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The big 2014 Florida football guide: From beautifully ugly to ugly

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Can a new offensive coordinator and a healthy quarterback cure what ailed Florida in 2013? And with a projection of 7-5, one has to start asking how many wins it will take to save the Will Muschamp era in Gainesville.

SB Nation 2014 College Football Countdown

Confused? Check out the advanced-stats glossary here.

1. The case for Florida

Florida finished 4-8 last year. Missouri finished 12-2. Missouri outgained Florida by 349 yards when the two teams met last October. Naturally, Florida polled ahead of Missouri at SEC Media Days.

If you knew nothing about college football's general balance of power, this would make no sense whatsoever. It might say a little bit about perceptions of Missouri (though that returning starter total is awfully low), but it says more about perceptions of Florida.

Florida was absolutely dreadful over the second half of last season and enters 2014 on a seven-game losing streak. Even dipping into 2012, the Gators have lost eight of nine games against teams ranked in the F/+ top 50 (all seven in 2013, two of the last three in 2012). It's as if they spent all of their mojo and good karma winning 2012's silliest, most confusing game -- a 33-point win over South Carolina in which they were outgained by eight yards, a result that has the likelihood of lightning striking the same spot twice or Bugs Bunny actually sawing Florida into the ocean -- and have been paying for it ever since.

Still ... Florida is Florida, with blue-chippers and The Swamp and two national titles in the last decade. The Gators will forever receive the benefit of the doubt.

And besides, it's not like there's not cause for optimism (even if the bar for optimism is lower than it was a few years ago). For one thing, Florida's seven-game losing streak came with quarterback Jeff Driskel injured; using Adjusted Points, the Gators were almost 20 points better over the first five games of last year and did still go 11-2 in 2012. He was a big reason for that. And Gators head coach Will Muschamp did bring in a new offensive coordinator (Duke's Kurt Roper), his third in four years. Roper's high-efficiency, spread-lite approach could be a nice bridge between the gritty, plodding offense Muschamp seems to prefer in a perfect world and the more wide-open attack more suited for his personnel.

Beyond that, the Florida defense is still the Florida defense. It lost its edge when the injuries piled up last fall, but it will still feature plenty of athletes in the front seven and perhaps the best young set of corners in the country. If the offense is donating anything to the cause, the defense will hold up its end of the bargain like it did in 2012.

Muschamp's preference for manball reduces Florida's margin for error, but the Gators won 11 games just two seasons ago. It's not like they're that far from doing the same. The end of 2013 saw a low point so much lower than we thought possible, but high points are not that far in the rearview.

2. The case against Florida

Look at this chart. Look specifically at the last four years.

Was 2013 the outlier, or was 2012? Since going 26-2 in 2008-09 and finishing first and second, respectively, in the F/+ rankings, the Gators have ranked 34th, 34th, fourth, and 48th (which also includes one coaching transition). The Gators were impacted by injuries last fall, which accounts for a good portion of the slippage, but there's reason to believe that it was closer to the current norm than 2012 was. Muschamp inherited a team ranked 34th and has produced an average ranking of 29th. (Average offensive ranking: 63rd.) A lot went into making Florida so poor last year, but the baseline might not really be that high with Muschamp in charge.

As I find myself saying often, recruiting rankings expire. Any major reason for assuming a top-25 performance out of Florida this year is based at least in part on recruiting rankings and potential. But an offensive line with former four- and five-star recruits (not to mention two three-year starters) ranked 102nd in Adj. Line yards and 100th in Adj. Sack Rate last year. A receiving corps full of blue-chippers returns just one regular who averaged better than a dreadful 5.1 yards per target.

Players like Quinton Dunbar and Kelvin Taylor had their moments, but can a simple coordinator change really change that much? And if it doesn't, are we putting too much pressure, then, on a defense that needs to find a pass rush and two new safeties?

Florida's probably not going 4-8 again in 2014. With a schedule that features home games against four teams projected 75th or worse and two road games against teams projected worse than 50th, the odds of a bowl trip are pretty high. But Florida's 2013 product may have actually been a lot closer to the baseline standard than we want to believe, and at this point, it's up to the Gators to prove that statement wrong.

