Florida Gators football: Despite drubbing by Florida State, future looks bright

Frederick Breedon/Getty Images True freshman Jawaan Taylor (65) clears a path for true freshman Lamical Perine (22). TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida Gators QB Luke Del Rio finished the 2016 regular season with a 1:1 touchdown to interception ratio. Backup QB Austin Appleby started 5 games, including at Tennessee and Florida State. The defense lost both starting linebackers, both starting safeties and both starting defensive ends to significant injuries.

Had you told me any one of these facts in July – let alone all three – I would have wondered whether the Gators managed bowl eligibility. The fact that the Gators are playing Alabama next week is a minor miracle and a testament to the coaching staff.

Florida ended the 2016 regular season with a thud against Florida State. That has been an all-too-common occurrence since Urban Meyer left and I share much of the frustration of Gator Nation. But now is not the time to give up on head coach Jim McElwain or offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier.

The only players from Florida State’s 2016 recruiting class (ranked No. 2 overall by Rivals) to make the box score in the game against Florida were defensive end Brian Burns (4 tackles, 1.5 sacks), defensive back Lavonta Taylor (1 tackle) and kickers Ricky Aguayo and Logan Tyler.

Florida had six true freshmen make the box score: DB Chauncey Gardner, RB Lamical Perine, WR Tyrie Cleveland, LBs Vosean Joseph and David Reese, and DE Jachai Polite. The 2016 recruiting class (ranked No. 14 overall by Rivals) was also represented by kicker Eddy Pineiro and the right side of the offensive line.

Florida true freshmen play key roles on the team, while Florida State does not rely on them at all. Indeed, 24 of Florida State’s 48 offensive TDs this season have come from juniors Dalvin Cook and Travis Rudolph.

Florida only has 25 offensive TDs all season. Of those, six are from players who were recruited by Will Muschamp. Running the ball? McElwain recruits have accounted for more than 99 percent of all the yards this season. Passing game? Almost 61 percent of the receiving yards.

For comparison, Cook accounted for 66 percent of the Seminoles rushing yards this season. Rudolph accounted for more than 25 percent of their receiving yards. Building a program: Florida State football

Interestingly, the program that Florida should compare itself to right now is Florida State circa 2010. Jimbo Fisher was hired after the ousting of Bobby Bowden after 10 seasons of basically 8-5 records.

Fisher overachieved in his first year with a 10-4 record in 2010 and a trip to the ACC Championship Game, losing to Virginia Tech. He then went out and signed a 2011 recruiting class that included Karlos Williams, Devonta Freeman, Rashad Greene, Kelvin Benjamin, Timmy Jernigan and Tank Carradine. FSU was back!

Then, they went 9-4 in 2011, finished the year ranked 23 in the AP Poll and didn’t even win their division in the ACC. It was a clear step backward based on the preseason predictions. But one thing may […]