Last year, the Florida Gators (9-4) recorded a SEC record of 6-2, winning the East Division. When they met the Alabama Crimson Tide for the SEC crown they were soundly defeated 54-16. Our 2017 Florida Gators college football preview sees a major strength for this team being that they have returned nine starters on offense. However, the offense, which scored on average just 23.9 PPG (12th SEC, 107th Nationally), needs to increase point production. Especially because the Gators defense may not be quite as tough as it was last season.
Redshirted freshman Feleipe Franks looks to be the quarterback of choice for Florida head coach Jim McElwain. McElwain needs to develop Franks into a true threat, which is something the Gators have not had in that position for some time. A major issue for this team is the offensive line, which although possessing some talent, is a work-in-progress.
The ground attack will utilize junior Jordan Scarlett (179 ATT, 889 YDs, 6 TDs) who averaged 5.0 YPA last season. He could end up with over 1,000 yards this season. The receiving corps is deep and includes seven vets. Junior Antonio Callaway had 54 receptions last season, while averaging 13.4 YPC. Eight different receivers caught TD passes. If Franks can develop quickly, he’ll have his pick of pass catchers.
The Gator defense last season was one of the best in the nation as they limited teams to an average of 16.8 PPG (6th Nationally). Most of the starters on this side of the ball have to be replaced in 2017, including four of the team’s five top tacklers. Jarrad Davis is gone and so is his ability to dog QBs and RBs alike. Also needing to be replced is the corner duo of Quincy Wilson and Jalen Tabor who together grabbed seven picks and had 12 PBU last season. Sophomore Chauncey Gardner moves from safety to corner and senior Duke Dawson makes the same move from nickel back. That may work, as both are top-notch athletes.
The middle of the D-line is questionable and the linebacking unit is made up of sophomores having to learn and mature quickly. Junior DE Cece Jefferson looks like the real thing as far as pass rushers go, while David Reese at LB knows how to hunt down the ball. Former Miami player and assistant Randy Shannon joins the Gators and will attempt to fill in the holes, mentor young players, and get this defense up to speed quickly.
The guys who kick the ball are both exceptional. Punter Johnny Townsend average 47.9 YPP and netted 40.6 while placing 27 of 64 within the 20. Placekicker Eddie Pineiro was 32 of 32 on extra points and 21 of 25 on field goals. He was three of three from 50-plus, with his longest being 54 yards. Antonio Callaway struggled on punt returns last year, averaging 8.4 YPR after averaging 15.5 and bring two back for scores the year prior.
2017 Florida Gators College Football Preview: Final Word
Despite the need to do some pretty hefty work on the defensive side of the ball and questions at quarterback, this Florida Gators team has a good chance of once again winning the SEC East. They also have an equally good shot of losing the title game to Alabama, as they did last season. Our 2017 Florida Gators college football preview offers that this team will rise and fall on the progress that freshman QB Franks makes.
The Gators have a big game right from the start as they play Michigan on Sep 2. This is a rematch of the 2015 Citrus Bowl that the Wolverines won 41-7. On Sep 18, Tennessee visits Florida. Last year around the same time the Vols surprised the Gators, beating them 38-28. LSU is at Florida on Oct 7. Remember last season Florida beat the Tigers 16-10 in a game that featured a controversial venue change that saw the contest played in Baton Rouge. Finally, on Oct 28 the Gators have a chance to beat Georgia as they meet at a neutral game site in Jacksonville, FL. Florida has won their last three neutral site meetings and are 21-6 at such fields.
Top Three Takeaways
- Freshman QB Franks must have an immediate impact
- Depth at receiver but not on the O-line
- New defensive coordinator Shannon looks like the right guy for the right job