The Gators had a great first season under Dan Mullen and look to improve even more this year; here are the 5 things the Gators need to do to reach new heights in Mullen’s second year at the helm.
The Gators open up their 2019 season on August 24 against their rival, the Miami Hurricanes, and their new coach, Manny Diaz. The Gators have high expectations following an up and down year that ended with the Gators stomping Michigan in the Chick-fil-a Peach Bowl. Despite finishing the season on a high note with wins over Florida State and Michigan, there were times when the Gators struggled, most evident in their 17-38 loss to Missouri. Here are a few things that the Gators need to do this season in order to contend for an championship.
If you have followed the Gators for the past decade, you have heard this a time or two. Ever since Tim Tebow finished his college career in 2009, the Gators have struggled to find a formidable replacement, sometimes for reasons beyond their control. Since Tebow’s departure there have been ten different starting quarterbacks, due to injuries, poor play, and off the field issues. In 2019, Franks showed signs that he may be the answer to Gators fans prayers. Under the guidance of quarterback guru, Dan Mullen, Franks drastically improved from his freshman campaign, amassing 2,457 yards and 24 touchdowns while only tossing nine interceptions.
Franks improvement from a shaky freshman season restored confidence in Gators fans who have questioned Frank’s ability to lead the team at times. However, Franks will need to develop into a more consistent passer if he hopes to lead the Gators to a conference championship and the college football playoff. The Gators receiving core is probably their most talented position group and will help Franks by making plays after the catch. Senior Van Jefferson and Junior Trevon Grimes look to have breakout seasons after solid contributions in their first year in Gainesville. The Gators offense hopes to make another big jump this season, and it will be very dependent on whether or not Franks performs at a high level consistently.
Offensive Line Depth
When the Gators take the field in August, four of the five offensive lineman will be new starters for the Gators. Outside of redshirt senior, Nick Buchanan, the returning lineman have a combined total of 11 starts between them, a truly shocking number. In a previous interview, the center out of Dunwoody, Georgia commented, “It’s up to me to make sure the young guys come and understand the sense of urgency that’s coming, that they have to step it up and play. It kind of reminds me of when I was a freshman, we signed like seven or eight offensive linemen, so now they bring a whole bunch.” Buchanan will provide much needed leadership for a young line that needs to perform if they Gators want to be. serious threat this year.
The Gators line will need to provide Franks with time to find his playmakers. Last season, the Gators ranked twelfth in the SEC in sacks allowed, which often times pressured Franks into forcing passes. The Gators did a good job of making rushing lanes, averaging 5.3 yards per rush. If the Gators lineman can block and win some battles in the trenches, it will help Franks become more comfortable in the pocket. Heggie also has a good track record of developing players quickly, so expect to see weekly improvement from the young line.
Defense is something the Gators pride themselves on. In years past, the Gators have been dominant on the defensive side of the ball, and the team has been completely reliant on it sometimes, due to the inconsistent offensive performances that the Gators have stung together. Last year, in Todd Grantham’s first year leading the defense, the Gators ranked sixth in total offense allowed and points allowed, and first in turnovers forced. Those who have seen the Gators in year past might cite this as an off year for the team by Gator standards, but in now way was the defense bad. The defense was very formidable in some games, however struggled when put up against elite playmakers such as Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm and recent NFL draftee, Drew Lock, who both put up three touchdowns each on the Gators. In order to make a postseason run, the Gators will need to be able to get defensive stops against elite playmakers this season, and fore turnovers in order to put the ball in the offense’s hands to score.