Scouting Report: Florida Gators

Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports No rest for the weary. Michigan takes the field tomorrow in its annual Spring Game, pitting its best players against one another for the third time under coach Jim Harbaugh. For fans, this will be the first chance to see some relatively unknown Wolverines in action, given the departure of seven offensive and 10 defensive starters from the 2016 squad.

As spring practices wind to a end, the entire focus for the program will shift toward preparing for the season opener. Unlike last year when the team kicked off the campaign with a home blowout win over Hawaii, the young and relatively inexperienced 2017 team will have to grow up in a hurry for when it faces the two-time defending champions of the SEC East, Florida Gators, on neutral turf. WHO: Michigan vs. Florida

WHAT: AdvoCare Classic

WHEN: Saturday, Sept. 2, 2017 (Time TBA)

WHERE: AT&T Stadium (Arlington, Texas)

The Gators finished the 2016 season ranked No. 14 in the AP Poll and No. 13 in the Coaches Poll. But how do they look heading into 2017?

OUTLOOK

Florida has done one thing extremely well since head coach Jim McElwain arrived prior to the 2015 season, and that’s keep its opponents out of the endzone. The Gators join Alabama, Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio State as the only schools that ranked in the Top 10 nationally in points per game surrendered for each of the last two seasons. Last year, the Gators held opponents to just 156 yards per game and 17.9 points per game.

From its stout defense, Florida is losing three linemen, three linebackers and three defensive backs, including star corner Teez Tabor. There is talent waiting in the wings, but it will be mostly untested heading into the season opener. What 2017 holds for Florida may be a shift from defensive dominance to an effective and efficient offensive team.

Quarterback Austin Appleby graduated, leaving the starting position up for grabs. Junior Luke Del Rio, who appeared in six games last season, throwing for 1,358 yards with eight touchdowns and eight interceptions, will battle with two redshirt freshmen, Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask. The good news for the Gators: the quarterback will be surrounded by talent with returning receivers Brandon Powell and Antonio Callaway, and running back Jordan Scarlett.

In 2016 and 2017, the Gators garnered the No. 12 and No. 11 recruiting classes, respectively, according to 247 Sports. Much like Jim Harbaugh is doing at Michigan, McElwain is building a program around his own system and finding talented players to buy in. The pieces may or may not all fall into place in the 2017 season, but in the years to come Florida will continue to build into a continual national contender.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Make no mistake, despite losing significant talent from a successful 2016 squad, similarly to Michigan, Florida still has a number of key players heading into the 2017 campaign.With the quarterback position still up in the air, and therefore doubt about the effectiveness […]