Each day this week, Sun sports columnist Pat Dooley has given you five things having to do with this Florida college football season to help you get through the summer. This “Five at Five” is the final installment.
- Feleipe Franks can’t get hurt: The purpose of this exercise is to list the things that can’t happen for Florida to have a tremendous season. I have no doubt the Gators can be a bowl team with Emory Jones or even Kyle Trask — if he stays after graduation this summer — at quarterback. But if the Gators are going to do something along the lines of last year or better, Franks has to be the guy in the shotgun. He understands the offense, has the tools necessary to run it and has taken a leadership role on the team. I’d say he and Jake Fromm are the most indispensable quarterbacks in the league.
- No sophomore slumps for kickers: OK, technically Tommy Townsend is a redshirt senior, but last year was the first time he had kicked the ball in college. All he did was finish the year ninth in the country in punting with 24 dropped inside the 20. Evan McPherson was automatic, missing only two field goals (and no extra points) and we could debate one of those misses. As important as special teams are and always should be, the two kickers need to at least be where they were a year ago (fake punts against Vandy optional) because so many games are expected to be tight.
- The offensive line cannot be like 1992: Because Florida lost a bulk of its bulk on the line, it’s the area of the biggest concern. And this isn’t to diminish that ’92 line that went to the SEC title game. But with two true freshmen at the tackles, it was a struggle. Shane Matthews threw 102 more passes than he had the year before and five fewer TDs. Errict Rhett’s rushing average per play was the lowest (3.6) by far of his four-year career. Steve Spurrier patched that offense together to win just enough, but the way the SEC throws NFL defensive linemen at you, it simply cannot be a weakness if Florida is going to have a big season.
- They can’t get cocky: The Gators are going to be popular in early August leading up to the opener. Dan Mullen wants his team to have confidence and swagger, but not to the point where they start believing all they have to do is show up. Beating Florida is a big deal, especially to the teams on this schedule. Relentless effort has to be mental as well as physical and it starts with the first meeting of every week. It would be easy for this team to be lulled to sleep by the end of last season and the three bye weeks. The bottom line is that Florida is not back, not yet. Don’t forget that, guys.
- They can’t lose a game before October: I’m not saying it’s going to be easy with Miami, at Kentucky and an improved Tennessee. But if Florida is going to do something special this season, October is going to be when it gets really serious (Auburn, at LSU, at South Carolina). Florida can still be in the mix for the SEC with a loss prior to the 10th month and can still get to a nice bowl. But you want to be in the playoff picture, you have to be 5-0 coming out of September. Then, we’ll sit back and watch what happens live.