Five storylines to follow for the Florida Gators at SEC Media Days

Florida will travel to Dallas, Texas next week for the 2024 SEC Media Days. Gators’ head coach Billy Napier will bring senior quarterback Graham Mertz, senior running back Montrell Johnson, and junior linebacker Shemar James with him on Wednesday, July 17th.

The Gators are 11-14 in two seasons under Napier and have yet to post a winning season. Florida’s projected over-under win total sits at 4.5 or 5 for the 2024 season, depending on which sportsbook you utilize.

Gator Country provides you five Florida Gators storylines to follow during SEC Media Days.

How will the defense improve in year three?

It feels like forever ago when opposing teams feared the Gators’ defense. In two seasons under Napier with two different defensive coordinators, Florida ranked 87th and 78th in points per game allowed and 97th and 71st in total defense.

There’s been a circus of coaching changes on the defensive side of the ball under Napier. In this offseason alone, three new coaches in Will Harris, Ron Roberts, and Gerald Chatman were hired to make a positive impact.

Florida added eight defensive transfers through the portal including three safeties, two cornerbacks, one linebacker, and two defensive linemen.

There’s been a lot to critique and criticize under Napier, but fixing the Gators’ defense has to be the top priority. Florida can’t afford to have yet another disastrous defense in 2024.

What’s the plan for implementing DJ Lagway into the offense?

While returning QB Graham Mertz is the starter in 2024, all of Gator Nation wants to know how freshman five-star DJ Lagway will be utilized if at all next season. The Willis, Texas native was the No.1 QB in the 2024 class, according to 247 Sports.

Lagway was named 2023 Gatorade National Player of the Year for his efforts during his senior season at Willis High School. The 6’3, 241-pound quarterback set the Texas Class 6A single-season record for touchdown passes, leading Willis to its best record in over 60 years and first trip to the regional semifinals since 1994. Lagway completed 289 of 393 pass attempts (72.1%) for 4,605 yards with 59 TD and 8 INT while also carrying the ball 100 times for 953 yards and 16 TD.

Lagway put on a show during Florida’s annual Orange and Blue game, finishing with 173 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception.

The dual-threat QB brings a different skillset to the gridiron with the ability to extend plays with his legs. Gator Country can confirm that Florida has worked with Lagway on separate packages that Mertz will not be running. How much will we see that in 2024?

What does a QB in year two look like?

Keeping with the quarterback position, Florida has not had a returning starting quarterback since 2020 when Kyle Trask exploded for 4,283 yards and 43 passing touchdowns.

Napier talks a lot about the leap from year one to year two in his system, and we get to see that in 2024 as senior QB Graham Mertz is back after his most productive season at the collegiate level.

We know Florida is working with Mertz to take more calculated risks deep down the field, but what kind of season can we expect from the 6th year veteran? What kind of jumps has Mertz made this offseason?

How can Florida benefit from more on-field coaches?

The NCAA recently approved a rule that allows any staff member to provide on-field coaching during practice and games. How will this help Florida on the football field, specifically with the special teams unit?

The Gators recently hired Special Teams Analyst Joe Houston from the New England Patriots, who can now provide on-field coaching for a unit that has been without an on-field coach for two seasons under Napier. The early reports on coach Houston are positive, according to sources, but how will he help clean up Florida’s communication issues that have haunted Napier through two years.

How can the addition of Bowling Green’s Beyah Rasool help the cornerback room? Rasool also served as a special teams assistant for BGSU in 2023. Will he help out on special teams?

What’s different about the 2024 Florida Gators?

Florida needs to win football games in 2024. Can they be a better team on the field than they have throughout Napier’s first two seasons? What makes this year’s Gators different? What transfers do you expect to make a positive impact? What position groups are stronger? Will the added experience make a difference? Will Russ Callaway’s promotion to co-offensive coordinator help the offense? Will the offensive line be improved?

We won’t really find out anything until the games are played, but the Florida Gators have to be better this season. Gator Nation wants to know how that will happen.







Nick Marcinko
Nick is a recent graduate from the University of Florida with a degree in Telecommunications. He is passionate about all sports but specifically baseball and football. Nick interned at Inside the Gators and worked part time with Knights247 before joining the Gator Country family. Nick enjoys spending his free time golfing and at the beach.