spring. If healthy he could be a dangerous weapon.
After spring practice, Florida had only six healthy scholarship offensive linemen. Center Trip Thurman is the only returning starter but he suffered a shoulder injury in spring practice. Freshman right tackle Martez Ivey was the #1 rated offensive lineman coming out of high school. Sophomore left tackle David Sharpe has shown potential to be a star.
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The Florida defense gave up 330 yards per game last year including 214 passing and 116 rushing yards. The Gators allowed 21 points per game. Florida was in the top 20 nationally in total and rush defense, as well as points allowed.
McElwain hired Geoff Colllins away from Mississippi State to be the new defensive coordinator. He held the same position with the Bulldogs. He gets seven starters back from a unit littered with NFL prospects.
Ends Jon Bullard and Bryan Cox, Jr return to anchor the line that otherwise doesn’t have much experience. Bullard is a top flight NFL prospect. Redshirt freshman tackles Khairi Clark and Taven Bryan were very impressive in spring practice.
Linebackers Antonio Morrison and Jarrad Davis are recovering from knee injuries but should be ready by the regular season.
The secondary could be among the best in the SEC which is saying a lot. Four players are back who have starting experience. Cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III is a two time All-SEC selection. Safeties Keanu Neal, Marcus Maye, and Brian Poole are also back in 2015.
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Kicker Austin Hardin needs to improve on accuracy after making just half of his field goals over the last two seasons. Punter Johnny Townsend was All-Freshman SEC in 2013. Robinson will return kicks and Hargreaves will return punts.
September includes home games against New Mexico State, East Carolina and Tennessee, and a road game at Kentucky. The game against East Carolina is a rematch of the bowl game last year. October is much more difficult though with a home game against Ole Miss, road games at LSU and Missouri, and Georgia in Jacksonville. November includes home games against Vanderbilt, Florida Atlantic and rival Florida State, plus a road game at South Carolina.
The offense has a lot of questions but should show improvement under McElwain and Nussmeier. The defense should be as dominant if not more so than last year. The Gators could lose all four October games plus the Florida State game. I think it adds up to a 7-5 record and a berth in a mid-tier bowl.
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