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Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Florida Football: 5 Biggest Questions Heading Into 2015

Last season the Florida Gators found themselves in the middle of the SEC rankings with a 7-5 overall record. If you look at their schedule from last season, only 2 games stand out. The loss at home to Missouri, and the loss at home to South Carolina, which ultimately brought the firing of head coach Will Muschamp.


This season brings a new light to Gator Football. They hired a new head coach by the name of Jim McElwain, who came from Colorado State where he was named the Mountain West Coach Of The Year last season. McElwain is an offensive minded coach, a guru who in 2009 took the Alabama Crimson Tide to a 12-0 record as the assistant coach under Nick Saban. McElwain has inherited a program with some serious gaps. The Gators have injured players, a week offensive line, and most recently, no clear front-runner for the starting quarterback job. Fast forward to last weekend, the spring game. A chance for McElwain to really see what he has on the field. Among those looked at, were quarterbacks Will Grier and Treon Harris. During his halftime interview, McElwain was impressed with Grier. Harris preformed well in the second half, leading a strong drive in the third-quarter resulting in a touchdown pass to C’Yontai Lewis. Florida has weapons on offense. Among the big names at the receiver position is Demarcus Robinson, who last season finished with 7 touchdowns and just over 800 yards in total offense. On the rushing side of the ball the Gators are losing Matt Jones to the NFL Draft. However, Kelvin Taylor is set to handle the starting duties at Florida coming off as a solid backup for the Gators last season.


There is much to prove coming out of the swamp this season. Athletic Director Jeremy Foley has said, “ Our goal at the University of Florida is to compete for a championship on a regular basis.” With all that has happened at Florida last season, it leave’s a lot to be determined for the 2015 season.


Who’s going to be the starting quarterback for the Gators? 


According to McElwain the starting quarterback will not be named until the preseason. The front-runner for the starting position is Harris who’s likely to have some setbacks early in the season. In the spring game Grier went 7-for-9 for 130 yards to Harris’s 6-for-9 95 yards and a touchdown. Grier looked sharper than Harris and could take the starting job if Harris doesn’t become more comfortable in the pocket.


Is the offensive line to thin for the Gators to have a sufficient offense?


The offensive line for the Florida Gators has been subjected to injury related setbacks. The bigger issue is the true freshmen on the offensive line need to bulk up. Training and developing is a key component in college football. Fred Johnson (6-7 300lbs), and Brandon Sandifer (6-4 335) are two guys that seem to be large enough size wise to deal with the ground and pound SEC offenses that the Gators will face. However, the Gators simply will not have enough on the offensive line to protect the quarterback.


Are the Gators on paper, capable of winning the SEC East?


The Gators have a schedule that looks winnable, only playing 2 games against the SEC West (LSU, Ole Miss). However, with Kentucky’s program on the rise, and Georgia being Georgia, Florida will need a defining quarterback and an able offense line to step forward from the middle of the SEC East. The first true test of the Gators this season will be September 19th versus Kentucky in Lexington. If the Gators’ can win that game in Kentucky, things will be looking good for the Gators’ early in the 2015 season.


Can the Gator defense pick up the slack for the offense?


Maybe the biggest and best bright spot for the spring was the play of the defense.  Florida’s defense looked fine during the spring game, albeit against a team cobbled together from benchwarmers. The defense made plays and gave the offense room to grown while developing its own agenda for the season. Hopefully the defense will stand up when September 19th comes in Lexington.


Does head coach Jim McElwain have the pieces in place to make a run?


We all know what Robinson can do on the offensive end. What we don’t know is if Grier can get him the ball with a weak offensive line. Florida’s offensive line should be the main focus of McElwain is spring. With an injured starting right tackle Rod Johnson, Florida will need to develop its five scholarship players quick, fast, and in-a-hurry. I expect early struggles from Florida this season, with a run for the SEC Championship in sight for the 2016 season. 


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