2013 Schedule & Results

Record: 4-8 | Adj. Record: 7-5 | Final F/+ Rk: 48
Date Opponent Opp. F/+ Rk Score W-L Adj. Score Adj. W-L 5-gm Adj. Avg.
31-Aug Toledo 62 24-6 W 29.9 - 6.5 W
7-Sep at Miami 36 16-21 L 26.9 - 13.4 W
21-Sep Tennessee 72 31-17 W 23.0 - 14.0 W
28-Sep at Kentucky 97 24-7 W 33.2 - 21.9 W
5-Oct Arkansas 87 30-10 W 22.2 - 14.2 W 13.0
12-Oct at LSU 17 6-17 L 21.9 - 22.1 L 8.3
19-Oct at Missouri 14 17-36 L 7.0 - 29.9 L 1.0
2-Nov vs. Georgia 22 20-23 L 22.7 - 27.8 L -1.8
9-Nov Vanderbilt 50 17-34 L 27.2 - 18.0 W -2.2
16-Nov at South Carolina 10 14-19 L 21.4 - 18.8 W -3.3
23-Nov Georgia Southern N/A 20-26 L 14.5 - 40.4 L -8.4
30-Nov Florida State 1 7-37 L 18.6 - 21.2 L -4.3
Category Offense Rk Defense Rk Spec. Tms. Rk
F/+ -8.9% 99 +12.9% 17 +2.2% 24
Points Per Game 18.8 113 21.1 15
Adj. Points Per Game 22.4 106 20.7 8

3. Off a cliff ... hit a brick wall ... wheels came off ... insert your cliché of choice

Through five games, things were going mostly according to plan. Jeff Driskel had an awful game in a loss to Miami -- Florida doubled Miami up in total yardage, but Driskel had two interceptions, got sacked twice (including on the final snap of the game), and lost a fumble -- but that was still a pretty unlucky outcome.

Driskel got hurt, but Tyler Murphy stepped in and ran the show reasonably well. UF beat Kentucky and Arkansas handily, leaning on a great defense and a semi-competent offense.

But a trip to LSU exposed the flaws of both Murphy and the remaining UF offense, and a trip to Missouri finished the Gators off. They gained 391 yards and allowed 827 in these two games, and as the injuries began to mount on defense, things took a turn.

  • Adj. Points Per Game (first 5 games): Florida 27.0, Opponent 14.0 (plus-13.0)
  • Adj. Points Per Game (next 7 games): Opponent 25.5, Florida 19.0 (minus-6.5)

After playing about two touchdowns better than average over the first five games, Florida was almost three touchdowns worse in the final seven. The offense went from mediocre to terrible, and the defense went from dominant to slightly above average.

There were signs of life in big games. The defense shut Georgia down after halftime and allowed the Gators to turn a 23-3 deficit into a 23-20 loss, and despite losing Murphy to injury as well and all but refusing to pass the ball, they still led South Carolina, 14-13, heading into the fourth quarter. But the last two games were an absolute nightmare. First, they figured out a way to lose to a banged-up Georgia Southern squad that had not yet made the transition to FBS. Then, after a competitive first quarter, they were summarily thumped by eventual national champion Florida State.

There was just nothing fun about 2013, was there?

Offense

FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.03 111 IsoPPP+ 96.9 82
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 38.5% 101 Succ. Rt. + 88.7 100
FIELD POSITION Def. Avg. FP 30.5 84 Def. FP+ 99.4 66
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 3.5 112 Redzone S&P+ 77.6 117
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 21.2 ACTUAL 20 -1.2
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 115 97 101 101
RUSHING 88 102 102 71
PASSING 109 83 102 109
Standard Downs 93 93 73
Passing Downs 101 103 82
Q1 Rk 87 1st Down Rk 112
Q2 Rk 79 2nd Down Rk 72
Q3 Rk 93 3rd Down Rk 94
Q4 Rk 101

4. Efficiency first

The new offense

There was nothing particularly good about Florida's offense. Even when Driskel was behind center, we were dealing mostly with degrees of mediocre. Muschamp and coordinator Brent Pease aimed to run as much as possible and avoid putting their quarterback-of-the-week in awkward situations.

