The Florida Gators football team is just a few days away returning to the practice fields to prepare for the April 7th Orange and Blue Debut and questions abound on offense. Is this the year the Gators finally figure it out on offense? Who will line-up behind the center and take the helm at the quarterback position? Can the Gators get their tight ends more involved? How will the Gators adapt to two new offensive coaches?
But while there are a lot of questions, there are also a lot of potential questions that are not even being broached, because the Gators return nearly every offensive starter and almost all of their offensive production from the 2016 season.
In this first part of a two part series, we take a look at what production is returning and how that positions Florida going into spring practice, and more importantly, the fall season.
The quarterback position is the one position completely up in the air, although the main starter from 2016, Luke Del Rio, is still on the roster. With Del Rio out for the spring, redshirt freshmen Kyle Trask and Fileipe Franks will likely battle for the starter role, with true freshman Kadarius Toney also getting into the rotation. The Gators did lose redshirt senior, Austin Appleby, who played in nine games and had eight more total passes.
|Luke Del Rio||114||201||56.7%||1358||8||8|
|Percentage of Lost Production||52.69%||50.97%||51.595||55.55%||46.67%|
Obviously, the aforementioned comment about Del Rio being out in the spring makes this chart a wash and probably a waste of my time to make. However, Del Rio will likely be back in the summer and will be a part of the mix for the starting role unless Franks and/or Trask really make a case for Del Rio to no longer be included in the mix and that it is expected.
However, no matter the scenario it is still cumbersome to enter spring camp with zero returning stats at the quarterback position for the second straight off-season.
Last season was the first season that the Gators had four running backs gain more than 4.0 yards per carry (at least 25 carries) since 2010. The Gators return their top three rushers while losing their fourth and fifth leading rusher (transfer, graduation).
|Name||Attempts||Yards||Average Yards Per Carry||Touchdowns||Attempts per Game||Yards Per Game|
|Percentage of Lost Production||8.89%||8.42%||10%||10.4%||9.73%|
The Gators will return 91.11% of their attempts and 91.58% of their yards from 2016 in a backfield that should be bigger, stronger, and faster. Scarlett and Perine look to continue to carry the lion share of carries, while Mark Thompson looks to enter back into the good graces of the coaching staff after a good Bowl game against Iowa.
However, simply returning starters doesn’t solve the problem that the Gators ranked 109th in rushing first downs, 123rd in rushing touchdowns, 106th in yards per rush, and 113th in rushing yards in 2016.
New running backs coach JuJuan Seider has a stable full of talented running backs that now have a wealth of experience under the belts – he will just need to put it all together.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
A wide receiver or tight ends receiving numbers are going to be largely based on the play of others: a quarterback to get them the ball and blockers to allow enough time for the wide receiver to run his route and get open. Now, there can certainly be a debate on a wide receivers ability to get open, but unfortunately that is not quantifiable and therefore cannot be written about here.
The Florida Gators ranked 79th in passing yards, 77th in passing first downs per game, 81st in passing touchdowns, and 67th in pass completions. Fortunately, as you will see, the Gators return a large majority of their production, but will likely rely on a quarterback that hasn’t completed a college football pass.\
|Name||Receptions||Yards||Average Yards Per Reception||Touchdowns||Receptions per Game||Yards Per Game|
|Percentage of Lost Production||5.41%||6.54%||6.67%||7.73%||8.78%|
This is a good sign for the Gators, but again the success of this role depends so much on others. However, the Gators should see another productive year from Callaway and improvements from Cleveland, Swain, and Hammond as they move into their second year in the program. The losses of Fulwood and Worton are minimalized as their roles have been replaced by existing players.
With the return of all but one of their touchdowns and only a loss of only 157 yards, the Gators look to have their most experienced receiving corps in a while.