SEC Team Preview Series: Florida
Welcome to WNSP’s preview series to get you ready for SEC and Sunbelt Media Days. Each day, we will preview a new team in each conference and get you ready for football season. We’ll take a look at what Vegas has their win total set at, make a prediction, and talk about their season outlook. Today’s team: The Florida Gators
Players to watch:
Offense: QB Anthony Richardson, G O’Cyrus Torrence, WR Justin Shorter
Defense: S Trey Dean III, EDGE Brenton Cox Jr, LB Ventrell Miller
O/U Win Line: 7
Dave Schultz’s Pick: Over
Mark Heim’s Pick: Over
Lee Shirvanian’s Pick: Over
Nick Wiggins’ Pick: PUSH
Michael Brauner’s Pick: Under
The Florida Gators are in quite a spot as a program heading into 2022. It seemed like Gainesville was climbing its way back to the top of the college football mountain heading into 2021 and even at the start of the year with a 3-1 start and the only loss being a nail biter to Alabama. But Mullen’s Gator’s faltered the rest of the way and a program that was in a close SEC championship matchup just 11 months prior fired their head coach after an embarrassing loss to Missouri in late November.
Enter 2022 and Billy Napier, fresh off of building Louisiana-Lafayette into a Sun Belt powerhouse and a nationally ranked ball team. While Napier has experience at the highest level of college football, having coached under both Nick Saban and Dabo Swinney, this is his first big time job, and Florida does lose a lot of production from a team that struggled mightily at times in 2021.
Anthony Richardson, who definitely showed some serious flashes of potential in a backup role last year, is the presumed starter at quarterback following the transfer of Emory Jones to Arizona State. Outside of Richardson, the Gators lose leading receiver Jacob Copeland to Maryland, and leading rusher (outside of Emory Jones) Dameon Pierce to the NFL. Justin Shorter is the most productive returning pass catcher from 2021 and will have to lead a group of receivers that for the most part has been disappointing since their arrival in Gainesville. The offensive line returns three starters and Napier brings in All-Sun Belt guard O’Cyrus Torrence with him from Lafayette.
Had Florida’s defense been even just okay in 2020 to go along with Kyle Trask, Kyle Pitts, and the blazing offense that they led; the Gators likely would have made the College Football Playoff. Unfortunately, it was completely abysmal, and while it did improve significantly in 2021, Napier still has his work cut out for him turning it into a competitive SEC unit.
Trey Dean III electing to come back for his 5th season will be huge for the secondary, and both him and Brenton Cox Jr. are coming off of extremely productive seasons in 2021 that they will look to build on. Ventrell Miller is a smart, savvy veteran presence at linebacker, back for his 6th season in college football after a torn bicep ended his 2021 early on.
With a first-year head coach in the SEC, having to replace a ton of talent, and a brutal schedule that features Utah, Kentucky, and on the road for Tennessee just in September, then later on a near impossible three game stretch of LSU, Georgia, and at Texas A&M, winning seven games in year one in my opinion would immediately put Napier in the very upper echelon of college football coaches and Richardson in the upper echelon of quarterbacks. It’s not impossible, but I’m perfectly comfortable being the only one here to take the under on the Florida Gators in 2022.