NCAAF - SEC
Stadium:Ben Hill Griffin Stadium
Coach: Dan Mullen
SU Record: 8-4
ATS Record: 5-6-1
|Sep-4||vs Florida Atlantic|
|Nov-27||vs Florida State|
Florida Gators Returning Stats Leaders
|Brad Stewart Jr.||27||15||42||1||3||1|
OVERALL RETURNING PRODUCTION FOR 2021/22
Florida Football Team
The Gators lost a great quarterback, but they have plenty of talent returning to once again contend with Georgia for the top spot in the SEC East after claiming the title the challenging 2020 season. Kyle Trask’s passing numbers might be a once in a generation phenomenon if Gainesville, but redshirt junior and previously prized recruit Emory Jones is ready to take the reins.
After Florida completed his first two seasons ranked in the top ten after major bowl wins, head coach Dan Mullen and the Gator faithful might have been disappointed with the 13th position and a loss to Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl Classic which was their third in a row to end the season. However, 2020 was no normal season and Florida still captured the SEC East and played Alabama in the conference championship game.
With a schedule comprised entirely of SEC teams, Florida jumped out to an 8-1 start which had many including them in the conversation for inclusion in the College Football Playoff before they stumbled in their regular-season finale to LSU, 37-34. A close 52 – 46 loss to Alabama in the SEC championship may have been a confidence booster, but simply highlighted how close they had come to having a special season, losing three league games by a total of 12 points.
Redshirt junior quarterback Emory Jones has been behind starter Kyle Trask as he completed 69% of his passes and threw for 4,283 yards and 43 touchdowns while tossing just eight interceptions. Those are big shoes for anyone to fill and Jones hasn’t seen much action because Florida’s defense allowed enough points to keep him from seeing much mop-up duty.
Defensive tackle Gervon Dexter was a prized recruit a season ago, but the heralded player struggled as a freshman and will need to mature some if he is to help a defense that gave up over 30 points a game last year. At 6’6” and around 300 pounds, he will tough for opposing offenses to contain if he makes it into the starting lineup.
Senior defensive end Zachary Carter is one of the few returners off last season’s defense and he’ll be counted on to add to his 16.5 sacks that he claimed the past couple of years, although only five of those came in 2020.
The Gators added five-star cornerback Jason Marshall, Jr. and they’ll need his skills in a secondary that was the primary reason the defense finished 100th in the nation in passing yardage allowed. The freshman out of Miami Palmetto High School was the third-rated defensive back by at least one publication.
Defensive tackle Antonio Shelton transferred in from Penn State to join a unit that is already laden with talent, even if they didn’t always play like it in 2020. He’ll have another transfer for a company at nose tackle, with Daquan Newkirk coming over from Auburn.
Obviously, a quarterback who put up the numbers that Kyle Trask did will be difficult to replace, but it’s college football and the departure of a record setting signal-caller is inevitable. The Gators will learn quickly if his highly touted replacement is worthy of the hype when they host Alabama in their SEC opener on September 18th.
Florida will also have to reload to provide quality targets for Jones, as they lost All-American tight end Kyle Pitts as well as wide receivers Kadarius Toney and Trevon Grimes. Between the three of them, they accounted for 151 receptions and 31 touchdowns.
SEC East Outlook
Although Florida may be as talented, if not even more so, than Georgia, the schedule isn’t in their favor. The Gators play Alabama and travel to LSU from the SEC West, while Georgia draws Arkansas at home and Auburn on the road, which looks like a distinct advantage for the Bulldogs. That inequity in the schedule may be enough for Georgia to be the team that faces off against Alabama in Atlanta for the SEC championship, especially if Florida doesn’t solve its defensive woes.
Missouri could be a factor in the race as they bring back an effective quarterback in Connor Bazelak as well as four of five returning starters on a senior laden offensive line. The rest of the division appears to be playing for third place at best, with Kentucky the best of the rest.
The Gators had the top passing attack in the country in 2020, which they won’t repeat without Trask and a more mobile Jones in the backfield. Mullen has indicated he wants more balance on an offense that was 96th in the nation in rushing yardage.
In addition to Jones generating offense with his feet, the Gators also return virtually all the players responsible for their 2020 ground production, including leading rusher Dameon Pierce who averaged 4.7 yards a carry and scored four touchdowns on a pass happy unit.
Despite the losses at receiver, Florida has plenty of returning talent which never seems to be an issue for the Gators to attract. The offensive line has three solid returners at the center and tackle positions, but the guard spot could be a problem, which is why Jones’ ability to avoid the pass rush could be critical.
The offense basically bailed out a defense that allowed 30.8 points a game, eighth in the SEC and 74th in the nation in a conference not generally regarded for its high-powered offenses. They were last in the conference in rushing yards allowed and not much better defending the pass, ranking eighth in the SEC.
They received some help on the defensive line via the transfer portal and the Gators have a couple of top recruits ready to step in to assist a beleaguered secondary that gave up 28 touchdown passes a year ago. With Alabama on the regular-season schedule and Georgia improved over 2020, the defense will need to be better, especially with an offense that might have trouble hitting its stride early in the season.
Frequently Asked Questions
2016 season, when it beat Iowa 30-3.
Florida was conference champion in 2008.
Since then, Florida Gators won three national championships and eight Southeastern Conference championships.
Steve Spurrier is Florida’s coaching wins leader with 122 victories from 1990 to 2001.