#17 Florida Football 2017 Preview


Florida Gators


Overall Rank: #17

#5 SEC

After two years of Coach Jim McElwain leading the program, Florida has two SEC East titles under their belt. The Gators have lost the SEC championship game against Alabama twice, but getting there is the accomplishment. And last year Florida followed up the loss to the Tide with a 30-3 win over Iowa in the Outback Bowl. There will be a lot of new faces, but the Gators hope to ride that momentum into another East title.
2016 Record: 9-4, 6-2
2016 Bowl: Outback Bowl vs. Iowa (W 30-3)
Coach: Jim McElwain (19-8 at Florida, 41-24 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Doug Nussmeier
Defensive Coordinator: Randy Shannon
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Jordan Scarlett, RB, 889 yards
Passing: Luke Del Rio, QB, 1,358 yards
Receiving: Antonio Callaway, WR, 721 yards
Tackles: Marcell Harris, S, 73
Sacks: Jabari Zuniga, DE, 5.0
Interceptions: Chauncey Gardner, CB, 3
Other Key Returnees: RB Lamical Perine, WR Brando Powell, WR Tyrie Cleveland, TE DeAndre Gollsby, OL Martez Ivey, LB David Reese, S Nick Washington, P Johnny Townsend
Key Losses: QB Austin Appleby, LB Jarrad Davis, LB Alex Anzalone, CB Jalen Tabor, CB Quincy Wilson, S Marcus Maye
Luke Del Rio returns from a shoulder injury after throwing for 1,358 yards and eight touchdowns last season. However, it was redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks who emerged as the leading candidate out of the offseason. Franks has a big arm, but will need to hold off Del Rio, freshman Kyle Trask and Notre Dame graduate transfer Malik Zaire. The passing game has potential with Antonio Callaway garnering so much attention from opposing defenses. He caught 54 passes for 721 yards and three touchdowns in 2016. Whoever is at quarterback will need to take advantage of defenses focusing on Callaway and hit Tyrie Cleveland deep on a regular basis. Having time to do that will depend on the development of an offensive line that struggled last season. However, with four starters back, there is hope for dramatic improvement. The developing line would also help running back Jordan Scarlett. The junior emerged as the most productive and dangerous rusher in 2016 and tallied 889 yards and six touchdowns. He should get more carries this year and push for a 1,000 yard season.
It has been Florida’s defense that has led them to the SEC championship game the last two years. But with just three starters returning, there are some serious questions. There is also a new defensive coordinator, but picking up Randy Shannon to lead the unit should keep the Gators defense among the best in the SEC. Cece Jefferson and Jabari Zuniga are capable pass rushers, but there are concerns in the middle of the line. David Reese, Kylan Johnson, Jeremiah Moon and Vosean Joseph are all sophomore linebackers who earned some valuable experience last season. In 2017 they will have to turn into consistent starters. The secondary has the most returning talent, but there are depth concerns, especially at cornerback. Duke Dawson and Chauncey Gardner should be solid starters though and safety Nick Washington is an experienced senior who can help cover for any inexperience issues that come about at the cornerback spots. The loss of senior safety Marcell Harris over the summer due to an injury does hurt though. Harris was the team’s top returning tackler with 73.
The Bottom Line:
The offense should finally be decent, but that could be with a freshman at quarterback so there are legitimate doubts about how good the unit can actually be in 2017. Meanwhile, the defense will have to overcome a lot of inexperience. There is talent, but talent alone can be exposed in the SEC. The schedule is what could save Florida’s title hopes. The only road games are against Kentucky, Missouri and South Carolina. The Gators do have to play Tennessee early in the season though and that could be a very tough game assuming Coach McElwain is still tinkering on both sides of the ball. The October 28th contest against Georgia in Jacksonville could decide the SEC East winner.
Projected Bowl: Outback Bowl
2016 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 128.2 (113th in nation, 14th in conference)
Passing Offense: 215.8 (79, 6)
Total Offense: 344.0 (116, 14)
Scoring Offense: 23.9 (107, 12)
Rushing Defense: 144.5 (38, 5)
Pass Defense: 148.5 (2, 1)
Total Defense: 293.0 (5, 2)
Scoring Defense: 16.8 (6, 3)
Turnover Margin: 0.15 (49, 8)
Sacks: 2.38 (40, 4)
Sacks Allowed: 2.15 (68, 9)
Madness 2018 NFL Draft Rankings:
#34 Antonio Callaway
#42 Martez Ivy
Madness 2017 Recruit Rankings:
#93      Tedarrell Slaton
#108    James Robinson
#162    Zachary Carter
#176    Kadeem Telfort
#178    Marco Wilson
#231    TJ Moore