Phil Steele Predicts Gator turnaround

When Phil Steele comes out with his annual preseason top-40 list, the college football world pays attention. The famous (and extremely accurate) prognosticator ranked the Florida Gators as his 24th best team in the country heading into the season.

At first look, most fans would think that coming off of a 4-8 season, ranking the Gators anywhere near the top-25 would be a ludicrous proposition. However, the prognostication holds weight when coming from Steele, who has accurately predicted against consensus when it comes to Florida — and been right.

In 2012, the Gators were listed at No. 23 in the preseason AP poll and picked to finish third in the SEC East. Steele picked the Gators as his No. 10 team in the country and ranked Florida atop the SEC East. Last season, the AP ranked Florida No. 10 in their preseason poll, Steele had the Gators ranked No. 18 before the team ultimately finished outside the top 25.

Steele’s recent picks have bucked the national consensus when it comes to Florida and ranking a team that just missed a bowl game in the top-25 will make sure he does just that again this season. However, it isn’t a blind pick or a bet that Steele lost with his buddies that has him rank the Gators so high.

“It was their first losing season [since 1979] and first non-bowl [season since 1990],” Steele writes. “Naturally all of my key indicators are pointing up and the Gators are an easy pick for my Most Improved List. They are +5.0 in the Stock Market Indicator, had 4 net close losses LY and -4 net upsets. They also have 14 returning starters and can only remain healthier. UF does draw both LSU and Bama out of the West but it should be a bounce back year.”

Steele is right about the injuries — knock on wood, but not too hard that you hurt your hand and miss the season opener. Florida’s injury plagued season was an anomaly that sent Will Muschamp on a hunt, talking to doctors, trainers and surgeons around the country trying to find out if there was something different he could do to keep his players healthy.

Assuming the injury bug won’t hit Florida like they did a season ago, Steele believes this Gator team has what it takes to make a significant turn around on the field in 2014.

Demarcus Robinson had a productive spring game with five catches for 53 yards and a touchdown / Gator Country Photo by David Bowie
Demarcus Robinson had a productive spring game with five catches for 53 yards and a touchdown / Gator Country Photo by David Bowie

Steele points to the depth at running back if Matt Jones can return to full strength and a receiving group led by Quinton Dunbar, Demarcus Robinson and Ahmad Fulwood that has nowhere to go but up.

Of course, there is also the defense, Muschamp’s bread and butter. Steele believes this Gator defense will resemble the smash mouth group of 2012 rather than the defense that allowed a first time starter in Maty Mauk to lead the Missouri Tigers to more than 500 yards against Florida.
It’s June, so prognostications are early and won’t be proven right or wrong for months but when it comes to prognosticating, there is nobody better than Phil Steele.

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Nick de la Torre
A South Florida native, Nick developed a passion for all things sports at a very young age. His love for baseball was solidified when he saw Al Leiter’s no-hitter for the Marlins live in May of 1996. He was able to play baseball in college but quickly realized there isn’t much of a market for short, slow outfielders that hit around the Mendoza line. Wanting to continue with sports in some capacity he studied journalism at the University of Central Florida. Nick got his first start in the business as an intern for a website covering all things related to the NFL draft before spending two seasons covering the Florida football team at Bleacher Report. That job led him to GatorCountry. When he isn’t covering Gator sports, Nick enjoys hitting way too many shots on the golf course, attempting to keep up with his favorite t.v. shows and watching the Heat, Dolphins and Marlins. Follow him on twitter @NickdelatorreGC


  1. We’ll see, but I’m not impressed by someone who picks a team to be 18th and finishes 4-8. I think the injury thing is wat overblown. Driskel was not good before he got hurt and the defense shouldn’t fall apart when they lose one player, even though he was the best player and the team leader. I just look at Oklahoma and see that they managed to overcome a lot of injuries, including their best defensive player and leader. They even beat Alabama with a redshirt freshman playing quarterback. UF’s injuries were meaningful, but they should not have been debilitating. The defense was relatively healthy minus Easley, it faltered because no one made plays. The supposed star, Fowler, vanished in some games. I still can’t get over how LSU ran right over him. Hargreaves was very good as a freshman, but after the first couple of games he didn’t make any plays either. I still cringe when I think that he could have made the play against Vandy that may have made the difference in actually winning the game. Teams were not worried about attacking him, for instance he was beat for a long touchdown against South Carolina, but Shaw was not accurate that night, so he got lucky. Maybe Steele is right, but I’d like to see one or two guys at least step up and make a play when the game is on the line. Except for Easley, who’s gone, I can’t recall a player on this team ever making a game winning play against a good team last year, unless you count Toledo as a good team since they are the only team the Gators beat that had a winning record.

