Florida Gators

Swampy Draft

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The Florida Gators had to make an offseason change from Dan Mullen to Billy Napier as their new head coach, but that does not mean there were no stars on the team in 2021.

A handful of Florida Gators received NFL Scouting Combine invitations ahead of the 2022 NFL Draft. This is an opportunity for these players to increase their stock.

Florida saw four of its players invited this season, but each had quality ends to their college careers and definitely drew the eyes of NFL scouts.

Here’s a breakdown of each Florida Gator invited to the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine:

Zach Carter: Carter can play inside and outside along the defensive line, which should be attractive to NFL teams.

He opted out of the Gasparilla Bowl to prepare for the draft. Carter is likely to play more defensive end at the next level, but his versatility showed he can do both, should a team want to move him back inside.

The NFL Scouting Combine will definitely be an opportunity to show off his athleticism and running through certain drills could show he is able to play multiple positions for an NFL team looking for a versatile lineman.

Last season, Carter had the best season of his college career, finishing with 31 total tackles, 15 solo tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks, two pass deflections and one forced fumble.

In his career, Carter had 102 total tackles, 39 solo tackles, 26 tackles for loss, 17 sacks, eight pass deflections, one fumble recovery, two forced fumbles and one touchdown.

Carter is currently projected as a late 3rd early 4th round pick.

Kaiir Elam: Elam left school early to head to the pros. That was for good reason after a productive career with the Gators.

Elam received some first-round NFL Draft buzz. He’s not a lock for the one of the first 32 picks, but he is a high-quality prospect coming into the pros.

The NFL Scouting Combine usually propels a handful of prospects to higher positioning and that could very well be the case with Elam as well. Elam made a quick impact on Florida when he started playing as a true freshman and kept it rolling over three seasons.

Elam played three seasons for the Gators, having another productive year in 2021, as he had 29 total tackles, 17 solo tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, one interception and five pass deflections. In his career, Elam had 78 total tackles, 53 solo tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, five interceptions, 20 pass deflections and one fumble recovery.

Elam should be the first Gator selected.

Jeremiah Moon: Moon had a productive year to conclude his college career and ended up at the Reese’s Senior Bowl to showcase his talent to NFL scouts up close.

Now that he is headed to the NFL Scouting Combine, he can showcase his abilities once again.

Moon was an EDGE defender before transitioning to linebacker due to injuries. But Moon appeared to provide a physicality to the position that the Gators needed. He has the ability to play the EDGE or linebacker spots, which should be intriguing to NFL teams.

He took advantage of a sixth year eligibility after the free year of 2020. He finished 2021 with a solid stat line: 49 total tackles, 20 solo tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, one pass deflection and one forced fumble.

He finished his Gators career with 151 total tackles, 60 solo tackles, 14 tackles for loss, eight sacks, four pass deflections, two fumble recoveries and one forced fumble. Moon is a late day three selection or free agent.

Dameon Pierce: Pierce could be a steal in the NFL Draft when April comes around. He was actually tabbed as the top running back from the 2022 Reese’s Senior Bowl by CBS Sports.

With that type of performance, there should be a lot of eyes on Pierce throughout the combine as he showcases his speed and agility.

What also helps Pierce, in addition to him carrying and catching the football, he can pass block very effectively. NFL teams will love that in a young prospect. Pierce is very powerful and has a low center of gravity.

He had a career-year finding the end zone in 2021. He finished the season with 100 carries, 574 yards, 13 touchdowns, 5.7 yards per carry, 19 catches, 216 receiving yards and three receiving touchdowns.

He finished his Gators career with 329 carries for 1,806 yards, 23 touchdowns. 5.5 yards per carry, 45 catches, 422 receiving yards and five receiving touchdowns.

Pierce is projected a late 3rd early 4th round selection.

In Or Out

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The Florida Gators Ty’Ron Hopper saga continues to grow.

The redshirt sophomore entered his name into the transfer portal on January 20, only to withdraw it in an hour’s time. Now, four days later, Hopper’s name is back in the transfer portal.

Hopper saw game action on defense and special teams in all 13 games last season, including four starts. He finished fourth on the team with 65 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, and one forced fumble.

The redshirt sophomore from Alpharetta, Ga., figured to be a key member of the 2022 squad. Hopper was seen as one of Florida’s rising stars heading into the new year.

As a freshman in 2019, he appeared in four games as a reserve linebacker and on special teams. He made two tackles in his limited role.

2020 saw more playing time and more contributions. Hopper appeared in 11 games for the Gators, finishing with 15 total tackles (five solo, 10 assisted) and one tackle for loss.

