After being around other members of the media way too much last week at the SEC Spring Meetings in Destin, I walked away with the distinct feeling that those who cover SEC football think the Gators are basically going to be no factor in the conference race this season.
I’m not really sure why preseason opinions of Florida seem so low. Maybe the other hacks can’t get that Georgia Southern stain off their minds, or maybe they’ve forgotten all those crippling injuries that helped wreck UF’s season in 2013, and the fact most of those guys will be back in 2014, including starting quarterback Jeff Driskel (who really seems to get no respect from the media around the SEC).
The consensus seems to be that the Gators simply don’t have the talent to be a contender and that Will Muschamp will fail and be gone at the end of the season.
It could happen, but I just don’t see it playing out that way.
For one thing, Florida’s talent level is fine. The Gators have enough skill and athleticism on their roster to compete with every team on the schedule, even Alabama, which will be breaking in a new starting quarterback. Say what you will about Muschamp’s decision making, but the guy can flat-out recruit, which is why he’s got a pretty good collection of overall talent to work with this season.
And look at it this way, as bad as it was last year, as decimated as the Gators were, they were still competitive in most games. They played with LSU for three-plus quarters. They lost to Georgia by only three. Take away one defensive lapse that led to one big run in the fourth quarter, and they could have easily won at South Carolina starting their third-team quarterback.
Despite some big changes since the end of the season (the main one, of course, being the hiring of Kurt Roper and the installation of a hurry-up offense), those not close to the program apparently don’t sense any of the momentum Muschamp has managed to generate.
Of course, going against a brutal schedule, it’s all going to come down to being better (much better, actually) on offense and winning enough games for Muschamp to survive and for the Gators to re-emerge as a contender in the SEC.
So, will Will Muschamp and the Gators bounce back in 2014?
Those who cover the league seem skeptical.
At least one coach, Alabama’s Nick Saban, is predicting it will be a bounce-back year for Muschamp and UF.
It’s a little too early to make my prediction for Florida. I’m going to wait and see how things go this summer. But let’s just say I’m leaning toward siding with Saban on this one.