    • Phil Steele was talking about this coming season not last season. Everything you stated was past tense. There wasn’t just one dude that got hurt.You’re just being ignorant now. UF had 10 season ending injuries to starters, 26 in all. NOBODY went through that. But, from all the injuries that occurred came depth. This team is loaded. They are experienced. They are angry. The future is bright like it or not. Phil is giving a prediction based on the facts. One thing for sure UF will never be down for a whole decade like some programs. Steele hit this prediction on the head.

  2. PEDAVIS The only thing you can go on is the past season. Based on that, the Gators are not anywhere close to being “loaded.” I keep hearing this injury excuse but the question is were the players any good before they were injured? Let’s review. Easley was a great player and his performance on the field showed that. He was also a great leader and there was no one who stepped up to fill the void in leadership on the tam after his injury. AS for the rest of tthe injured players, none of them were good players. Driskel was awful before his injury. In fact, Murphy was widely seen as an improvement at the position. Murphy was efficient and didn’t turn the ball over, so yes, his injury was a loss but he was never considered an elite player. Chaz Green wasn’t very good the previous year, whether he is better now is still a question mark. Humphries was so bad that he was benched, he never saw the field again and you have to wonder if his “injury” was real or he didn’t ever see the field for other reasons. Andre Debose has been a bad receiver his whole career and we’ve heard how good some player was in preseason or Spring before to find out that it was just talk, so he’s another player that wasn’t very good to begin with. Antonio Morrison was not a good player before his injury, he regressed immensely from his promising freshman season. Tyler Moore was pretty bad before his injury. Powell missed some time, but he vanished in some games anyway when he was healthy. Matt Jones has shown flashes of being a good player, but he is not what you would call a proven commodity and I don’t think running for a lot of yards against Kentucky means much. So this listing of this great number of players and starters is bogus in the first place because it lists guys like Debose who caught three passes in the last season he played and others that were never good to begin with. So I say, with some pretty strong evidence, that it is silly to say that the Gators are “loaded” because there is no film that shows that to be true, unless you are going by recruiting ranking. Hargreaves is possibly going to be a great player, he wasn’t great last year, despite the hype, just a good player. Fowler is very inconsistent, he can make a great play one minute and be dominated the next or cost the Gators a touchdown like he did against Georgia. Kelvin Taylor may be better this year, he wasn’t a great player last year as well. I need to see players perform in a real game, not preseason or Spring, to say a team is “loaded.” Guys like Robinson, Fullwood, Lane, etc. have done absolutely nothing on the field, so, again. I ask, why would anyone think Florida is loaded? As a college grad, I’m sure that you learned that a hypothesis had to have some basis in fact or it’s thrown out. I think the Gators woes are due to much more than injuries, and I base that on watching another team, Oklahoma, that was also devastated by injuries, not fall apart like the Gators.

    • Ok you sound absolutely ridiculous now. To say that our only good player last year was Easley, and that our injuries were not that bad and on par with OU makes you sound like you’re just trying to cast stones at this point. Also, the fact that you think Kelvin Taylor and VHIII are not that great supports that as well. VHIII was second in the SEC in passes defended last year AS A FRESHMAN, but I guess that doesn’t hold much water because the SEC doesn’t have very good secondaries right? Kelvin Taylor only had 4 starts, but still managed to rack up over 400 yds on the ground with 4 TDs, while averaging over 4.5 yds per carry against defenses who loaded the box with 8 defenders, but again SEC defenses aren’t that good so that’s not very impressive right?? I’m truly sorry that the Gators don’t play in a cushy conference like the ACC where you’re basically playing fluff games all year and can pack your stats. The highest preseason SOS last year in the ACC, according to Phil Steele, was Pitt at 24th. Now let’s take a look at F$U. They ranked all the way down at 64th, whereas the easies schedule in the SEC last year was Texas A&M which came in at 28th. This would have put them just behind Virginia for 3rd hardest schedule in the ACC. Now where is Florida on that list you ask? Well it’s hard to skip over them because we came in at the #1 hardest schedule in the country last year, and our schedule only got harder this year. So you see, it’s easy for you to sit over there and tell us how bad our players are, and how even without injuries we would have sucked. But if we were playing teams like NC State, Cuse, or even powerhouses like Boston College week in and week out, maybe our players could record numbers that met your lofty expectations. But that’s ok, we don’t need your approval of our players, or your disapproval of our players in this case, because we know that at the end of the season the winner of the SEC will automatically get a bid to the playoffs for the Championship, whereas the winner of the ACC will always have an asterisk next to it because the selection committee has to ask themselves, “Well who did they really play?”