He was expected to be a starting linebacker for the Gators in 2022. While he has entered his name into the transfer portal that doesn’t mean he cannot choose to still return to Florida.

The news of Hopper looking to transfer comes at an interesting time. Hours before he first entered the portal last week, former Florida Gators coach Christian Robinson would be joining the Auburn Tigers.

Robinson was an integral part of Hopper’s recruitment and was also his position coach for three seasons. A redshirt sophomore, Hopper has three years of eligibility (a free COVID year included) of eligibility left.

Robinson was a popular coach not just among the linebackers, but the entire team. He joins an Auburn team going into its second season under head coach Bryan Harsin.

 

 

Getting To Know Napier

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The college football regular season is over.

Some coaches at prominent programs were fired and vacant positions are being filled.

USC lured Lincoln Riley away from Oklahoma about 24 hours after they lost to Oklahoma State. He was the most high-profile coach on the market.

The Florida Gators fired head coach Dan Mullen. In my opinion Urban Meyer should have been targeted to return to Gainesville. He’s struggling in his first season in Jacksonville. Instead, the Gators hired Billy Napier, who is currently the head ball coach at Louisiana-Lafayette.

Napier played quarterback for Furman from 1999 – 2002 and took over as the starting quarterback his junior year. He led the Paladins to the 2001 NCAA Division I-AA Football Championship Game and they lost to Montana, 13 – 6. He earned second-team All-Southern Conference honors in 2001 and 2002.

His father is a high school football coach in Northern Georgia. Napier followed in his footsteps and started as a Grad Assistant at Clemson from 2003-04. From 2006-08 he was the tight end coach and recruiting coordinator for the Tigers.

In 2008 Tommy Bowden resigned and Dabo Swinney was named the interim head. Swinney promoted him to quarterback coach. When Swinney was promoted to the full-time head coach after the 2008 season, he promoted Napier to offensive coordinator. In 2009 Clemson scored a then school record 436 points and won the ACC Atlantic Division.

The offense was not nearly as productive in 2010 and he was fired after the season.

In 2011 he was hired by Nick Saban as an offensive analyst for Alabama. In 2012 and 2013 he made coaching stops at Colorado State and Florida State.

In 2013 he returned to Tuscaloosa as wide receiver coach and stayed there until 2016. He was the offensive coordinator and quarterback coach at Arizona State in 2017.

In 2018 he was hired for the head coach position at Louisiana-Lafayette. His record for the Ragin’ Cajuns is 39 -12. They were 12 -1 this season and beat Appalachian State in the Sun Belt Championship game.

Hiring coaches from the Nick Saban coaching tree is very popular, considering he’s the best college coach of all time.

Every program is hoping they can replicate his success. Napier will make the 27th former Saban assistant to get hired as a head coach.

I think this is a decent hire for Florida. They have someone who has proven he is capable of turning a program around.

On a scale of 1 to 10 I rate this as a 7. Hopefully he can turn the Gators back into a powerhouse.

Chomped

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Well, here we are in the smoldering aftermath of the Damn Mullen era at UF.

It was fun at first, but ultimately, bad roots produced bad fruits.

Mullen is gone and before we turn to the excitement of the coaching search, here are a few takeaways that I think we should all keep in mind for the future:

CFB is a recruiting game; recruiting sorts out all the small details on the field automatically- There are no “master developers”, Portal Kombat is a fantasy, and coaching only beats talent when talent isn’t coached.

Want to know if your team is on the path to an SEC Championship? Show me a composite top-5 class or a superstar QB. Until 30 years of history are proven wrong, that’s reality for today’s game.

Long-term rebuilds are like unicorns. I love the idea, but I sure can’t find one. Only 2 coaches since the early 90s have won their first SEC after year 3 at a school. One had a #1 overall class (Fulmer at Tennessee in 97) and one had a superstar QB (Tuberville at Auburn in 04). But again, winning fast means recruiting fast.

Dan Mullen is not Dabo Swinney and UF is not Clemson 2007. Assembling a great first staff and quickly acquiring a top-notch QB are huge. I could go on at length about this, but instead I’ll offer my evidence in six words: Knox over Seider. Jones over Corral. So, yeah. Watch this carefully over the next year.

The offensive line is still THE biggest personnel issue on this team, dating back to the Meyer era, and it must be fixed if the program is going anywhere.

The program stopped signing quality in numbers at the position around 2010 and it has been crippling to one degree or another ever since. Unlike other positions, the unit comprises almost a quarter of the starting 22, and this lack of excellence can’t continue.

The Gator program must recruit Florida’s elite athletes better if they’re to rise. There’s no way around it. They can’t make up for the home state futility in California, with a national approach, or through the portal.

