#41 Florida Football 2015 Preview

Florida Gators

Overall Rank: #41
#12 SEC

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The Jim McElwain era begins at Florida and the new staff will try to inject some life into a stagnant program. The Gators managed to win seven games last year, including a victory over East Carolina in the Birmingham Bowl, but obviously that is not nearly enough for the Gators. Perhaps the best news from last season was that Florida was able to hang around in most of their contests. They only lost to LSU and South Carolina by three and to Florida State by five. The defense should keep Florida in most games again this year. Now the offense just needs to get them over the hump.

2014 Record: 7-5, 4-4
2014 Bowl: Birmingham Bowl vs. East Carolina (W 28-20)
Coach: Jim McElwain (0-0 at Florida, 22-16 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Doug Nussmeier
Defensive Coordinator: Geoff Collins, Randy Shannon

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Kevin Taylor, RB, 565 yards
Passing: Treon Harris, QB, 1,019 yards
Receiving: Demarcus Robinson, WR, 810 yards
Tackles: Antonio Morrison, LB, 101
Sacks: Alex McCallister, DE, 6.0
Interceptions: Brian Poole, CB, 4

Other Key Returnees: WR Latroy Pittman, S Marcus Maye, DT Jonathan Bullard, CB Vernon Hargreaves

Key Losses: RB Matt Jones, WR Quinton Dunbar, OL Max Garcia, OL D.J. Humphries, LB Michael Taylor, DE Dante Fowler, P Kyle Christy, KR Andre Debose

Coach McElwain still needs to build depth on the defensive side of the ball, but he does have some very talented playmakers to build around. The secondary is loaded with talent and cornerback is one place where there is depth. Vernon Hargreaves is one of the best corners in the nation and Brian Poole, Quincy Wilson and Jalen Tabor will not make it easy for the opposition to think about throwing to the other side. Safeties Keanu Neal and Marcus Maye were both regular starters a year ago as well and should be more consistent as upperclassmen. Linebacker Antonio Morrison, who tallied 101 tackles, is the only significant returnee in the middle of the field. Juniors Alex Anzalone, Jarrad Davis and Daniel McMillian will need to step up on the outside. The front four will struggle to replace Dante Fowler, but Alex McCallister and Bryan Cox combined for 10.0 sacks in 2014 and that is a great place to start.

The Gators offense has been painful to watch for a while now. The new scheme favors a pocket passing quarterback who can make quick, easy passes with enough arm strength to go deep on occasion. That could give the edge to redshirt freshman Will Grier to replace departed starter Jeff Driskel. However, Treon Harris has more experience. The sophomore played in nine games as Driskel’s backup, throwing for 1,019 yards and nine touchdowns. He had some good outings and good moments, but Coach McElwain may opt for the pro style quarterback in Grier if he is indeed ready to start. Wide receiver Demarcus Robinson caught 53 passes for 810 yards and seven touchdowns and should be the go-to-receiver once again, yet the depth and options behind him are extremely inexperienced. Running back Kelvin Taylor could be in for a breakout season after rushing for 565 yards as a sophomore. Freshman Jordan Scarlett should get his chances too. However, the offensive line is a major area for concern. Injuries have already hampered a unit that has very little depth and very little experience. That could put an end to the offensive hopes in a hurry.  

The Bottom Line:
The Gators still have a long way to go, but they did make a good hire with Coach McElwain. In time, Florida will start winning again. For now, this is still a team that should win seven or eight games and reach a slightly better bowl than they did last year. That would be a step in the right direction, but there are still lots of steps to go before Florida fans will be happy.

Projected Bowl: Independence Bowl

2014 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 187.7 (41st in nation, 7th in conference)
Passing Offense: 179.9 (104, 12)
Total Offense: 367.6 (93, 12)
Scoring Offense: 30.3 (53, 8)
Rushing Defense: 116.2 (13, 3)
Pass Defense: 213.6 (41, 7)
Total Defense: 329.8 (15, 5)
Scoring Defense: 21.1 (20, 7)
Turnover Margin: 0.50 (30, 7)
Sacks: 2.50 (37, 5)
Sacks Allowed: 1.42 (23, 5)

Madness 2016 NFL Draft Rankings:
#5 Vernon Hargreaves

Madness 2015 Recruit Rankings:
#3 Martez Ivey
#7 CeCe Jefferson
#142 Jordan Scarlett


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