Instead, because Florida couldn't actually run efficiently, Florida ended up belonging to the run-run-pass-punt approach to offense. When Skyler Mornhinweg took over for Murphy, it became run-run-run-punt.

We don't know for sure what Kurt Roper's approach will be in Gainesville; Pease's own Boise State background didn't give us much in the way of predictive help. Muschamp brings his own preferences (run, run, run, and don't hand the defense a short field) to the table. But we know that Duke was very balanced in 2013, running and passing at rates almost exactly equal to national averages. The Blue Devils employed all sorts of short passes that, in conjunction with the run game, helped them both stay ahead of the chains and set up the occasionally deadly play-action pass.

This sounds great in theory, but the success of this will depend both on better run blocking and more consistent running (for my own preferences, that means more Kelvin Taylor and less Mack Brown). It will also require Florida to overcome its fear of the forward pass.

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2014 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Comp Att Yards TD INT Comp
Rate
Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Tyler Murphy 112 185 1216 6 5 60.5% 22 10.6% 5.0
Skyler Mornhinweg 6'3, 212 So. 3 stars (5.5) 44 63 344 3 1 69.8% 1 1.6% 5.3
Jeff Driskel 6'4, 230 Sr. 4 stars (6.0) 42 61 477 2 3 68.9% 4 6.2% 6.8
Will Grier 6'2, 190 Fr. 4 stars (6.0)
Treon Harris 5'11, 178 Fr. 4 stars (6.0)

Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Rushes Yards TD Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Carry
Opp.
Rate
Mack Brown RB 5'11, 209 Sr. 4 stars (5.8) 148 543 4 3.7 2.6 34.5%
Kelvin Taylor RB 5'10, 209 So. 4 stars (6.0) 111 508 4 4.6 4.6 34.2%
Matt Jones RB 6'2, 235 Jr. 4 stars (5.8) 79 339 2 4.3 4.7 29.1%
Tyler Murphy QB 39 248 3 6.4 4.4 59.0%
Solomon Patton WR 16 71 0 4.4 3.9 43.8%
Jeff Driskel QB 6'4, 230 Sr. 4 stars (6.0) 13 72 1 5.5 2.4 53.8%
Trey Burton WR 12 56 0 4.7 26.0 16.7%
Valdez Showers WR 6'0, 194 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 12 103 0 8.6 7.2 58.3%
Skyler Mornhinweg QB 6'3, 212 So. 3 stars (5.5) 5 1 0 0.2 1.7 20.0%
Mark Herndon RB 5'9, 195 Jr. NR 4 32 0 8.0 4.2 75.0%
Brandon Powell RB 5'9, 177 Fr. 4 stars (5.8)



Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Target
Rate
%SD Yds/
Target
NEY Real Yds/
Target
RYPR
Solomon Patton WR 64 44 556 68.8% 21.9% 46.4% 8.7 40 9.5 71.2
Quinton Dunbar WR 6'2, 195 Sr. 4 stars (5.8) 59 39 548 66.1% 20.2% 41.1% 9.3 82 9.7 70.1
Trey Burton WR 54 38 425 70.4% 18.5% 41.7% 7.9 -15 7.6 54.4
Ahmad Fulwood WR 6'4, 202 So. 4 stars (5.9) 25 17 127 68.0% 8.6% 17.6% 5.1 -73 4.3 16.3
Valdez Showers WR 6'0, 194 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 20 18 102 90.0% 6.8% 55.6% 5.1 -85 4.4 13.1
Mack Brown RB 5'11, 209 Sr. 4 stars (5.8) 14 11 57 78.6% 4.8% 33.3% 4.1 -64 4.1 7.3
Demarcus Robinson WR 6'1, 205 So. 4 stars (6.0) 13 6 43 46.2% 4.5% 50.0% 3.3 -44 3.3 5.5
Kelvin Taylor RB 5'10, 209 So. 4 stars (6.0) 10 5 37 50.0% 3.4% 37.5% 3.7 -32 2.5 4.7
Matt Jones RB 6'2, 235 Jr. 4 stars (5.8) 7 5 25 71.4% 2.4% 57.1% 3.6 -33 3.6 3.2
Gideon Ajagbe FB 6'2, 234 Sr. 3 stars (5.7) 5 4 28 80.0% 1.7% 60.0% 5.6 -16 5.8 3.6
Hunter Joyer FB 5'11, 232 Sr. 3 stars (5.7) 5 2 12 40.0% 1.7% 100.0% 2.4 -20 1.0 1.5
Clay Burton TE 6'4, 248 Sr. 3 stars (5.7) 4 1 12 25.0% 1.4% 0.0% 3.0 -10 5.3 1.5
Latroy Pittman WR 6'0, 208 Jr. 4 stars (5.8) 4 2 18 50.0% 1.4% N/A 4.5 -10 0.0 2.3
Tevin Westbrook TE 6'5, 257 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 4 3 30 75.0% 1.4% 100.0% 7.5 -4 8.1 3.8
Andre Debose (2012) WR 6'0, 190 Sr. 5 stars (6.1) 4 2 9 50.0% 1.5% 75.0% 2.3 N/A 1.8 1.4
Chris Thompson WR 6'0, 170 So. 3 stars (5.6) 2 2 13 100.0% 0.7% 100.0% 6.5 -7 2.2 1.7
Jake McGee
(Virginia)
TE 6'6, 255 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 81 43 395 53.1% 16.9% 47.9% 4.9 -182 4.9 34.2
Alvin Bailey WR 5'11, 187 RSFr. 4 stars (6.0)
Moral Stephens TE 6'3, 247 Fr. 4 stars (5.8)

5. Balance requires passing

Quinton Dunbar had seven catches for 98 yards against Miami, four for 91 against Georgia, and six for 77 against Vanderbilt. He is a former four-star recruit with solid size and obvious speed. In theory, he could be a nice No. 1 receiver. In theory, big Ahmad Fulwood could be ready to be a solid No. 2 -- he was used basically on tight end routes last year, and Roper could take advantage of that while also giving him shots downfield.

Valdez Showers could thrive on exactly the type of snap-and-throw plays that Roper utilized with great success in 2012. There are almost too many four-star recruits to count here, including a couple (redshirt freshman Alvin Bailey and freshman tight end Moral Stephens) who weren't tainted by the terrible performances of 2013. And hey, Andre Debose is back!

Combine this set of receivers-with-potential with a quarterback who is reasonably efficient and accurate and has more than a year of starting experience under his belt, and you can start talking yourself into the Florida offense a bit.

But no unit in the country bears the burden of proof more than this one. Florida had all the same potential last year, and the year before, for that matter. Until Driskel and his receivers prove they're worth fearing, and until Muschamp proves that he can be completely hands-off and not force high run percentages on a coach who wants to pass, then it's pretty easy to doubt.

Offensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 89.6 2.85 2.62 37.2% 74.3% 21.5% 76.5 9.3% 8.0%
Rank 102 77 113 86 30 99 100 120 80
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Career Starts Honors/Notes
Jon Halapio RG 43
Jonotthan Harrison C 38
Chaz Green RT 6'5, 300 Sr. 4 stars (6.0) 19
Max Garcia C 6'5, 294 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 12
Kyle Koehne LG 10
D.J. Humphries LT 6'5, 290 Jr. 5 stars (6.1) 9
Ian Silberman LG 7
Tyler Moore RG 6'5, 325 Jr. 4 stars (5.9) 6
Trenton Brown RT 6'8, 350 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 5
Trip Thurman LG 6'5, 305 Jr. 4 stars (5.8) 0
Roderick Johnson LG 6'5, 308 RSFr. 3 stars (5.7)
Cameron Dillard C 6'4, 297 RSFr. 3 stars (5.7)
Drew Sarvary RG 6'6, 310 Jr. 3 stars (5.5)
Nolan Kelleher OL 6'5, 311 Fr. 4 stars (5.8)
David Sharpe OL 6'6, 336 Fr. 4 stars (5.8)

6. Can the offensive line be saved?

It was a chicken-and-egg situation for the line last year. Did it perform terribly, therefore dooming the offense to second- and third-and-longs? Or were the Gators so predictable in their attack (well, "attack"), so awful at quarterback, and so shaky in the skill positions that no line could succeed?

