The 2013 college football season is completely in the books. I think I speak for the entire Gator Nation when I say that the end result is less than desirable. Florida’s horrendous season aside, it is never good when the folks in maroon and yellow are hoisting the crystal trophy at the end of the season. There were a lot of big plays in the last BCS Championship Game but you have to believe that if the two Auburn defenders had not knocked each other down allowing FSU to turn a five-yard pass into a 49-yard pass play on the final drive that the SEC streak would have remained intact.
Meanwhile, Florida limped to a painful 4-8 season. How did this happen? Did Muschamp forget how to coach just one year removed from an 11-2 season? Did Jimbo Fisher become a coaching genius after looking somewhat pedestrian head coach even with a future starting NFL quarterback in E J Manuel? In my less than humble opinion, Muschamp had some flaws in his coaching philosophy that went from being risky to debilitating with all of this year’s injuries and Jimbo woke up with a horseshoe up his posterior when he lucked into finding a truly special player at quarterback in the same season when there was no other real contender in the ACC, Florida was completely decimated by November and the SEC sent probably its least dominant team to the BCS title game during the streak. Auburn was a good team that was more opportunistic than dominant.
What does that mean for next season? Well, I am pretty sure you can expect FSU to be fairly good next season as well. Of course, just like everyone else, that depends on just how many of FSU’s players leave early for the NFL. The Noles could potentially lose their top three running backs and top four receivers to either graduation or early departure. I would be surprised if running back Devonta Freeman did not leave early, joining James Wilder Jr. who has already declared. Karlos Williams could also go but that’s still up in the air. At receiver, Kenny Shaw is a senior. Junior Kelvin Benjamin has declared for the NFL and nobody will be surprised if Rashad Greene also elects to go early. Even tight end Nick O’Leary might chose to start getting paid this year. The only real knock on O’Leary is his size and that isn’t going to change during his senior season.
On defense, junior tackle Timmy Jernigan declared for the NFL, again to nobody’s surprise. The Noles will lose two senior starters from both the linebacker unit and the secondary. That is a lot of defense going out of the door. I only point all of this out because Gator fans love to compare their team to the school out west and love to cry about how Florida loses more underclassmen than anyone else. I have seen or heard more than one mention of “rats leaving a sinking ship” and wanted to point out that rats leave the ship riding the crest of the wave as well.
With the addition of Mike Summers as offensive line coach, the Gator staff is now complete. Now, they can focus all of their attention on the final weeks of recruiting. There promises to be a lot of drama left in this signing class. How Florida closes down the stretch will give everyone a better feel for the health of the program at this point. If prospects continue to join this class it will show that the new coaching additions have been well received.
This should be an interesting season in the SEC. Do not be surprised of defense leaps back to the forefront in the conference in 2014. Alabama, Georgia, Missouri, South Carolina and Texas A&M all lose quality starting quarterbacks. I don’t care how well you have recruited at the position, until a quarterback actually becomes the starter in the SEC you just do not know how good they will be.
If Kurt Roper is the quarterback coach I keep hearing he is, he will give Jeff Driskel the one thing he needs most and has not received so far at Florida – development. As happy as I have been to have Chris Leak back at UF helping with the quarterbacks, let’s face it, he has very little experience at the job. He should benefit as well from working with Roper. The fact that Will Grier is going to be available for spring practice should help him be more prepared to play in 2014 if forced into action. A little development and luck on the injury front and the Gators might actually be better positioned at the position than many of their SEC rivals. All the Gator Nation can do is take a deep breath, put 2013 in the rearview mirror and enjoy the ride for 2014. Go Gators.