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.