Florida No.11 could change offensive focus
Over the past 12 years, the American-Statesman’s sports team has spent July breaking down our own preseason Top 25 rankings. The eventual semifinalists from last year’s college football qualifiers placed first, second, third and ninth in our 2020 poll.
# 11 Florida
Talk about your makeovers. The Gators will undergo some sort of transformation with a reshaped offense and vastly improved defense after losing a cavalcade of offensive stars to the NFL. At first glance, Florida shouldn’t be a contender for the SEC championship, with the fewest returning starters of any team in the league and the loss of caliber quarterback Heisman Kyle Trask and first tight end. Kyle Pitts tower. But Dan Mullen has proven himself to be one of the best top-dozen coaches in the game and will put a consistent product on the pitch despite a pretty intimidating schedule behind a friendlier attack. Florida started 8-1 last season before losing to LSU, Alabama and Oklahoma.
Florida was # 7 in our preseason poll last year. The Gators were seventh in the final CFP standings, 12th in the AP poll and 13th in the coaches rankings.
2020: 8-4, 8-2 in the SEC – they won the East Division, then fell to Alabama 52-46 in the conference title game. They also lost to Oklahoma 55-20 in the Cotton Bowl, their third straight loss to end the season.
Coach: Dan Mullen, 98-54 in 12 years at Mississippi State and Florida, and 29-8 in three seasons with the Gators.
Return Entries: 10 (5 attack, 5 defense)
Shoes to fill: Eight Gators were drafted, tied for fifth. Trask (Buccaneers, 2nd round) had 4,283 yards and 43 touchdowns last year and Pitts was the fourth overall pick (Falcons). Also taken were WR Kadarius Toney (Giants, 1st), CB Marco Wilson (Cardinals, 4th), K Evan McPhearson (Bengals, 5th), S Shawn Davis (Colts, 5th), DT Tedarrell Slaton (Packers, 5th) and OT Stone Forsythe (Seahawks, 7th). CO Brian Johnson has left for the Philadelphia Eagles, where he will mentor Jalen Hurts.
The Gators were no slouch in the transfer portal, adding five Power Five transfers, including Mississippi State K Jace christmann, Auburn DT Daquan Newkirk, Penn State DT Antonio shelton and Clemson RB Demarkcus Bowman, a former five-star prospect. Everything should have an immediate impact. Shelton had 3.5 sacks for the Nittany Lions and Newkirk has played 30 career games at Auburn, with 10 starts. … There have been a lot of changes in the coaching staff. The new co-OCs will be Billy Gonzales (passing game) and Jon Hevesy (racing game), but Mullen will call the games. Garrick McGee, former head coach of UAB, moved from analyst to safety coach, and Jules Montinar was hired in South Florida. Montinar, 36, was the cornerback coach and recruiting coordinator for the Bulls. He spent time at Texas State under Everett Withers and spent two years as an AG in Alabama under NIck Saban, where he said his “proudest moment was never getting me chewed.” … Florida launched its “Gators Made” program to help athletes increase their market value with the advent of name, image and likeness laws that allow them to leverage their brand. … Florida has a home series planned with Notre Dame until 2031 and 2032 and also with Texas for 2030 and 2031.
Who passed: Emory Jones 18-32-221, 2/1 (2nd per team), Anthony Richardson 1-2-27, 1/1 (3rd)
To rush : Dameon Pierce 106-503-4 (managed team), Malik Davis 66-310 (2nd), QB Emory Jones 32-217-2 (3rd)
Reception: Jacob Copeland 23-435-3 (4th), RB Malik Davis 31-377 (5th)
Attacks: LB Ventell Miller 88 (supervised team)
Bags: DL Zachary Carter 5 (managed team), OLB Brenton Cox Jr. 4 (T-2e), OLB Khris Bogle 4 (T-2e), LB Ventrell Miller 3.5 (4th)
Interceptions: CB Kaiir Elam 2 (T-1er)
Feedback from the whole conference
Defense: DB Kaiir Elam (1st team)
for your information
How the pandemic affected Florida: The Gators had a 10-game SEC schedule, but suffered a three-week hiatus due to a widespread outbreak in the team with 19 positive tests after their trip to Texas A&M. The LSU game has been postponed from October to December. Attendance at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, where 90,000 fans typically make the swamp a nightmare for opponents, has been reduced to nearly 20% with around 17,000 allowed. Even Mullen has tested positive for COVID-19. The football weight room has been reassembled in the indoor training center so that players can work out in an outdoor space.
QB Who: With Trask gone, the Gators will be much more race-oriented this fall with double-threat quarterbacks. Emory jones and rookie redshirt Anthony richardson in place to avoid a lot of falls. Florida also has a real freshman Carlos Del Rio-Wilson and Jalen kitna, whose father Jon played in the NFL. In addition, Mullen has a commitment of Nick evers by Flower Mound, who finished third in the Elite 11.
Elam Elite: If there is a real star in the team, it’s the cornerback Kaiir elam. The 6-2, 195-pound runner-up is a rising sensation who was a Jim Thorpe semifinalist and an All-SEC first-team pick who had two interceptions and 11 pass breakouts. Otherwise, the Gators’ secondary needs some work with the loss of three starters.
National statistics ranking 2020
Where Florida ranked nationally in various statistical categories last season – and how the Gators ranked in 2019.
Rating: 13th (2019 – 28th, +15 places)
Pointing defense: 74th (7th, -67)
Total offense: 9th (45th, +36)
Total defense: 83rd (9th, -74)
Who passed: 1st (16th, +15)
Defensive pass: 100th (32nd, -68)
To rush : 96th (107th, +11)
Quick defense: 71st (8th, -63)
Bags: 23rd (4th, -19)
Interceptions: 35th (9th, -26)
Attack in red zone: 18th (59th, +41)
Red zone defense: 68th (3rd, -65)
Revenue margin: 81st (33rd, -48)
Possession time: 55th (60th, +5)
Our Top 25 – so far
No. 25 Ole Miss: Rebels have a lot of firepower to work with
Washington # 24: Huskies back for more after season 3-2
# 23 Louisiana: Ragin ‘Cajuns Wants To Prove They Belong
No.22 Penn State: Nittany Lions wants to continue the momentum
# 21 Oklahoma State: Cowboys Have Offensive Questions, For A Change
No. 20 Iowa: Hawkeyes hopes this is the year to beat the Buckeyes
No. 19 Coastal Carolina: Upstart Chanticleers Looking Here To Stay, Ready Or Not
# 18 Texas: Longhorns leave as coach, quarterback, offense, defense
Wisconsin’s No.17: Badgers eager for a bounce season in the Big Ten
# 16 Miami: Hurricanes bank on Eric King’s return from injury
Oregon No.15: Ducks win three straight Pac-12 title wins
# 14 LSU: Last year’s hard knocks could pay off for this year’s Tigers
Indiana No.13: Hoosiers restocked their shelves with transfer talent
# 12 USC: Trojans go the right way in Pac-12
# 11 Florida
Our top 10 starts with our # 10 team. Want a clue?
This basketball school is coached by a future Hall of Fame member who is on his second stint as a football coach there.