If it's the former, then things could change pretty quickly. Thanks to injuries, Florida does return five players with starting experience up front (51 career starts) despite losing four others, and while the recruiting hasn't quite been as highly rated on the line, it's been good enough. But let's just say that offenses that rank in the triple digits in both Adj. Line Yards and Adj. Sack Rate, then lose two three-year starters and two other contributors, don't tend to receive (stop me if you've heard this before) the benefit of the doubt.

Defense

FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.21 93 IsoPPP+ 105.3 39
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 37.9% 21 Succ. Rt. + 125.0 6
FIELD POSITION Off. Avg. FP 31.5 37 Off. FP+ 104.5 17
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 4.0 49 Redzone S&P+ 142.9 3
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 19.4 ACTUAL 18.0 -1.4
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 8 4 6 5
RUSHING 33 25 33 15
PASSING 7 3 1 1
Standard Downs 16 12 52
Passing Downs 1 1 29
Q1 Rk 18 1st Down Rk 13
Q2 Rk 4 2nd Down Rk 1
Q3 Rk 11 3rd Down Rk 20
Q4 Rk 6

Defensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 116.4 2.89 2.53 40.5% 65.7% 21.4% 104.9 5.3% 4.9%
Rank 18 55 11 80 59 33 53 47 105
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Dante Fowler, Jr. BUCK 6'3, 261 Jr. 5 stars (6.1) 12 40.5 7.5% 10.5 3.5 0 1 3 0
Jonathan Bullard DT 6'3, 270 Jr. 5 stars (6.1) 11 26.0 4.8% 2.5 1.5 0 0 0 0
Leon Orr NT 6'5, 305 Sr. 4 stars (5.9) 12 18.5 3.4% 4.5 2.5 0 0 0 1
Damien Jacobs DT 11 17.0 3.1% 3.5 0.0 0 1 0 0
Darious Cummings NT 6'1, 297 Sr. 4 stars (5.8) 11 12.5 2.3% 3.0 1.0 1 1 1 0
Bryan Cox, Jr. DE 6'3, 260 So. 3 stars (5.7) 8 5.0 0.9% 2.0 2.0 0 0 0 0
Dominique Easley DT 3 4.5 0.8% 2.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Joey Ivie DE 6'3, 271 So. 4 stars (5.8) 3 2.0 0.4% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Caleb Brantley DT 6'2, 295 RSFr. 4 stars (5.9)
Jay-nard Bostwick NT 6'3, 294 RSFr. 4 stars (5.8)
Jordan Sherit DE 6'4, 247 RSFr. 4 stars (5.8)
Thomas Holley DT 6'3, 312 Fr. 4 stars (6.0)
Gerald Willis DE 6'2, 255 Fr. 4 stars (5.9)
Khairi Clark DT 6'2, 308 Fr. 4 stars (5.8)







7. The pass rush is a bit of a concern

Six Florida defensive linemen and six linebackers averaged at least 1.0 tackles per game in 2013, which is a decent measuring stick for counting. Of these 12 players, four played in all 12 games for the Gators: Dante Fowler, Jr., Leon Orr, and second-string linebackers Jarrad Davis and Neiron Ball. First-round pick Dominique Easley played in three, weakside linebacker Antonio Morrison played in eight, and so many others missed at least one or two.

Even if you have all the blue-chippers in the world, your production will begin to fray if you lose too many regulars, and Florida's defense was no exception. After playing at a top-five (or so) level for the first half of 2013, the Gators were only slightly above average over the last half and finished with a good, but not dominant, Def. F/+ ranking of 17th. After allowing no more than 4.0 yards per play over the first five games, they allowed 5.8 or better in six of the final seven and allowed 7.5 to a Georgia Southern team that rushed for 429 yards and passed for zero.

