After going 4-8 last season in what can only be described as an injury-riddled campaign, the Gators are on a mission to become legitimate contenders in the SEC East Division. Florida suffered its first losing season since 1979 and missed out on a bowl berth for the first time since 1990.With fourteen returning starters and a new offensive coordinator that is well-suited for quarterback Jeff Driskel, the Gators are could surprise the pundits by winning the SEC East in 2014.
In 2012, Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel threw for 1,646 yards (64%) and was the team’s #2 rusher with 413 yards on the ground. After an injury-plagued season in 2013, Driskel is the projected starter for the Gators this season and I expect him to perform well under center. In fact, I believe Driskel is one of the most underrated quarterbacks entering the 2014 season, and I would not be surprised to see him throw for over 2,000 yards. The arrival of offensive coordinator Kurt Roper, who was Duke’s OC for the last six years, further enhances Driskel’s chances of success.
Driskel is also aided by an outstanding Florida backfield that returns everyone from last season, including Kelvin Taylor, Mack Brown and Matt Jones. This is one of Florida’s most experienced running back units in many years, and I expect increased production on the ground this season. The offensive line returns 66 career starts and will be improved due to increased continuity. Florida started three different players each at the three offensive line positions last year!
Florida’s success this season will be predicated upon defense as the Gators field one of the best stop units in college football. The defensive line is anchored by what could be described as the best defensive end combinations in the SEC, with Jonathan Bullard being the featured player. The Gators also return most of their linebacking unit from last season, including their #1 tackler in Michael Taylor. The secondary is one of the best in the nation despite losing four starters, including Loucheiz Purifoy and Marcus Roberson, both of whom left early for the NFL.
Another excellent hire by Florida during the offseason was special teams coach Coleman Hutzler, who held the same position at New Mexico last season. Overall, Florida takes the field with a Top 5 defense and a vastly improved offense behind quarterback Jeff Driskel. With fourteen returning starters and an attitude hell-bent on avenging last season’s 4-8 campaign, I would not be surprised to see Florida contend for the SEC East Division Title.