Realistic expectations for Florida Football at SEC Media Days

The Florida Gators, under head coach Billy Napier, head to the 2024 SEC Media Days with a mix of new talent and strategic changes.
Florida Head Coach Billy Napier speaks at the 2023 SEC Football Kickoff Media Days at the Nashville Grand Hyatt on Broadway, Wednesday, July 19, 2023.
Florida Head Coach Billy Napier speaks at the 2023 SEC Football Kickoff Media Days at the Nashville Grand Hyatt on Broadway, Wednesday, July 19, 2023. / Denny Simmons / The Tennessean / USA

As the Florida Gators head to Dallas for the 2024 SEC Media Days, all eyes are on the program's evolution under head coach Billy Napier. With senior quarterback Graham Mertz, senior running back Montrell Johnson, and junior linebacker Shemar James traveling as well, the Gators are set to address some burning questions and showcase their plans for a turnaround season.

The narrative surrounding Florida's 2024 season is one of cautious rebuilding rather than immediate resurgence. At the heart of this transformation lies a defense that has not be reliable recent years. Ranking 87th and 78th in points allowed over the past two seasons, the Gators' defensive woes have been a thorn in Napier's side. Enter a trio of new defensive minds - Will Harris, Ron Roberts, and Gerald Chatman - tasked with turning things around. Their mission? To mold a unit that bends but doesn't break, a process that promises gradual improvement rather than overnight miracles.

While the defense undergoes its turnaround, eyes will be on the quarterback situation. Graham Mertz, the seasoned signal-caller, returns with the weight of experience on his shoulders. His goal isn't to set the world on fire but to provide steady leadership and incremental improvement. The wildcard in this equation is freshman DJ Lagway. As the top QB recruit of 2024, Lagway's arrival has sparked excitement, but expectations must be tempered. Napier is bound to get questions regarding Lagway, andwe would expect Napier to say he will integrate Lagway slowly, with specially designed packages that showcase his dual-threat abilities without overwhelming him.

Off the field, recent NCAA rule changes have opened new avenues for coaching innovation. The ability for all staff members to coach on the field could prove a game-changer, particularly in special teams where Joe Houston's NFL experience can now directly influence game day operations. This, coupled with strategic hires like Beyah Rasool, signals a holistic approach to team improvement. Given some of the blunders on special teams last year, Napier will get a chance to layout how Houston in particular can help right the ship.

As the Gators gear up for SEC Media Days, the message is clear: 2024 is about laying foundations, not chasing miracles. With a projected win total hovering around 5 games, success will be measured in small victories and steady progress. The promotion of Russ Callaway to co-offensive coordinator hints at a renewed focus on offensive strategy, while the influx of defensive transfers suggests a commitment to addressing past weaknesses.