Florida Season Preview
I’ve been reading all of the preseason publications this summer and the general narrative of every single one of them is that Florida went 4-8 last year and no one knows what to expect this coming season. Also, Florida went 4-8 in case you hadn’t heard. 4-8. Did you see this? Did you hear about this? Yeah, turns out, Florida went 4-8. HIYOOOO! 4-8.
Well, I’m sick and tired of reading about it! It’s a new year! It’s time to kick some ass! WHO’S WITH ME?? Hold on. Is Muschamp still the head coach? Oh goddammit. You guys still want to do this? Really? OK. Well, here are the best and worst case scenarios for every position.
Best Case: The silver lining in Jeff Driskel’s season ending injury last season is that it gave him the redshirt year he needed, but didn’t receive as a freshman to develop mentally. The time off allows him to clear his mind, become a better leader, gain confidence, watch film, and get a better understanding of what defenses are doing. He stays healthy in 2014 and proves to be a perfect fit for Kurt Roper’s offense. We see a more confident, calm, decisive Driskel on the field as he plays his way into becoming an All-SEC QB. Will Grier or Treon Harris emerges as the backup and gains valuable experience in mop-up duty and package plays, keeping Driskel fresh while the other freshman redshirts.
Worst Case: Driskel sees his reflection in the mirror one day and becomes frightened that a doppelganger from another dimension has found its way to Earth and is here to exterminate him. Fearing his inevitable demise, he hides in a panic room for the next three decades. Will Grier is named the starter, but is immediately eaten by bees. Not even stung. They just straight up eat his ass. Treon Harris falls into the very same portal that Ozzie Smith fell into in that episode of The Simpsons where Mr. Burns hires a team of Major League Baseball players to play for his company softball team. This leaves Skyler Mornhinweg as the starting quarterback once again.
Best Case: Matt Jones comes back healthy and he and Kelvin Taylor form one of the best RB tandems in the SEC, if not the country, alongside T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry at Alabama. Mack Brown continues to be a solid third option and Adam Lane impresses when he is called upon.
Worst Case: Jones is kidnapped by a Mexican drug cartel for reasons unknown. Brown, Lane, and freshman Brandon Powell fly into Mexico to rescue him, but are also captured. This leaves Kelvin Taylor to carry the ball a record 511 times. At the end of the season, he is forced to retire from football after playing through nine concussions, a broken clavicle, a broken ulna, four broken ribs, a punctured lung, a severed finger, a ruptured spleen, a herniated disc, a strained oblique, a torn pec, a torn groin, a torn hamstring, a torn ACL, a broken kneecap, a torn Achilles tendon, several broken bones in each foot, and turf toe. Taylor only gains 510 yards.
Best Case: Chris Leak proves to be a competent position coach. Quinton Dunbar continues to be a reliable target while making more big plays. Demarcus Robinson becomes the player we all think he can be and becomes a stud. Ahmad Fullwood also breaks out and becomes a well-rounded receiver while using his 6’5” frame to dominate in the red zone. Latroy Pittman builds off his strong spring and finds a role in Roper’s offense in the slot. Andre Debose is finally healthy and is the deep threat Florida needs. One or two of the young guys step up and become another reliable option.
Worst Case: Chris Leak removes his mask to reveal he is Bush Hamdan. One day, the receivers all decide to go on a field trip to Chuck E. Cheese and board a bus. The bus swerves to avoid hitting a clown masturbating in the road and plunges over one of the many cliffs in Gainesville. Debose is the lone survivor and is granted a seventh year of eligibility, which he accepts. He plays 2015 under his seventh different position coach.
Best Case: The line stays healthy. That’s it. Just stay healthy. This is the only position on the offense I’m honestly worried about. I’m not worried about Driskel or the quarterbacks. I’m not worried about Chris Leak taking over a group of talented, but unproven receivers. I’m not worried about the tight ends or running backs. I’m terrified about the line. It hasn’t been good for years and not coincidentally, neither has the offense. If the starting five doesn’t stay healthy, the team will have to rely on freshmen and that’s not the position you want to be in. They have bodies, but no one behind the starting line has played a down in college outside of Trip Thurman and JUCO transfer Drew Sarvary.
