1. Antonio Callaway will be a household name
Antonio Callaway returned a punt 85-yards for a touchdown against the Alabama Crimson Tide on Saturday night. The play was electrifying, gave Florida a lead in the game and, if we’re being honest, wasn’t really surprising to see.
That’s because Callaway, in just his first season, has shown a knack for the spectacular. Florida’s offense has been stagnant long enough that mold is growing on it, but Callaway continues finding ways to get into the end zone. Callaway had fans asking the university to build him a statue for that touchdown against the Vols.
Callaway has become a household name in Gainesville and in Gator Nation, but soon enough the whole country will know who number 81 from Homestead is.
2. Austin Hardin and Treon Harris’ days are numbered
Jim McElwain’s public confidence in Austin Hardin took a turn after a loss to Florida State when the head coach said, “we’ll find a good kicker.” Hardin’s days are not long in Gainesville and he had another field goal blocked, making it an even four on the season, against Alabama.
McElwain has supported Treon Harris even though the passer has struggled mightily since a win over Georgia. After the SEC Championship game McElwain said of Harris, “he was our quarterback.”
Whether that is a Freudian slip or a calculated statement doesn’t mean too much. Harris has played his way out of the starting quarterback position. He’ll likely start and play all four quarters in the bowl game but that should be it for Harris. Luke Del Rio will be eligible to play opening day of the 2016 season, Will Grier will be back in October and if Florida can flip Jacob Eason, he’s a player that is talented enough to come in as an early enrollee and play right away if needed.
3. NFL Decisions
Vernon Hargreaves announced his intentions to forego his final season of eligibility and enter the NFL Draft. Jarrad Davis did the opposite, and announced that he would be returning to school for his senior season.
There are many more players who still have to decide. Keanu Neal, Alex McCalister, Caleb Brantley, Kelvin Taylor, Marcus Maye and Demarcus Robinson all have decisions to make on whether they will leave school early.
That list, specifically on defense, will have a major impact on what Florida will look like next season. If all of those defensive players return to school with Davis, look out, the Gators’ defense could be a force to be reckoned with. If most on that list choose to declare for the draft then Geoff Collins will have a lot of holes to fill next season.
4. Championship defense continues
Florida gave up 29 points and 437 yards to Alabama, but those stats don’t paint the whole picture.
Florida’s offense only managed to hold on to the ball for 16:31 in the game. That means the defense was forced to play for more than 43 minutes on Saturday. That’s not a recipe for success.
Still, Florida’s defense performed admirably. They forced four punts to start the game and forced a turnover. Florida’s defense is still one of the best in the country; they just need a little help from the defense.
5. Don’t let last two games taint the season
The Florida Gators finished their season in Atlanta, Georgia. That is the goal of 14 teams in the SEC when each season and only two can lay claim to actually achieving that.
Florida has 10 wins this year and a bowl game to look forward to, most would have been happy with eight wins this season. The season ended with two losses that leave a bad taste in your mouth but even more than the losses it’s the way Florida looked the last month of the season that really stings.
Don’t let the last month of the season tarnish your memory of what was truly an incredible run by Florida in a season where they were rebuilding. Will Muschamp won 10 games one time in four seasons, Jim McElwain did it in his very first season at the helm. The future is bright for the Florida Gators.