Four regulars are gone from the front seven, but it's hard to worry too much about this unit if it's healthy. With an offseason to prepare for these losses and work countless four-star youngsters into the rotation, the Gators will be fine. The run defense will be stout with a backbone of tackles Jonathan Bullard and Orr and linebackers Michael Taylor and Morrison.

If there's a concern beyond health, though, it's the pass rush. Florida ranked just 53rd in Adj. Sack Rate and must now replace leading blitzer Ronald Powell. Fowler could further blossom, and any number of blue-chip youngsters could emerge as passing-downs missiles; plus, Florida ranked just 40th in the category in Adj. Sack Rate in 2012 when the defense was dominant. This concern pales in comparison to injuries, but it's on the list, at least.

Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Michael Taylor MIKE 6'0, 227 Sr. 4 stars (5.8) 11 46.0 8.5% 3.5 0.0 0 1 0 0
Antonio Morrison WILL 6'1, 222 Jr. 4 stars (5.8) 8 41.5 7.7% 1.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Ronald Powell SAM 11 22.5 4.2% 7.0 4.0 0 0 0 0
Jarrad Davis MIKE 6'2, 225 So. 3 stars (5.7) 12 20.0 3.7% 2.0 0.0 0 1 1 0
Neiron Ball WILL 6'3, 230 Sr. 4 stars (5.8) 12 19.0 3.5% 1.5 1.0 0 1 0 0
Darrin Kitchens MIKE 10 17.0 3.1% 0.5 0.0 0 0 0 0
Jeremi Powell LB 6'0, 215 So. 4 stars (5.8) 7 3.5 0.6% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Alex McCalister SAM 6'6, 246 So. 3 stars (5.7) 7 2.5 0.5% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Daniel McMillian SAM 6'1, 225 So. 4 stars (5.9) 9 2.0 0.4% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Alex Anzalone LB 6'3, 236 So. 5 stars (6.1) 10 2.0 0.4% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Matt Rolin LB 6'3, 223 RSFr. 4 stars (5.8)








Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Jaylen Watkins S 12 41.5 7.7% 2 0 0 7 0 0
Cody Riggs S 12 40.5 7.5% 6.5 1.5 0 3 0 0
Jabari Gorman S 5'10, 184 Sr. 4 stars (5.8) 12 37.5 6.9% 2.5 0 1 7 1 0
Vernon Hargreaves III CB 5'11, 194 So. 5 stars (6.1) 12 32.0 5.9% 0 0 3 11 0 0
Brian Poole NB 5'10, 206 Jr. 4 stars (5.9) 11 26.0 4.8% 2 0 2 3 0 0
Loucheiz Purifoy CB 11 19.0 3.5% 3.5 2 2 7 1 0
Marcus Maye S 6'0, 203 So. 4 stars (5.9) 12 13.5 2.5% 1 0 1 0 0 0
Marcus Roberson CB 7 11.0 2.0% 0 0 0 3 0 0
Keanu Neal S 6'1, 203 So. 4 stars (6.0) 12 4.0 0.7% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Marcell Harris S 6'1, 208 RSFr. 4 stars (6.0)
Nick Washington CB 6'0, 190 RSFr. 4 stars (5.8)
Jalen Tabor CB 6'0, 193 Fr. 5 stars (6.1)
Duke Dawson CB 5'11, 194 Fr. 4 stars (5.8)
Quincy Wilson DB 6'1, 196 Fr. 4 stars (5.8)
J.C. Jackson DB 5'10, 196 Fr. 4 stars (5.8)








8. Can you be young and experienced at the same time?

Hey, we finally joined Facebook!

Florida returns senior safety Jabari Gorman, junior nickel back Brian Poole, and all-world sophomore Vernon Hargreaves III, who plays older than his years and apparently missed out any serious repercussions from what would have been an extremely dumb injury last week. That's a nucleus around which you can build a strong secondary. (Hargreaves and two walk-on freshmen would probably be a pretty good nucleus, too, come to think of it; VH3 is the key piece here.) Because of that trio alone, the UF pass defense should be fine.

