#23 Florida Football 2016 Preview

Florida Gators
Overall Rank: #23
#6 SEC
The first season under head coach Jim McElwain in Gainesville was a successful one as Florida did win the SEC East title. However, with the way the offense struggled down the stretch without Will Grier at quarterback, it left Coach McElwain and the rest of the Gators wanting more heading into the 2016 season. If Florida can get even competent quarterback play this season, they could potentially surprise the experts and beat out Tennessee for another SEC East championship.
2015 Record: 10-4, 7-1
2015 Bowl: Citrus Bowl vs. Michigan (L 7-41)
Coach: Jim McElwain (10-4 at Florida, 32-20 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Doug Nussmeier
Defensive Coordinator: Geoff Collins
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Jordan Scarlett, RB, 181 yards
Passing: None
Receiving: Antonio Callaway, WR, 678 yards
Tackles: Jarrad Davis, LB, 98
Sacks: Four tied with 3.5
Interceptions: Jalen Tabor, CB, 4
Other Key Returnees: WR Brandon Powell, TE DeAndre Goolsby, S Marcus Maye, DE Bryan Cox, LB Cece Jefferson, DT Caleb Brantley, P Johnny Townsend
Key Losses: RB Kelvin Taylor, QB Treon Harris, QB Will Grier, WR Demarcus Robinson, TE Jake McGee, LB Antonio Morrison, S Keanu Neal, DL Jonathan Bullard, LB Brian Poole
The defense, led by linebacker Jarrad Davis and cornerback Jalen Tabor, is going to have to lead the way for Florida if they are going to make a run at winning ten plus games. Davis had 98 Tackles last season and is a tremendous leader that will allow the Gators to not miss a beat defensively despite the extensive losses to the NFL Draft last spring. Safety Marcus Maye is another all-American candidate in the secondary who will take some pressure off of Tabor and create all sorts of headaches for opposing offensive coordinators. The trio of Bryan Cox Jr, CeCe Jefferson and Caleb Brantley should be able to elevate their play enough by creating enough pressure on the quarterback to allow for secondary to create turnovers and set the offense up in short field situations. Offensively, Antonio Callaway is the most dangerous offensive weapon for Florida and, if Callaway can actually stay out of trouble and on in the field, he should put up some excellent numbers and surpass his 69 catch total from last season.
Quarterback has to get addressed and quickly in fall camp as Oregon State transfer Luke Del Rio along with Purdue graduate transfer Austin Appleby will battle it out for the starting spot. The winner of this battle will not have to do much to improve the passing game as the Gators threw for just 207.1 yards per game last season. The pass protection will have to improve as well as a very young inexperienced offensive last season surrendered 45 sacks. If that number can drop into the 25-30 range, that will be a great improvement. New kicker Eddy Pineiro is going to have to live up to his 77-yard field goal YouTube hype as Florida made just seven field goals last season.
The Bottom Line:
The Gators should be 3-0 heading into their annual battle against Tennessee in Knoxville on September 24th. It is going to be extremely important for Florida to take care of the football against the Vols and get the game to the fourth quarter with a chance to win. A trap game on the schedule is the following week at Vanderbilt as Derek Mason will have the Commodores well prepared defensively and are very capable of grinding the tempo of game down and keeping it close into the second half. LSU visits on October 8th and this game will be a swing game for this season because if Florida doesn’t win it, they will be staring down the barrel of another late season slide as the schedule gets tougher down the stretch with trips to Arkansas and Florida State. In the end, if the quarterback position stays somewhat settled all year long, then the Gators should be in position to win about nine games this season.
Projected Bowl: TaxSlayer Bowl
2015 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 126.9 (112th in nation, 13th in conference)
Passing Offense: 207.1 (87, 8)
Total Offense: 334.0 (111, 12)
Scoring Offense: 23.2 (100, 11)
Rushing Defense: 128.1 (25, 5)
Pass Defense: 182.1 (13, 4)
Total Defense: 310.2 (8, 4)
Scoring Defense: 18.3 (11, 4)
Turnover Margin: 0.57 (27, 3)
Sacks: 2.86 (15, 2)
Sacks Allowed: 3.29 (121, 14)
Madness 2017 NFL Draft Rankings:
#4 Jalen Tabor
#27 Jarred Davis
#47 Caleb Brantley
Madness 2016 Recruit Rankings:
#29 Antonneous Clayton
#52 Chauncey Gardner II
#59 Tyrie Cleveland
#66 Feleipe Franks
#182 Freddie Swain
#191 Josh Hammond