An entirely new approach to recruiting is necessary that exploits every advantage and loophole. Bags and facilities are tools, but they weren’t why Mullen sucked. Lack of effort, lack of communication, lack of organization, lack of creativity, and lack of having more were the reasons.

It’s time for the program to be transformed into a recruiting organization first and foremost. They must find ways to capitalize on what the rules allow. They must use NIL to the fullest.

People will lie to you in this business, because tickling your ears is good for profit and popularity. Things have certainly improved, but there are still those out there who will mislead fans with optimistic reports that have little factual grounding.

One such profiteer got mad at me on Twitter a few years back when I called him out publicly for lying to fans, telling them “Mullen is en route to a top-5 class”. He demanded that I call him, which I did. When I asked him why he was telling fans that UF was in great position to land Dontae Lucas (who had a family connection to the FSU staff) and other unrealistic targets, he said “where does it leave me business wise if I’m not optimistic”. As consumers, you have a right to look at people’s track record and to ask them to show their math.

We’re fortunate in many ways to have had Mullen when we did. It’s been hashed and beaten to death, but none of the other available coaches that year would have been any better.

Probably a lot worse. We kept ourselves relevant enough to be distanced from Tennessee, Miami, and FSU. The Gators are probably not far off from CFP contenders if the new coach has a passion for recruiting – and it starts with AR15.

To end my breakup letter, I’m glad it’s over, and I’m excited for the future. I never liked him and I am thrilled, but I will always wonder what he might have been able to do here if he wasn’t such a gaping, stubborn, arrogant SOB.

Ch-Ch-Changes

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The problem to be solved with the Florida Gator football team runs deeper than Dan Mullen’s hubris. Yes, please fire him (hiring Todd Grantham much less keeping Grantham for another year is a Nussemeier on staff levels of incompetence) but the administration just doesn’t get it.

Florida doesn’t need an X’s and O’s coach; they need a CEO type that knows what it takes to build a program. I have no doubt in my mind that Coach Mullen wants to be successful at Florida, but it takes a lot more than wanting it, especially at Florida.

Someone who “gets it” is Kirby Smart. He sacrifices so much time with his family and so much of his free time to recruit. Kirby demands so much from his assistants, you ask yourself, why the hell would anyone do that?

How do you recruit so hard, you rival Nick Saban in relentlessness and even beat him on the trail consistently? What drives a person to do something that makes many normal men insane?

Well, Kirby is a Georgia alum who spent his playing days being consistently clobbered by Steve Spurrier coached Florida teams. It’s almost like his very identity revolves around Georgia Football. He is Mr. UGA!

Kirby was born and raised in the South and knows the culture. I think that’s why a lot of recruits gravitate to him.

Would you ascribe the same “X factor” about Dan Mullen? This is what recruits think: Some dorky Northeasterner who talks too fast and isn’t funny or relatable, and who thinks Publix cakes and some tastefully Jordan sneakers can woo recruits on their official visits.

Mullen has been quoted as saying “I want guys who want to be Gators”, but at this point as a program when you have the likes of Kentucky and Missouri out-recruiting you. You have to wonder if the brand has lost its’ sheen after the lost decade.

In order to compete with the Elite (hell to even remain relevant in the SEC East) in the present day, you HAVE TO GO ALL IN. There is no half-ass in the current recruiting landscape. The push to become a top 5 public university is great but all these young men have dreams to play in the NFL.

Mullen has some of the top attributes I would seek in a head coach. He can game plan and coach offense, quarterbacks and call plays, but he has to reflect on just about every other part of the program at this point and make some really big changes.

I do believe there will be some significant staff changes this offseason. Todd Grantham being gone is all but a foregone conclusion.

The following coaches have their contract set to expire after the recruiting cycle ends February 8th: John Hevesy, Billy Gonzales, Tim Brester, Greg Knoz and David Turner.

Change is coming Gator fans, but you are not fixing the roster issues overnight and simply replacing coaches is not a guaranteed fix.

“If you don’t recruit, there’s no coach that can out-coach recruiting, I don’t care who you are.” Kirby Smart definitely understands how to build a program.

The Ole Ball Coach

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Going into the 1990 season Georgia held a commanding 44-22-2 lead in the annual rivalry game in Jacksonville.

UGA fans went to Jacksonville knowing they would find a way to win the contest even if Florida had a better record or more talent.

Bad things always happened to Florida when games were on the line and they would find a way to lose a game they had won. The Florida fan base had come to expect to lose every year.

Florida fans say that was BS, which stands for “Before Spurrier”. Florida hired their Heisman winning QB Steve Spurrier as their head football coach in 1990.

