SEC Media Days has always signaled the unofficial end of summer for the league’s 14 football teams. But this year, in the case of Florida, it is the official end because the Gators open preseason camp in less than two weeks due to the early start (Aug. 24) against Miami in Orlando.
Here are five Florida storylines heading into SEC Media Days in Hoover, Ala.
Chasing the ’Dogs
There’s a good chance that some covering Media Days will pick the Gators to win the Eastern Division. That, in itself, would not be shocking. But is Florida strong enough to really make a serious run at the Georgia Bulldogs’ recent domination in the division? The Gators were competitive in last year’s game for about two-and-a-half quarters, but got wiped out from there. UF is looking to close the gap, but it’s considered a pretty significant one heading into the season.
Welcome, Mr. Franks
A year ago at this time, would anyone have predicted Florida would be bringing quarterback Feleipe Franks to SEC Media Day this year — or any year? He was viewed as a barely functional quarterback. Now, on Monday, he’s going to be in front of the cameras and microphones, viewed as potentially one of the best QBs in the SEC. That’s how far he’s come in one year under Dan Mullen and Brian Johnson. If he takes the next step this season, he might not even be around for next year’s SEC Media Days. He might be getting ready to report to an NFL camp.
Lots of offensive talent, but …
There’s no doubt Franks and running back Lamical Perine are going to get asked questions about the players lining up in front of them this season — the big guys on the offensive line. The Gators may have more proven offensive weapons than they’ve had in the last 10 years and could be one of the SEC’s most explosive offensive teams, but if that young, inexperienced offensive line struggles, the entire offense is going to struggle. Franks and Perine certainly will have the line’s backs in Hoover, but what happens up front when the season starts against a strong UM defensive line?
The next Polite?
Many around the country are wondering how the Gators are going to replace the big-play ability and sack production of defensive end Jachai Polite. Well, there’s a good chance the answer is going to be right there in Hoover.
Senior defensive end Jabari Zuniga flashed Polite-like stuff last season and he has the physical tools to put together the same kind of season Polite did in 2018.
Zuniga truly is a physical freak. Once members of the media get an up-close look at him, his name is going to show up on some preseason All-SEC ballots at the end of the week.
The burden of expectations
That’s one thing the Gators didn’t need to worry about a year ago — high expectations. Coming off a 4-7 season, the expectation was the Gators probably would be better in Year One under Mullen, but probably not that much better. Well, they turned out to be a whole better, finishing with 10 wins and a top-10 national ranking. Now, heading into the 2019 season, the Gators are a consensus top-10 team, so the expectations are all over this team. How will they handle those expectations? Franks, Perine and Zuniga will give us an idea.
SEC Media Days
UF coach Dan Mullen, quarterback Feleipe Franks, defensive lineman Jabari Zuniga and running back Lamical Perine will represent the Gators in front of more than 1,200 credential media members in attendance at Hoover, Ala., and a national TV audience.
Florida will make its rotation through the SEC Media Day floor by participating in multiple interviews with various media outlets from 3:30 to 6 p.m. ET. Mullen will take the podium in the main media room at 3:30 p.m. today and it will be aired live on the SEC Network.
CFN says essentially the same, with 9 wins in the REGULAR season, but admits that figure just might be way too low. So alright now — if we go 10-3 again and have a final Top-10 rank, will that still represent the progression we’re all looking for? I say that given the strength of schedule this year, YES. But it could be a whole lot more.
One game at a time, one season at a time. Minimize or eliminate the dumb attacks, play like champions all the time, and we’ll get there. GO GATORS! 🐊🏈👍
Cant wait to get the season started 6. This team could realistically go anywhere from 5-7 to 12-0. Those of us that believe in Mullen tend to lean more towards the positive. I think 9 regular season wins keeps the momentum going forward. The Miami game will tell a lot, but that road game at KY is being thought of by most as a given and I’m afraid will be tougher than anticipated. We need to get to Auburn undefeated to have a “special” season. Now let’s get started 😁
My — without thinking about it TOO hard — win shares for 2019.
UT Martin: 0.95
South Carolina: .65
Florida State: 0.75
Eek. I’d like for it to be closer to 9 but I can’t change it after adding it up.
But looking at the numbers, that still comes out to two probable losses (Georgia and LSU) with one pretty much a toss up (Auburn) — so at worst case it comes out to 9-3 regular season and best case 10-2. By my conversion of the numbers in terms of win probabilities, anyway. Now I could be all wet and have been before when trying to decipher such things absent an actual permutation formula — but that brings us back to 9-3 + a decent bowl win representing progress in consideration of the schedule this season.
As the brilliant mind of Homer Simpson would be apt to say, “I am so smart, I am so smart. S-M-R-T, smart!”. But in reality…..wait and see is all we can do now.
Yeah, Gator-6, I think we will be favored in more games than we are used to so 9-3 is very realistic. However, I think a lot of our games we are used to dominating will be projected to be quite close affairs — and that worries me with our depth issues at some critical position groups.
Kentucky will take a slight step back but I don’t think they will ever be an easy out again as long as Stoops is there. Tennessee and SCar have also improved their rosters. I would be very disappointed, but would not be at all surprised, if we drop one of those three.
And then there’s the big three for this season, Auburn, LSU, UGA. Home, away, and neutral. I am giving the Gators a slight edge against Auburn because of the home field. LSU is better then they have been in a long time because they might finally have an offense, plus playing them at Death Valley, that game is going to be a beast. And with UGA, all I want in life is that Franks and Perine keep the offensive pressure on, the defense holds up despite depth issues (and playing a future franchise QB), and that the game is a 50/50 affair at the end. I will be happy if we get one of these three games and if we take two then this team might be in the playoffs at the end of the year.
That’s a good and realistic analysis, TJ — I can’t find any fault with it this season at all. I’m banking a lot on the influence of Coach Savage this year, Mullen’s leadership as well as that of this entire coaching staff, and particularly that this team has gone to school on their embarrassments last year. LSU and Georgia will be tough, I don’t know what to make of Auburn yet, but of all the others it’s those damn Vols that worry me the most. We’ll see though — no room for dumb attacks this year! The East is on the rise again, and there will be no “givens” at all from now on — Miami ought to be a good glimpse of our character this time around. God, I can’t wait to see us in action once all the chattering is over and done with.
Mullen on right now and loving his emphasis on the goal– winning championships. High on Felipe and selling UF big time– top ten academics and football. “Be the best you can be at whatever you do.” The way you do one thing is the way you do everything!
Mullen asked about the bar being set “too high” for UF: “I set the bar high. Expect great things.” Love it!