Last season, Florida played in the SEC Championship Game for the second year in a row. And once again, the Gators lost to Alabama in Atlanta, this time to the tune of a 54-16 beatdown. Florida was able to rebound with a convincing 30-3 victory over Iowa in the Outback Bowl to finish 9-4 in head coach Jim McElwain ’s second season.
This season, the Gators are starting over on defense in many ways with eight starters gone from last year’s unit that finished fifth in the nation in yards allowed per game. To make matters worse, fifth-year senior safety Marcell Harris, one of the three returning starters, has already been lost for the season because of a torn Achilles tendon. New defensive coordinator Randy Shannon, who replaces Geoff Collins after he left to become Temple’s head coach, has his work cut out for him
So with so much uncertainty on defense and a few question marks on the other side of the ball as well, can Florida win a third straight SEC East title? Athlon Sports polled a few writers for their take on the Gators’ realistic 2017 win/loss projection. With Malik Zaire transferring from Notre Dame, it appears the Gators have finally stabilized the quarterback position. Running back Jordan Scarlett emerged from a crowded backfield to gain 889 yards and six touchdowns in 2016. The offense also features wide receiver Antonio Callaway, who went for 54 catches for 721 yards and three touchdowns a season ago.
The biggest question mark is Florida’s defense. The team has relied on its defense to win games the last few years, but losing eight starters on that side of the ball will be tough to overcome. Florida can’t afford many injuries with such a young defense to begin the season.
It will be tough for the Gators to return to Atlanta for the third straight season. For Florida to win the SEC East again, the offense will need to make great strides in head coach Jim McElwain’s third year in Gainesville.
Steven Lassan ( @AthlonSteven )
It’s a tough call between Florida and Georgia in the SEC East. The Gators are the back-to-back champions, but coach Jim McElwain’s team has a few question marks – much like the Bulldogs do – to address this fall. The addition of Malik Zaire adds some clarity to the quarterback room, and the skill talent and offensive line is in the best shape of McElwain’s tenure. While Florida’s offense looks poised to show marked improvement, the defense opens 2017 with question marks. This unit returns only two starters after safety Marcell Harris was lost for the year due to injury. New coordinator Randy Shannon has plenty of talent but a lot of new faces stepping into full-time roles. One advantage Florida does have over Georgia? The schedule. The Gators play only three SEC road games and catch LSU and Tennessee at home.
The Gators have won the SEC East in each of the first two seasons of the Jim McElwain […]
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