Worst Case: They don’t stay healthy. If they don’t stay healthy and the freshman don’t grow up in a hurry, it will be more of the same from the offense and we’ll all continue to be sad and miserable and angry and we’ll throw things. It will start with a soda, then a hot dog, then a rock, then a baby, then you’ll go to jail for that last one, but I’ll bust you out and we’ll go on the lam. We’ll head down to South America and lay low. I’ll find a beautiful Brazilian woman and fall in love, but you’ll fall in love with her too. A fight will ensue and in the heat of the moment I will smash your head with a rock killing you. Once again, I will be on the lam, but this time alone. I will leave a letter to my Brazilian love, Sophia, explaining why I can never see her again, but she will never see it because she will have run off with another man. I will never learn of this other man or that she never loved me to begin with and that I was just an American fling for her. I will spend the rest of my life pining for her wondering what could have been as I drink myself to death alone in a cabin in the unforgiving cold of northern Saskatchewan.
Best Case: Virginia transfer Jake McGee is the much needed tight end target for Driskel. Tevin Westbrook and Clay Burton never ever have a pass thrown to them again and are asked only to do what they do well, which is block and get yelled at by Muschamp. Freshman Deandre Goolsby is good enough to earn playing time and gives Florida a second target with McGee.
Worst Case: McGee needs to write a paper on Babylonian king, Hammurabi. Instead of going to Wikipedia, he builds a functional time machine with the help of the three freshmen tight ends, Goolsby, C’yontai Lewis, and Moral Stephens. The four of them travel back to 1770 BC Babylon. While there, they become hungry, but with no local currency on them, they resort to each stealing a loaf of bread. They are caught and have their hands cut off. They return to the present day handless. Roper tells Driskel not to throw to Westbrook or Burton, but the two remaining hand-having tight ends hire a hypnotist to hypnotize Driskel, Roper, and Muschamp into thinking they are both Jimmy Graham. Driskel targets each tight end fifteen times a game. At season’s end, the tight ends are targeted a total of 365 times, but only catch one pass. That one catch was a ball that got stuck in Burton’s facemask and as he turned up field was immediately blasted by a linebacker that jarred the ball free resulting in a fumble that was returned for a touchdown.
Best Case: Dante Fowler becomes Dominique Easley 2.0 and annihilates opposing offensive tackles and quarterbacks. Another defensive tackle or two steps up to man the interior alongside Leon Orr keeping Jonathan Bullard at end where he’s best suited and more comfortable. The incoming freshmen of Gerald Willis, Khari Clark, and Thomas Holley are as advertised and are too good to keep off the field.
Worst Case: Easley’s — now Fowler’s — Chucky doll is really possessed causing all sorts of havoc and murder among the defensive linemen. Every time they think they’ve killed it, it just keeps coming back. This continues for five more seasons when everyone is like, “Really? The formula was stale after the second one. How many more times can this possessed doll be revived? Who the hell keeps reviving it? Doesn’t anyone know how to properly dispose of a soul these days? These people are idiots. This is stupid. I’ve lost interest.”
Best Case: The unit bounces back after a sub-par year that saw their share of injuries. Antonio Morrison plays more disciplined and improves in pass coverage. Jarrad Davis forces himself into the starting lineup with his play. Neiron Ball provides a pass rush from the position. The other three linebackers from last year’s freshmen class, Daniel McMillan, Alex Anzalone, and Matt Rolin are fully healthy and ready to contribute.
Worst Case: All the linebackers read this season preview and take offense to me cracking jokes about their teammates and show up to my house and proceed to whoop my ass, which isn’t hard to do because I’m 5’7” 150 lbs. and I don’t like to fight or engage in any physical contact, which is why my football career only lasted a week in 8th grade after I hopped in the Oklahoma drill on the first day in full pads of JV practice. Squirrely little me, a 5’6” 125 lbs. wide receiver, was about to tangle with the hardest hitter on the team, a 6’0” 175 lbs. linebacker/safety. It ended as you would expect, with me taking three steps before I found myself on my back looking up at a very beautiful, clear blue, Florida sky. As my teammates mobbed the guy who just smeared me across the grass, my only thought in that moment was “Baseball. Yeah, I think I’ll stick to baseball if I want to live.” Anyway, enough about what a pussy I am and back to that ass whooping I’ve had coming for years. After the entire linebacker corps is done thoroughly caving my skull in, they are all arrested and kicked off the team. Florida plays the season with no linebackers and gives up an NCAA single season record of 5,122 rushing yards.