    • Snowprint, Yeah I said loaded and that’s what I meant. The whole article was based on the word “prediction” meaning FUTURE. You went off rambling about the past, totally off base and off subject. UF is loaded with talent and potential. In this reply I will correct your biased, one-sided “hypothesis”. I do realize that ’13 was a disaster. I also realized that with the new players, the ones that came back, and the new “O”, ’14 can be an improved year. You have to be blind (or a FSU fan) not to see that injuries had something to do with being 4-8. I realize that the coaching staff was part of the problem also. That is why changes were made. A program needs stability to be able to with stand adversities such as injuries and attrition and staff changes. You keep bringing up OU. OU was never in the same boat as UF. Stoops has been there for 15 yrs. They have had stability. Coaches need at least 4 yrs to really establish themselves. I was probably the only person to say give The Zooker one more shot. URB came in and in 2yrs won with Ron’s dudes. Two yrs later, URB’s fourth year, he won with his own players. He proved to be a very good coach. Then what happened? He left UF hanging. Following Meyer, WILL came in and went 12-2 (second season) with URB’s players. Foley, after the 4-8 season, wasn’t quick on the trigger this time. WILL is going into his 4th yr. So like you say, “we will see”. Because of injuries to so many starters, UF has players with experience across the board. Let me show you. I will break it down for you so that it will forever remain broken.
      QB: Driskel, ,Mornhinweg, Grier, Harris (loaded)
      RB: Taylor, Brown, Jones, Lane, Powell (loaded)
      WR: Dunbar, Robinson, Fullwood, Debose, Showers, Pittman, Thompson, and McGee [the TE] (loaded)
      OL: Humphries, Brown, Green, Sarvary, Thuman
      Garcia, Sharp, Johnson, Brantley
      DL: Cummings, Fowler, Bullard, Cox jr, Ivie, Bostwick (loaded)
      LB: Morrison, Davis, Anzalone, Taylor, Rolin, Macalister, Mcmillian, Jeremi Powell (loaded)
      DB: Gorman, Harris, Washington, Neal, Maye, Hargreaves, Dawson, Tabor, (loaded)
      The players from the #4 ranked 2013 recruiting class, who is not yet on campus, will provide even more depth. Understand? Talent and experience= Depth. Multiply that times coaching stability and you’ve got a very good football team that withstand adversity. See I use words like “future” and “improvement”. You used words like “last year”, “last year”, “last year”. Phil Steele says UF will be better. I tend to agree. Oh, and no one is jealous of FSU, get that through your skull, but if Winston steals one more crab leg their season is down the tubes. =Go Gators!

  3. CTFRESH, You are bringing up the ACC. Why? Florida didn’t even beat Georgia Southern and their wins came against two dreadful teams, Kentucky and Arkansas, a mediocre to bad team in Tennessee, and Toledo. You made my point about Vernon Hargreaves not being a great player when you bring up the stat of passes defended. A great corner doesn’t have many opportunities to defend passes because teams are afraid to throw his way. That never happened with Hargreaves. His big splash early in the year faded down the stretch. South Carolina’s receiver beat him on a long touchdown pass that failed only due to Connor Shaw being inaccurate. FSU abused him as well. These games happened late in the season, so no one was worried about throwing Hargreaves way. He was just a freshman, so I do expect him to get better and not take as many chances and become a great player. We’ll know when that happens because you won’t hear his name when teams stay away from his side of the field, but it hasn’t happened yet. As for Kelvin Taylor, he was not even close to being a great back. There was no difference between him and mack Brown and if they wore the same jersey number, I don’t think you would know which one was playing. The reports are that he has improved his quickness and speed, if so, he may become a better back. But his performance last year was nothing special. A great back would have carried the Gators against Georgia Southern, the offensive line did create holes to run through, but he Gators didn’t have a back with the quickness or speed to exploit them. I suggest you not be so jealous of FSU, which I surmise your comments about the ACC were targeted. That doesn’t show anything but envy, before tooting how great UF’s players are they need to actually beat a team that is better than Toledo. The truth hurts sometimes.

  4. guys , has anyone forgotten that UF could have decent players and we had really bad coaching as far as player development .=====also the comment on how good were they before getting injured is correct , most had accomplished very little , go back and look at the 2012 D how many players recruited by Urban M got drafted by the NFL ? I believe it was 5 , so of course UF would be good on D
    first of all yes UF will improve but from what a 4/8 record ? that is disgusting , if Roper is the real deal I believe Driskell will be good in a spread style because for sure he can run , and I think those WRS will be decently good if given good pass patterns , the big Q for me is the OL it has simply not been good for 3 years now . we all hope that Steele is correct , and if he is in my opinion will be the coaching style change that accomplishes that , with our schedule though we shall see what happens ==go gators