Jim McElwain’s first season in Gainesville saw the Gators reach ten wins and a SEC East championship. And yet, the expected momentum from such a successful 2015 campaign hasn’t really translated to the recruiting trail or increased expectations for the coming season. Indeed, the outlook for this season’s Florida Gators might sound familiar: Strong defense, but questions on offense, particularly at quarterback.
Simply put, the 2015 Gators were a different football team with Will Grier at the helm. Florida jumped out to a 6-0 start, including an impressive drubbing of Ole Miss in week five. After beating Missouri in week six, Grier was suspended for a year as a result of a positive test for performance enhancing drugs. He would ultimately transfer to West Virginia during the spring of 2016. The Gators were able to hang on to their momentum a while longer, notching a competitive loss at LSU and then beating up on Georgia off of the bye week, but then things started to take a turn. Ugly wins against Vanderbilt, South Carolina, and FAU (in OT) signaled that the wheels were falling off for Florida, and at a bad time. This was confirmed in blowout losses to Florida State, Alabama, and Michigan, during which their S&P percentile performances plunged into the 20s.
Your Florida State Seminoles will host Florida at Doak Campbell Stadium on November 26. The ‘Noles will be coming off of a road trip to Syracuse, while the Gators will take on the Presbyterian Blue Hose on November 19.
SB Nation’s Bill Connelly has released his 2016 Florida Gators preview. Give the full thing a read, as these are mere morsels.
Or at least, if QB is steady, Florida can move on to its next problem: youth. No returning running back has more than 181 career rushing yards, and the passing game must replace four of last year's top seven targets. Potentially the three most effective receiving options return, but inexperience is a massive concern.
Still, Ivie and Clark are immense at the nose, and Brantley and Bryan are strong. And in Anzalone, Jarrad Davis (7.5 non-sack TFLs in 2015), and company, the linebacking corps appears experienced and fast. Again, there's a leap of faith here; we have to assume that Anzalone breaks through, that players like Bryan and Clark are ready for more responsibility, etc.
But Florida has ranked in the Def. S&P+ top 10 for seven of the last eight years, a span that includes multiple head coaches and coordinators.