CFN Preview 2013 - Florida Gators
Florida QB Jeff Driskel
CollegeFootballNews.com 2013 Preview - Florida Gators
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Louisville 33, Florida 23. The 2013 Sugar Bowl was the best possible thing to happen to this year's Florida Gators.
Head coach: Will Muschamp
3rd year: 18-8
Ten Best Florida Players
1. CB/WR Loucheiz Purifoy, Jr.
2. DT Dominique Easley, Sr.
3. DE/LB Ronald Powell, Jr.
4. LB Antonio Morrison, Soph.
5. LB Michael Taylor, Jr.
6. RB Matt Jones, Soph.
7. QB Jeff Driskel, Jr
8. . P Kyle Christy, Jr.
9. DE Dante Fowler, Soph.
10. CB Vernon Hargreaves III, Fr.
9/7 at Miami
9/14 OPEN DATE
9/28 at Kentucky
10/12 at LSU
10/19 at Missouri
10/26 OPEN DATE
11/2 Georgia (in Jacksonville)
11/16 at South Carolina
11/23 Georgia Southern
11/30 Florida State
A very valid and very reasonable case could be made that before the post-season, Florida absolutely deserved to be in the BCS championship discussion and would've and should've earned the spot next to Alabama had Notre Dame faltered down the stretch. No, the Gators didn't win their own division, much less their own conference title – which automatically should exclude them from winning the national title in my world, but put that aside for now – but they had a better résumé than anyone in college football including Oregon, Notre Dame and Alabama.
They beat Texas A&M and Johnny Manziel – the same Texas A&M and Johnny Manzel that beat Alabama in Alabama – in College Station. They beat LSU, they thumped South Carolina and they went on the road and piledrove a Florida State team that ended up winning the ACC championship and the Orange Bowl.
The loss to Georgia obviously became the key point in the season, but had South Carolina somehow slipped by LSU the week before getting destroyed in Gainesville, it would've been Florida vs. Alabama in the SEC championship, and in effect, for the national title.
The problem, though, was in the aesthetics.
Yes, by all metrics and all reasonable rationale, Florida deserved to play in a BCS game and might have earned the right to more, but it didn't look the part. Something was missing.
The defense was phenomenal, rocking against the run and not allowing a thing through the air despite facing a slew of quarterbacks who'll someday be making NFL money. The special teams were peerless, dominating in every phase highlighted by a couple of weapons in kicker Caleb Sturgis and punter Kyle Christy. However, the offense didn't look the part, struggling and clawing for every yard and every point with a brutish running attack and just enough timely third down plays and key drives to put games away.
The formula worked - living up to the cliché of getting stronger as the game went on, scoring 128 points in the fourth quarter and just 40 in the first – but it was a hard sell. Alabama had an ultra-efficient passing game, and Oregon was nice and shiny, and Notre Dame was beating big-name teams in dramatic fashion, but it was tough to get behind the ugly Gators that were a tough weekly watch. It didn't help that a horrible offensive performance in the loss to Georgia was followed up by a hang-on-for-dear-life win over a bad Missouri team and a miracle win over Louisiana-Lafayette, but just when it seemed like the team was about to be exposed, out came the win over Florida State, and everything appeared to be on the right track.
Louisville 33, Florida 23.
The 2012 Gators were far more talented and far better than Louisville, but the curtain was pulled back on the problems. Forgetting for a moment that head coach Will Muschamp did everything possible to allow Louisville to pull off the upset with questionable move after questionable move, and ignoring that quarterback Jeff Driskel's internal clock to get rid of the ball was set three seconds too slow, the game showed that there's lots of work to be done. Had Florida come away with a decisive win, it would've seemed like everything was on the right track and the coaching staff would've had a 12-1 Sugar Bowl Champion t-shirt to wave every time anyone questioned why there wasn't more downfield passing or why the pass protection wasn't far better.
There's no excuse to be dead last in the SEC in passing, but it's not exactly going to be back to the fun ‘n' gun days with the receiving corps still a concern and Driskel not exactly Tom Brady on the deep balls. There has to be more explosion and all the athletes and all the talents on both sides of the ball need to shine through on a more consistent basis. It's okay to bludgeon your opponent and rely on defense and special teams to get the job done, and it's also okay to score a lot of points.
Once again, Florida will have one of the most talented teams in America, and once again, everything that went right last year should work once again, but to get from BCS good to BCS championship great, there are still holes that need patching.
Those who don't learn from losing to Louisville are doomed to repeat it.
What to watch for on offense: More of the same. While it would be nice to start connecting on more big plays down the field, and it would be great if all the speed and talent at receiver could take the ball the house once in a while, it doesn't seem like that's in the overall plan. However, Florida might do the same thing it did last year, only more effectively. Losing Xavier Nixon and James Wilson from the left side of the line might be a blessing. They were talented, beefy and physical run blockers, but they were awful against anyone who could get off the ball in a hurry. Enter D.J. Humphries at left tackle and Max Garcia at guard, two smaller, more athletic options who might not bury their men like Nixon and Wilson, but could be far, far better at keeping Jeff Driskel upright. A little more time to work could mean all the difference for the passing game, while Matt Jones, Mack Brown and Driskel will do their part for the ground attack.
