Rick Bouch examines the Florida Gators roster, gives new head coach Jim McElwain a few suggestions, and gives his prediction for the Gators in 2015.
Apr 11, 2015; Gainesville, FL, USA; Florida Gators head coach Jim McElwain talks with defensive back Vernon Hargreaves III (1) during the second half at the Orange and Blue Debut at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Orange defeated Blue 31-6. (Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)
The Gators fired Will Muschamp and brought in former Alabama offensive coordinator Jim McElwain as their new head coach. McElwain is fresh off turning around a Colorado State program that had become dormant in recent years. Florida hopes that the McElwain is the guy that can get the program back among the SEC’s and the nation’s elite.
For Florida to compete for an SEC East title this season, its defense will have to carry a young offense while it matures. Seven defensive starters return including four of five defensive backs in the Gators 4-2-5 defense. All-American Vernon Hargreaves III returns at cornerback, and defensive ends Jonathan Bullard (6-3, 272) and Alex McCalister (6-6, 238) give Florida proven pass rush threats. The Gators finished 13th against the run and tied for 19th in scoring defense giving up 21.1 points per game.
Offensively, McElwain has some questions to answer starting at quarterback. Redshirt freshman Will Grier came out of the spring as the starter, but sophomore Treon Harris will challenge in the fall. Florida has a true talent at wide receiver in Demarcus Robinson who was fifth in the SEC last year in receiving yards with 810. At 6-2, 197 pounds Robinson will be McElwain’s and offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier’s go-to guy.
Running back Adam Lane, most valuable player of the Birmingham Bowl, returns along with junior Kelvin Taylor. Four-star recruit Jordan Scarlett may also compete for playing time in the Gators backfield. Florida will break in two new wide receivers and four of five offensive linemen—they will have to learn quickly if the Gators are to improve on their 106th place ranking in passing offense.
McElwain and company will have to put it all together quickly. After the season opener with New Mexico State, the Gators will take on East Carolina, the team they beat in last year’s Birmingham Bowl. The Pirates will surely be looking to avenge that loss. Then, it’s on to the SEC schedule where Florida will cross over and face LSU and a very talented Ole Miss team.
Even with a new head coach and an outstanding defense, it is hard to picture the Gators doing much better than their .500 finish in the SEC from a year ago. A young, inexperienced offensive line and questions at quarterback will most likely keep the Gators from entering the top tier of the conference this season.