After a year of brutal injuries and a disappointing 4-8 record, the hits just keep on coming. I don’t need to tell you that the offense was horrendous in 2013. So much so, that the offensive coordinator and offensive line coach were shown the door. Now, there seems to be a parade of offensive players opting to seek their fortune elsewhere. The transfers have been covered enough for everyone to be aware of them.
The Gator Nation, for the most part, is slipping into a fog of despair. The rest of the nation is pointing at Gainesville, Florida and predicting the complete demise of the Gator football program based on each new tidbit of information that crawls across the bottom line on the four letter network. This just makes the Gator Nation even more irate. Gator fans have come to believe that there simply will not be enough depth and talent left on the roster for any chance of a decent recovery by the football team in 2014. Is this true? Let’s take a look.
The offense is, of course, the biggest question. Quarterback is a question mark because nobody really knows what to expect from Jeff Driskel. With all of the transfers, the quarterback position has become precariously thin. I saw enough of Skyler Mornhinweg to know that nobody is going to win many SEC games with him at quarterback. Sorry Skyler but it is what it is. Will Grier needs to take advantage of spring practice to become ready to play in the fall. Personally, I believe that if he is given protection, Driskel can be a very good SEC quarterback. But, I question whether he can stay healthy for an entire season which means Grier is unlikely to be redshirted.
The more important issue is the offensive line. Driskel can only be as good as the line allows him to be, and as healthy for that matter. This year the offensive line play was abysmal. Obviously, injuries played a part in that but just a part. I believe that there was a serious disconnect between Tim Davis and Brent Pease that manifested itself in bad line play. Our guys simply did not know who they were supposed to block. If my count is correct Florida has nine returning offensive linemen for 2014. Most of them have played. However, I think the Gators must sign at least one JUCO lineman to help with depth and a couple of the incoming freshmen may need to be able to contribute by mid-season. In my opinion, the o-line holds the answer to Gator success in 2014 and that will depend on who the new OC and O-line coach are.
On defense, it will help considerably if Marcus Roberson decides to return for next season. Roberson and Vernon Hargreaves would be one of the best starting cornerback tandems in the country. Caleb Brantley and Jay-nard Bostwick will need to contribute heavily at defensive tackle to allow Dante Fowler, Jonathan Bullard and the linebackers to make plays. With a little luck on the injury front this could be a scary good defense next season. Any real improvement on offense and special teams and this team could take a quantum leap forward in 2014.
Obviously, another important factor is the 2014 signing class. It is imperative that Muschamp hold onto the big three committed so far: Grier, Ermon Lane and Dalvin Cook. Maybe even more important is that there are already six offensive linemen committed. That will add some much needed bodies to this unit. Of concern is the fact that there is only one defensive tackle commitment so far and this class probably needs to include three. There is also only one defensive end so far and there must be at least two in the class. Three tight ends and two wide receivers is a promising start but there probably needs to be at least one more high quality wide receiver prospect added.
All in all, things are not nearly as dire as some profess but it’s not all orange and blue roses either. Muschamp has the resources to turn this around but he has his work cut out for him, too. I do not pretend to know if Muschamp is up to the task. I certainly do not believe that anyone knows that he isn’t either. It does amaze me how many Gator fans are willing to believe that Lane Kiffin can change a decade of questionable behavior when the fact that three different jobs were at stake did not solicit that change. These same people seem to know for a fact that Will Muschamp cannot change a three year trend to salvage his first head coaching job. It seems inconsistent to me at best. I am impressed that Muschamp has been able to keep this much momentum in recruiting with all of the negativity surrounding the program.
The latest indicators seem to point to Clay Helton as the new offensive coordinator and Neil Callaway as offensive line coach. Personally, I think those would be solid hires, especially under the circumstances. I, for one, will support our staff with optimism toward next season. I cannot fathom why any Gator fan would do anything differently.