What to watch for on defense: Where will Ronald Powell play? Even after losing Minnesota Viking defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, Chicago Bear linebacker Jon Bostic, and Baltimore Raven safety Matt Elam, the defense should be terrific with a fantastic back seven and enough options up front to keep the rotation rolling. The best part about everything the defense was able to accomplish last season was that it all happened without one of the premier pass rushing prospects in college football. Powell was killing people last offseason before suffering a knee injury that cost him the entire year, but fortunately, it happened early enough to give him a full season to recover. Now the defense that finished fifth in the nation gets the one thing it was missing – a devastating speed rusher. It remains to be seen just how good Powell will be, but if he can add anything to the Buck position or at strongside linebacker, all of a sudden the D will go to a whole other level.
The team will be far better if … the passing game isn't so God-awful painful. Running game – check. Defense – absolutely. Special teams – yup. Passing game – uh oh. The Gators don't have to go Texas Tech and start winging the ball all around the yard, but they can't bog down and just give up on trying to make something happen like they did all throughout last year. It was almost like they were doing just enough on offense not to lose, until they lost. In the end, the mistakes in the passing game were the undoing, throwing two picks in the loss to Georgia, two in the loss to Louisville and one against everyone else.
The schedule: The Gators don't get much time to tune up starting out with a tough game against a good Toledo team with a great offense. Then comes the dogfight with what's sure to be an emotional fight at Miami against a team looking to make a major statement. With a week off, everything should be ready to go to start the SEC season with Tennessee coming to town. Fortunately, it doesn't get too much easier in conference play with four of the first five games – Tennessee, at Kentucky, Arkansas and at Missouri – against teams that didn't go bowling last year. But the fifth game is the bear.
Playing Arkansas from the West isn't a bad deal, but things quickly change the week after with a trip to LSU to mark the start of a long stretch away from Ben Hill Griffin. Throw in an off week and the Georgia game in Jacksonville and Florida goes from October 5th to November 9th without a home game. Not only are the Georgia and LSU games away from home, but so is the showdown against South Carolina. Georgia Southern is a break before finishing up with Florida State.
Best offensive player: Sophomore RB Matt Jones. He might not have been the most ballyhooed of all the Florida star prospects in the 2012 recruiting class, but he was a solid four-star prospect with great size and tremendous upside. He started to show what he could do late last season, producing big despite a limited number of touches, and now the job is his with Mike Gillislee off to the next level. Mack Brown has the talent to handle the ball ten times a game or more, but Jones will handle the heavy lifting.
Best defensive player: Junior CB Loucheiz Purifoy. The NFL types are going to start getting on him soon for being the best corner prospect in the draft and never coming up with a pick, but that could quickly change. Athletic enough to be used as a receiver, and a devastating special teamer with an uncanny knack for making the big play and blocking kicks – saving the day against Louisiana-Lafayette – he can do it all. With his size, speed and tackling ability, there's a spot in the top 15 of the 2014 NFL Draft just waiting for him.
Key player to a successful season: Senior PK Brad Phillips or Redshirt Freshman PK Austin Hardin. Caleb Sturgis nailed 24-of-28 field goals last season. Of the four misses, three were blocked and not his fault. Not just accurate, he nailed 8-of-9 kicks from beyond 40 yards including a 50-yarder against Georgia and a 51-yard bomb against Texas A&M. Considering Florida will be in several tight games again, and with an offense that's not going to take any chances in the red zone, it needs a steady kicker to make sure drives don't come up empty.
The season will be a success if … the Gators win the SEC East. There might not be enough in the passing game to honestly think about the national championship, and there will probably be a hiccup at LSU or at South Carolina, but there's no reason to go for anything less than a trip to Atlanta for the SEC title. There's too much talent, the defense will be too good, and the expectations are too high to merely hope for a nice ten-win season.
Key game: Nov. 2 vs. Georgia. The November 16th date at South Carolina will have some say in the SEC East title, but the Gators can't rely on two Georgia SEC losses. The winner of the Cocktail Party will be in the driver's seat. The Gamecocks don't have to play LSU, Alabama or Texas A&M, and Georgia misses the Aggies and the Tide and gets LSU at home. Florida has to go on the road to deal with LSU, and it can't afford to lose in Jacksonville for a third year in a row.
2012 Fun Stats:
- Florida 1st Quarter Points: 40 – Florida 4th Quarter Points: 128
- Penalties: Florida 105 for 895 yards – Opponents 77 for 632 yards
- Interceptions Thrown In Loss To Georgia & Louisville: 4 – Interceptions Thrown In The Other 11 Game: 1
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