Still, in losing Jaylen Watkins and Cody Riggs, Florida is tasked with replacing one of the better sets of play-making safeties in the country. Those two and departed corner Loucheiz Purifoy combined for 12 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks and 19 passes defensed last year; Hargreaves is obviously good, and Gorman and Poole aren't chopped liver, but there's no guarantee that production can be replaced. There's also no guarantee that the latest batch of blue-chippers -- corners Jalen Tabor and Duke Dawson, redshirt freshmen Marcell Harris and Nick Washington, etc. -- will acclimate as quickly as Hargreaves did.

The ceiling here is sky high, but there might be some glitches here and there.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Johnny Townsend 6'1, 196 So. 29 42.0 5 8 6 48.3%
Kyle Christy 6'2, 202 Sr. 21 39.6 3 10 7 81.0%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB OOB TB%
Austin Hardin 5'10, 197 So. 51 60.8 18 0 35.3%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2014
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Austin Hardin 5'10, 197 So. 15-15 4-6 66.7% 0-6 0.0%
Francisco Velez 5'9, 178 Sr. 6-6 5-6 83.3% 1-2 50.0%
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Solomon Patton KR 22 29.2 1
Trey Burton KR 4 18.0 0
Marcus Roberson PR 14 9.2 0
Vernon Hargreaves III PR 5'11, 194 So. 3 10.0 0
Category Rk
Special Teams F/+ 24
Field Goal Efficiency 108
Punt Return Efficiency 49
Kick Return Efficiency 20
Punt Efficiency 27
Kickoff Efficiency 10
Opponents' Field Goal Efficiency 124

9. Still fine on special teams

Kyle Christy was Florida's best offensive weapon in 2012, and when he struggled here and there in 2013, he was replaced by another quality punter in Johnny Townsend. Despite Christy's "struggles" (which really weren't awful) and despite place-kickers having a range of no more than about 39 yards, Florida's special teams unit was still top-25 caliber. Any team that relies this much on field goals and field position needs great special teams, and the unit did its job reasonably well.

But that was thanks in part to since-departed return man Solomon Patton and punt returner Marcus Roberson. Without them, either new return threats need to emerge (certainly a possibility), or Christy needs to find his incredible 2012 range again.

2014 Schedule & Projection Factors

2014 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. Rk
30-Aug Idaho 119
6-Sep Eastern Michigan 121
13-Sep Kentucky 75
20-Sep at Alabama 2
4-Oct at Tennessee 55
11-Oct LSU 12
18-Oct Missouri 22
1-Nov vs. Georgia 10
8-Nov at Vanderbilt 61
15-Nov South Carolina 7
22-Nov Eastern Kentucky NR
29-Nov at Florida State 1
Five-Year F/+ Rk 20.1% (15)
Two-Year Recruiting Rk 4
TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin* -2 / -1.8
TO Luck/Game -0.1
Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.) 12 (5, 7)

10. Stock up early

Not that this was intentional, but Florida's schedule is set up rather perfectly for a bounce-back. Well, "perfectly" might be an overstatement -- there's nothing particularly rosy about a schedule that features five opponents projected 12th or better -- but at least three of the four toughest opponents show up in the final five games, and at least the Gators start the season with three of the four easiest.

If the Gators are anything but 3-0 heading to (gulp) Tuscaloosa, then this is almost certainly Will Muschamp's last season in Gainesville. But yeah, they'll be 3-0.

This is an odd time for Florida. Even in 2012, fan interest in Muschampball seemed to wane at times (it's certainly not particularly pleasant to the eye), and in 2013, when injuries forced him to get creative to avoid disaster, he couldn't do it. It's hard to be too pessimistic about a program that was 11-2 just one full season ago, but it's hard to be particularly optimistic about a team that looked as bad as Florida did for much of last year.

Thanks to recruiting and 2012, in the Football Outsiders Almanac 2014 the Gators get a faithful No. 30 projection, with a likely record of 7-5 (29 percent chance of 8-4 or better, 38 percent chance of 6-6 or worse). That's as good a starting point as any for expectations, but the odds of another 2012 are small.

And will 7-5 be enough to earn Muschamp a fifth year in Gainesville?