2013-07-31 04:15:00 EDT

Florida Gators 2013 Season Preview


Overview: The 11-2 (7-1) Florida Gators are coming off of their first double digit win season since ’09. However, a disappointing loss to an underrated Louisville team in the Sugar Bowl cast a dark shadow over the Gator football program. This year, the Florida Gators have a difficult road to a double digit win season, with only 10 total returning starters. However, the new Gator players have a plethora of talent that they will showcase this season against their SEC foes.


Offense: The Florida Gator offense will be losing a good amount of experience this season, while returning only six starters. At running back, the Gators will lose Mike Gillislee, who ran for over 1100 yards last year. However, a promising sophomore in Matt Jones has the talent to take over the running game. Although Jones has only carried the ball 52 times in his career, the back proved himself in the spring. Former Jacksonville Jaguars’ Pro-Bowl running back Fred Taylor’s son, Kelvin Taylor will look to contribute, als. At quarterback, junior Jeff Driskel will hope to improve from last season, where he threw for 12 TDs and 1646 yards. Even though Florida is only returning one out of their top four receivers, I expect Driskel to prove himself as the quarterback for the next two years. Junior Quinton Dunbar and talented senior Trey Burton will both look to make big plays for the Florida offense at the receiver position. Other than those two receivers, the Gators will lack experience at receiver and tight end. I foresee Burton and Dunbar to carry most of the load this season at receiver, with contributions from the younger core of guys. The Florida offensive line is probably the most prepared group on the Gator offense. These guys will protect their quarterback this season.


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Defense: The Gator defense will lose seven starters from last year. Florida must be able to stop premier SEC offenses, and this season, it will be extremely difficult for this squad to stop the top offensive teams in the conference. The defensive line will not have their top two guys, Shariff Floyd and Omar Hunter. This is a huge loss, as they combined for a total of 86 tackles last season. Sophomore Dante Fowler and junior Darius Cummings will both have to have stellar rookie seasons if this defensive line wishes to stop the run.  At linebacker, the Gators are returning two starters (one of them played half the season), and the two new guys will have to prove their abilities to stop the run, especially in some tough road games against Miami (FL), LSU, and South Carolina. Lastly, the secondary will be a strength in the Florida defense. Although they lose both their safeties Matt Elam and Josh Evans, their replacements are capable of shutting down heavy passing offenses. Senior safety Jaylen Watkins is coming off a season with three interceptions, and he is ready to make an impact against SEC opponents.

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Special Teams: 1st team SEC and Lou Groza finalist, kicker Caleb Sturgis will be replaced by redshirt freshman Austin Hardin. This loss will definitely hurt the Gators, as Sturgis only missed four field goals all season at 24 out of 28. Junior Kyle Christy will continue his campaign as a punter for Florida this season. Senior receiver Andre Debose will return punts and kickoffs this season, with fellow receiver Loucheiz Purifoy splitting kickoff returns with him. Debose is dangerously explosive, and he will provide a much needed spark for the Gators on special teams.


Outlook: With a much younger, inexperienced team, the Florida Gators will have troubles living up to last season’s success. The Gators must face in-state rivals Miami (FL) and Florida State in their non-conference schedule. Both Miami (FL) and Florida State have improved immensely in the offseason, and they will give Florida a run for their money. Their SEC schedule does not include Alabama or Texas A&M, but they must play on the road at Kentucky, LSU, Missouri, and South Carolina. I expect the Florida Gators to compete in the SEC East, but I do not predict the Gators to be the best team in the SEC East. I do not believe the Gators will win 11 games this season, but I still expect a solid season from Will Muschamp’s team.


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