Best Case: Vernon Hargreaves III locks down everything. I mean everything – receivers, running backs, tight ends, lockers, gates, doors, windows, cars, safes, even the internet. Instead of seeing “https” and an image of a padlock in your address bar for secure sites, you’ll see “VHIII” and an image of Vernon’s face. In addition to Hargreaves, freshman Jalen Tabor continues Florida’s recent success with starting true freshmen cornerbacks. Duke Dawson and Brian Poole provide excellent depth and make each other better competing for the starting nickel spot. The safeties, namely Marcus Maye and Jabari Gorman, are finally ready to assume the duties of being starters and are steady as the last line of defense.
Worst Case: Hargreaves goes to see Michael Bay’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie and it’s so bad his head explodes. The rest of the secondary sues Bay for Hargreaves’ death. Locked in a lengthy legal battle throughout the season, the secondary is distracted and unfocused during games resulting in an incalculable number of blown assignments and missed tackles. Adding insult to injury, the judge rules in favor of Bay.
Best Case: Like Caleb Sturgis, Austin Hardin figures it out after a couple of years and becomes a reliable, strong legged kicker. Kyle Christy returns to his sophomore form and does a remarkable job of flipping the field for the defense.
Worst Case: Desperate to become better, Hardin and Christy are approached by a man who claims he can make them each one of the greatest kickers and punters of all-time. The man promises Hardin the ability to drill an 80-yard field goal and Christy the ability to knock a ball out at the opponent’s 1-yard line. They both agree without thinking. In the first game of the season against Idaho, Hardin hits an 80-yarder on the first drive and Christy booms a beautiful punt that goes out at Idaho’s 1 on the second drive. On the sideline, the mysterious man appears. It turns out he’s the Devil and has returned to claim their souls and takes them with him back to Hell.
Best Case: I think this team’s ceiling is ten wins and a trip to the SEC Championship Game. There are a lot of “if’s” involved in that, but the biggest key to the success of the season comes down to health, specifically Driskel and the offensive line. If they stay healthy, I think Kurt Roper will make a big difference with the offense. As long as Muschamp’s been at Florida, we’ve never had to worry about the defense, so the pressure is on the offense to score for the fourth consecutive year. The schedule is ruthless as always, but a lot of those teams are breaking in new quarterbacks and/or have question marks in other areas and Florida has enough talent on both sides of the ball to get to Atlanta. After last season, I have no idea how this season will play out. That’s not to say I know how any season will play out because I don’t, nor does anyone, but no one saw 4-8 coming last August. I think, realistically, they win nine and maybe slip into the SEC Championship Game by beating South Carolina in their final conference game. I’m being optimistic with that guess because if I don’t I will cry tears of pure acid. I don’t know how that’s possible, but it will happen. Four years of watching an inept offense will cause drastic physiological changes in a person.
Worst Case: Going into the Kentucky game, Florida only has six healthy scholarship players available. The Wildcats end their losing streak to Florida in a 41-10 blowout. Fans revolt and set everything on fire. The state of Florida descends into anarchy (more so than usual). Muschamp is captured and burned at the steak. Yes, I said steak because again, this state isn’t very bright. President Obama declares a state of emergency in Florida. Military personnel are sent in, but are no match for an army of angry Floridians on bath salts and meth. Nuclear weapons are drawn and a tweaker from Polk County hits the button sending the United States and the rest of the world back into the stone age. The numerous seismic explosions upset the Earth and volcanoes begin erupting, spewing ash into the sky that envelopes the planet like the candy around the gum of a Blow Pop. Earthquakes rip open the ground. The planet becomes unstable and slowly starts spinning off its axis. The core heats up before a massive explosion that sends chunks of Earth streaking through the solar system. The only thing that survives is #FSUTwitter who collectively tweets, “LOL, Gators! You suck!”