Looking Ahead: Florida

(Photo: Matt Pendleton, 247Sports) Every week leading up to the kickoff of Kentucky’s 2017 fall camp, CatsPause.com will take a look at each opponent on UK’s schedule. Next up is the Florida Gators, who the Cats host on Sept. 23 at Kroger Field.

Talking Point: Head coach Jim McElwain has delivered two SEC East titles in his first two seasons in Gainesville, but do the Gators have the horses to hit the trifecta in 2017? Florida’s offensive skill positions are in good shape, with wide receivers Antonio Callaway (54 catches, 721 yards, three TDs in 2016) and Brandon Powell (45 catches, 387 yards, two TDs) returning, as well as Jordan Scarlett (889 yards, six TDs) back in the backfield. On the opposite side of the line of scrimmage, Florida must replace seven NFL Draft picks from a defense that ranked eighth nationally in 2015 and fifth overall in 2016.

Area of Concern: A key question for the Gators this fall is who will distribute the ball to the pack of playmakers? After the conclusion of spring practice, Feleipe Franks – a former four-star recruit – is the leader to start at quarterback, though the summer arrival of Notre Dame graduate transfer Malik Zaire thickens the plot. The position has lacked stability during McElwain’s tenure, with four different players starting behind center in the past two years. Should Franks win the job, the Gators will hope he can stay healthy or that back-up Kyle Trask is ready to step in. True freshman Kadarius Toney turned heads – including that of former Florida coach Steve Spurrier – during spring as a dual-threat option.

Season Outlook: Florida’s schedule is a daunting one, with a season-opening date vs. the Michigan Wolverines – who trounced the Gators 41-7 in the 2016 Citrus Bowl in Orlando – and the annual rivalry showdown vs. Florida State to close the year on Nov. 25. In the months between, the Gators will look to take advantage of home games vs. Tennessee, Vanderbilt, LSU and Texas A&M in the season’s first seven weeks. If Florida can hold serve at The Swamp in SEC play, a trip to Atlanta could come down to how the Gators fare in Jacksonville vs. the Georgia Bulldogs.