Florida head coach Will Muschamp knows he’s on the hot seat. Everyone knows he’s on the hot seat. He’s one terrible season from getting his ass booted out of The Swamp, and we all know it. You can blame a lot of things for an awful 2013. You can blame the mound of injuries. His bad offensive co-ordinator. A difficult schedule. Or just simple blame Muschamp, as a lot of people have done. 

Anyway, we look ahead to 2014, for what a lot of Gators fans hope will not be a repeat of 2013. If it is, then The Swamp will be less full of Gators than full of wide, open spaces….

LAST SEASON

Before we start on last season’s 4-8 schedule, we’d like to point out that the Gators had 23 players missing games in 2013. TWENTY-THREE (Thanks, Andy Hutchins!). According to Hutchins, “of the 28 Florida players who missed snaps this fall thanks to injury, 20 were offensive and defensive starters“. 17 Gators on scholarship had season-ending injuries, including QB Jeff Driskel, WR Andre Debose, DT Dominique Easley, back-up QB Tyler Murphy and LB Antonio Morrison. The injuries were far-reaching and continuous. Oh, and during that time, came the losses. The 21-16 loss at Miami. The back-to-back atrocities against LSU (offensively) and Missouri (both sides of the ball). The Cocktail Party. Er, Vanderbilt. South Carolina. Florida State. And before the blow-out loss to the hated ‘Noles, there was the home 26-20 loss to freaking Georgia Southern. Yes, Georgia Southern. The world suddenly had a way to tease Florida fans. Anyway, the 3-5 SEC record wasn’t terrible (they beat Tennessee, Arkansas, and Kentucky), but losing the last seven games were (you know, including that Ga. Southern game).

Stats-wise, Florida managed to finish 113th in the country offense-wise. That’s all you need to know, really.

OFF-SEASON

Two things of good news for Florida. First of all, no-one has been arrested in the off-season. Secondly, the Gators are a bit healthier, and 16 starters returned to play the 2014 season. This includes 7 offensive players, 7 defensive players, and 2 from special teams, including Driskel, RBs Kelvin Taylor and Matt Jones, DE Dante Fowler, and other talent. Having said that, 9 players were still out for Spring Practice, but are expected to return for the fall.

Will Muschamp changed some things staffing-wise, bringing in OC Kurt Roper from Duke, where he’d helped to take Duke to a bowl game  (and nearly upset Texas A&M). 

RECRUITING

This Will Muschamp dude can certainly recruit. The Gators ranked 9th after National Signing Day 2014, bringing in 25 recruits including 5-star CB Jalen Tabor, and a host of four-stars including DT Gerald Willis, Pro-Style QB Will Grier, DT Thomas Holley and OT David Sharpe. A lot of people are going to make comments about the Gators’ poor start to NSD 2015, but we’re not there yet.

THE BIG QUESTIONS/POINTS/STATEMENTS ABOUT THE 2014 FLORIDA GATORS

NO ISSUES AT QB

Unlike a lot of other programs in the SEC, there is no problem for Muschamp to name his starting QB. That’s going to be Jeff Driskel, who’s back from a broken leg and seems to be fighting fit. That’s good news for Roper, and there should be a lot of fun ‘n’ gun in his offense. Duke last year averaged nearly 33 pts/game. And apparently, Roper’s new offense is going to be more down the ‘spread’ route, which Chompers are pretty happy about.

STACKED AT RUNNING BACK?

The Gators are chomping at the bit at running back. Soph Kelvin Taylor, Sr. Mack Brown and Sr Matt Jones will form one hell of a committee for a team that may well run the ball by committee next year. The former three really are good. Taylor and Brown combined for over 1,000 yards and 8 TDs for the Gators in ’13. And Matt Jones is really, really good, too…..if he stays healthy.

OFFENSIVE LINE: SOLID IF HEALTHY

We say the words “if healthy” for a lot of the Gators team, but after 2013, it’s hard not to. Anyway, LT D.J. Humphries and RT Chaz Green returns, as does Tyler Moore and LT/LG Max Garcia. Gators experts are expecting Trip Thurman or Trenton Brown to play LG, Garcia to move back to center, Moore to play RG, and Green to play RT. That’s an experienced line, folks. We can’t wait to see how they’ll cope with the up-tempo offensive schemes of Roper.

WIDE RECEIVING CORPS: DECEPTIVELY STRONG?

A lot of pressure will be put on senior WR Quinton Dunbar and Andre DeBose to perform heroics, yet at SEC Media Days, a lot of discussion was about sophomore DeMarcus Robinson. Robinson has big-play ability, but will need to keep his nose clean after being suspended TWICE in 2013. Imagine what would happen to the player at Georgia. Junior transfer from Virginia Jake McGee will boost the team’s TE corps, too.

AND THE DEFENSE? POTENTIALLY SWAMPING

OK, so we actually love Florida’s secondary. Vernon Hargreaves III is a stud CB, pulling out 35 tackles and 3 INTs for a team that was 7th in the nation in passing yards given up per game.  Tabor comes to Gainseville as one of the most recruited CBs in the country and could start immediately. J.C. Jackson is going to start fall camp but have to be non-contact after – you guessed it – a (shoulder) injury, and might form a nasty partnership with DeBose as a kick returner, too. Marcus Maye/Jabari Gorman/Brian Poole (nickelback)/Keanu Neil/Marcell Harris and Nick Washington will battle it out for the safety position.

And the defensive line? DE Dante Fowler‘s a stud, and DE Jonathan Bullard‘s pretty good, too. Antonio Morrison and Jarrad Davis will take up linebacker duty, but there’s also room for Michael Taylor. Alex Anzalone and Matt Rolin will also provide depth. At DT, expect a ‘Tackle by Committee’, with only Leon Orr actually a starter coming in. Freshmen Holley and Willis both pushing for playing time despite only arriving in the summer,battling it out with soph Joey Ivie, senior Bear Cummings, and redshirt freshman Caleb Brantley.

AND THE SCHEDULE? STARTS EASY, GETS NASTY

Aug 30th–vs Idaho
Sept 6th–vs Eastern Michigan
Sept 13th–vs Kentucky
Sept 20th–at Alabama
Oct 4th–at Tennessee
Oct 11th–vs LSU
Oct 18th–vs Missouri
Nov 1st–vs Georgia  (in Jacksonville)
Nov 8th–at Vanderbilt
Nov 15th–vs South Carolina
Nov 22nd–vs Eastern Kentucky
Nov 29th–at Florida State

PREDICTION: Florida sails out to a 3-0 start before losing to Alabama. The team then outscores Tennessee on the road (will they ever lose to the Gators again??), before stumbling against LSU. They then beat Missouri, lose to Georgia, before overcoming Vanderbilt. A win against Eastern Kentucky is sandwiched by a loss to South Carolina and on the road at Florida State. The Gators finish 7-5. It might not be enough to keep Muschamp, but let’s be honest, this is a new OC and an evil schedule.

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