After going 7-6 in his first season, Will Muschamp certainly raised some questions. In year two, Muschamp improved to an impressive 11-2. Year three will be the most telling as Muschamp has now been through three recruiting cycles and a lot of the inherited talent has moved on. As impressive as the 11-2 season was, it ended on a down note with a 33-23 loss at the hands of former Florida defensive coordinator Charlie Strong and the Louisville Cardinals.
Last year, Mike Gillislee became the first Florida running back in recent memory to rush for 1,000 yards. That's good news for Brent Pease and the Gators offense. The bad news? Gillislee's break-through season was also his senior season. The Gators will now turn to rising sophomore Matt Jones (275 yds in 2012), rising junior Mack Brown (102 yds) or incoming legacy Kelvin Taylor. In 2012, the Gators ran the ball 65% of the time so it's imperative that they find a suitable replacement for Gillislee.
In his first year as a starter, Jeff Driskel had his ups and downs. The Gators often played close to the vest on offense and didn't ask Driskel to win many games with his arm last season. This will be a big year for Driskel and whether or not he can take the next step as he will be relied on to do more this season. Florida's leading receiver, tight end Jordan Reed (45 rec), has turned pro and the Gators lose four of their top six pass catchers. Only Quinton Dunbar (36 rec) and Trey Burton (18 rec) return.
Florida has some retooling to do on offense and they lose some heavy hitters on defense. Matt Elam (76 tackles, 4 INT), Sharrif Floyd (46 tackles, 13 TFL, 3 sacks) and Jelani Jenkins (29 tackles) have all turned pro early. In addition to those losses, Josh Evans (83 tackles, 3 INT, 2.5 sacks), Jon Bostic (67 tackles, 3 sacks) and Omar Hunter (40 tackles) have used up their eligibility. That's five out of the top six tacklers from last season. Florida does return talent but some of the talent has big question marks. Can Loucheiz Purifoy keep his head screwed on straight and can Dominique Easley stay healthy? Guys like Brian Poole (2012 Scout.com #2 CB), Jonathan Bullard (2012 Scout.com #4 DE), Dante Fowler (2012 #10 DE), Marcus Maye (2012 Scout.com #7 S) and Marcus Roberson (2011 Scout.com #4 S) will be asked to step up and make a difference this season.
Florida will be an interesting team to watch in 2013. They clearly took a lot of positive steps in 2012. They went 11-2 which is very impressive but they also won four of those games by eight points or less. A win is a win but sometimes the way Florida won in 2012 did little to inspire confidence. Florida has the talent to win the SEC East this season but they will face a lot of competition from Georgia and South Carolina. Gut reaction tells me Florida goes 9-3 but I could easily see them going one win or loss in either direction.
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