#37 Florida 2018 Football Preview

Florida Gators
Overall Rank: #37
#8 SEC
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Florida turns to former Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen in 2018 as the Gators will look to rebound from a disastrous 4-7 campaign in 2017. Mullen was the offensive coordinator for both national title teams in Gainesville, so he knows the deal as far as the fans desire for an explosive offense. The lack of explosiveness has taken its toll on the Florida fanbase as they have not had a top 40 scoring offense since the 2009 season.
2017 Record: 4-7, 3-5
2017 Bowl: None
Coach: Dan Mullen (First season at Florida, 69-46 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Billy Gonzales, John Hevesy
Defensive Coordinator: Todd Grantham
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Lamical Perine, RB, 562 yards
Passing: Feleipe Franks, QB, 1,438 yards
Receiving: Tyrie Cleveland, WR, 410 yards
Tackles: David Reese, ILB, 102
Sacks: Cece Jefferson, Rush, 4.5
Interceptions: CJ Henderson, CB, 4
Other Key Returnees: RB Jordan Scarlett, WR Kadarius Toney, LT Martez Ivey, LG Brett Heggie, C T.J. McCoy, RG Fred Johnson, RT Jawaan Taylor, TE C’yontal Lewis, NT Khairi Clark, ILB Vosean Joseph, DE Jabari Zuniga, NB Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, CB Marco Wilson, DT Tedarrell Slaton, CB CJ Henderson
Key Losses: DT Taven Bryant, S Duke Dawson, WR Antonio Callaway, P Johnny Townsend, S Marcell Harris, K Eddy Pineiro
Feleipe Franks is back at quarterback and will look to make a big step forward as a sophomore this season. Franks has some nice raw talent, but did take too many sacks and will need to cut down on the interceptions if he is to stay on as the starting quarterback. Kyle Trask will be in the mix as well in the battle for playing time at quarterback. Jordan Scarlett and Lamical Perine form a nice 1-2 punch at running back that should be able to produce some big numbers if the offensive line stays healthy. Tyrie Cleveland is a quality big play type of receiver that will need to stretch opposing defenses and make big plays. Van Jefferson and Trevon Grimes, if eligible once the season starts, will have a huge opportunity to elevate this wide receiver group in a big hurry. Now, the offensive line comes back intact, but it will have to be better as pass protection was a huge issue last season.
Todd Grantham takes over a defense that could improve quickly if everything comes together in 2018. Cece Jefferson is a pass rusher who should flourish under Grantham after collecting 4.5 sacks in 2017. Jabari Zuniga will be the other edge rusher and will have plenty of chances to rack up sacks as opposing offenses will focus on Jefferson. David Reese is the leading returning tackler with 102 and will need more help from the rest of the linebacker group if this defense is going to take a big step forward. Marco Wilson and CJ Henderson are back at both cornerback slots and their ability to play elite level press coverage will be important for the Gators this fall. Evan McPherson is a highly touted incoming kicker and should slide into the starting kicker role right away. Kadarius Toney will need to have a big season returning punts as field position will be important for Florida to dominate.
The Bottom Line:
Look for Florida to get off to a nice start in September as their three games are at home against Charleston Southern, Kentucky, and Colorado State. Two road games at Tennessee and Mississippi State will wrap up the month of September. Its reasonable to expect the Gators to be 4-1 heading into a home game with LSU on October 6tj. The annual battle with Georgia will be a tough one on October 27th as the Bulldogs beat Florida 42-7 last year in Jacksonville. Missouri, South Carolina, and Idaho will come to town in November and the games against the Tigers and Gamecocks will be swing games for the Gators. A trip to Tallahassee will wrap up the 2018 regular season and it will be critical for Florida to be more competitive against the Seminoles right way. Overall, look for about an eight-win regular season in year one under coach Mullen with some signs of significant progress offensively.
Projected Bowl: TaxSlayer Bowl
2017 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 156.4 (75th in nation, 9th in Conference)
Passing Offense: 179.5 (102, 11)
Total Offense: 335.9 (110, 13)
Scoring Offense: 22.1 (108, 13)
Rushing Defense: 153.9 (50, 7)
Pass Defense: 195.4 (28, 8)
Total Defense: 349.3 (31, 6)
Scoring Defense: 27.3 (69, 7)
Turnover Margin: -0.27 (89, 11)
Sacks: 2.09 (59, 11)
Sacks Allowed: 3.36 (123, 14)
Madness 2019 NFL Draft Rankings:
#68 Martez Ivey
#80 Chauncy Gardner
Madness 2018 Recruit Rankings:
#65 Emory Jones
#66 Jacob Copeland
#69 Richard Gouraige
#77 Justin Watkins
#135 Amari Burney
#172 Dameon Pierce
#184 David Reese
#217 Kyle Pitts
#227 Andrew Chatfield