We’re looking at 14 SEC teams and 14 burning questions. Today we’re up to Florida.
#6 – How much of a year two bump will Florida experience under Will Muschamp?
Florida was a major disappointment in 2011. There’s no doubt about that. Despite having one of the more talented rosters in the conference, the Gators stumbled to a 7-6 mark, their lowest win total since Ron Zook’s final year in 2004.
Maybe a 7-6 mark could be expected in the first year of a new coaching staff. Heck, I even picked the Gators to have a 7-5 regular season mark.
But it was the way the Gators went about their business that was so disturbing.
After John Brantley was hurt against Alabama, the Gators went into the tank. Following the 38-10 loss to Bama, they received a 41-11 hammering by LSU, staggered through a 17-6 loss at Auburn, lost 24-20 to their bitter rival Georgia, narrowly averted a loss to Vandy and fell short against South Carolina, 17-12. That’s five losses in six games and maybe that was expected after Brantley’s injury, but the Gator coaching staff appeared completely uninspired and outmanned as they tried to deal with this adversity.
Take the Auburn game for example.
Against a defense that wound up surrendering an average of 408 yards per game, Florida managed 194 yards. That was by far Auburn’s best effort of the season and was the only time an opponent was held less than 200 yards. Yes, yes, I know Brantley was hurt and they had to play fill-ins. But the game planning and on the field coaching were totally uninspiring. Given the talent advantage held by Florida, this game shouldn’t have been close.
This year, the Gators are again rather loaded. In fact, in an upset, Phil Steele is picking the Gators to win the SEC East.
Two quarterbacks with experience return. The running backs are bigger and stronger and more suited to a pro-style type of attack. Their leading receiver returns. And the offensive line returns four starters.
Defensively, the Gators return 10 starters to a unit that wasn’t all that bad in 2011. Florida gave up 299.5 yards per game last year, good for 5th in the league.
The biggest addition to the team, though, may come in the form of a big subtraction. This year, Brent Pease replaces Charlie Weis as offensive coordinator.
So will all of this result in a big year two bounce for Muschamp and the Gators? Maybe, but the they will have to work for their bounce. The schedule includes LSU, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida State, but the other eight games look very winnable. Lose those four and your looking at a very average 8-4 season. Split those four and the Gators could finish 10-2 with a nice little second year bounce.
Perhaps it was because of a new coaching staff. Perhaps it was because of the Gators’ merry band of misfit five stars. Perhaps it was because of their offensive coordinator. Perhaps it was injuries. Perhaps it was all of the above. Whatever the reason, no team go so little out of so much like the Florida Gators.
It’s tough to have a brand new coaching staff led by a first-time head coach. That can definitely cause a few growing pains. It’s tough to lose key players to injury. That can always make a season much more difficult. But in 2011, Muschamp and the Gators