Spurrier’s teams were known for winning with aggressive and high-scoring offenses, and he became known for teasing and “needling” rivals, both before and after beating them on the field.

He is the winningest coach in both Florida and South Carolina program history, and his last Duke squad won the program’s only Atlantic Coast Conference championship over the last half-century in 1989.

Florida’s four consecutive Southeastern Conference championships in the mid-1990s is the second-longest streak in conference history, behind Bear Bryant’s 1970s Alabama teams, and Spurrier and Bryant are the only coaches to hold the record for most conference wins at two different SEC schools.

Spurrier is second to Bryant in total wins, while leading an SEC program.

When Florida quarterback Danny Wuerffel won the Heisman Trophy during the Gators’ 1996 national championship season, Spurrier became the only Heisman Trophy winner to coach another Heisman Trophy winner.

In recognition to his contributions to the university and its football program, the University of Florida officially renamed the Gators’ home field “Steve Spurrier-Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium” in 2016.

Immediately the ball coach dominated the series. Take a look at these scores:

1990: Florida 38-7

1991; Florida 45-13

1992: Florida 26-24

1993: Florida 33-26

1994: Florida 52-14

1995: Florida 52-17

1996: Florida 47-7

Georgia fans stopped coming in droves to Jacksonville and began to say we may never win in Jacksonville ever again as long as this guy is there.

No head coach in history has owned more free space in the head of an opposing fan base than Steve Spurrier has over the Georgia Bulldog nation.

When UGA broke the 7 game losing streak in 1997 to UF the ball coach responded by winning four straight before leaving for the Washington Redskins after the 2001 season.

Spurrier ended his Florida coaching career with an 11-1 record against UGA. Total domination from every possible angle, but the mental control over UGA still lingers to this day.

I’m a huge UGA fan and always seem to expect the worst possible scenario because of one man Steve Spurrier. If you are a Georgia fan and say this Spurrier mojo doesn’t still linger then you are lying to yourself.

The mojo is losing its luster as the years go by, but it still creeps in from time to time.

Steve Spurrier is on the Mt. Rushmore of SEC Football Coaches. The man transformed the SEC into what it has evolved into today.

I’m not a Florida fan, but I respect Steve Spurrier as much as any football coach that has ever roamed the sidelines. Steve Spurrier did a number on the Bulldog Nation that has lingered for 30 years.

Georgia leads the series with Florida now 53-44-2. Florida is 22-9 since they hired the Ole Ball Coach, who got 11 of those wins and he hasn’t coached in this rivalry game since 2001.

Big Game Dan

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Dan Mullen likes to play Darth Vader, but this recent stretch of Florida Gator football has exposed Dan as more of a Wile E Coyote.

The last time the Gators played, it was like Coach Orgeron painted a tunnel on the side of a mountain, and Mullen ran right into it.

Mullen has become the hapless villain more likely to have an anvil fall on him than to succeed in chasing down the roadrunner.

LSU lost their star receiver and top two corners. On paper, the Tigers had no chance to win.

But, through the power of Mullen mayhem, the Florida Gators found a way to make it happen.

Todd Grantham, a fan favorite in every SEC town except Gainesville, coached a defense that surrendered 321 yards in rushing yards alone.

Tyrion Davis-Price ran for 287 yards and 3 touchdowns, the most ever against a Gator defense, breaking a record previously held by Herschel Walker. With all due respect to David-Price, it took a special kind of defensive breakdown to let a running back of this caliber not only break a Herschel Walker record, but do it by 50 yards.

Richardson did look terrific on the bulk of his offensive drives, but even that story comes with a twist. The Gators’ quarterback said after the game he couldn’t write off the possibility that he’d transfer. On the plus side, no one threw a shoe!

Losing sucks, and the Gators are going to have more than 3 losses for the first time since 2017.

Mullen’s Record…

LSU is 1-3

UGA is 1-2 (1-3 on Saturday)

UK is 2-2

Alabama is 0-2

 

His first three seasons were fun. It felt like the swag and excitement were back. For a moment, The Swamp was rocking again. Florida was a top 10 team hungry for more. Playing in the SEC Championship and winning NY6 bowl games. For a moment, The Gator Standard had returned.

How did Florida get to where they are now?

Let’s start with three years of mediocre recruiting, as well as settling on a mediocre staff; and it is finally catching up.

Mullen will not want to get rid of Grantham, but Mullen’s hand will be forced. The heat will turn onto the head coach instead if nothing is done, or better yet, accomplished soon.

Last year, Mullen opted to retain Grantham, instead firing a pair of assistant coaches in the secondary, content that should be enough to fix the issues.

If you go back and look at their last 15 quarters in SEC play, Florida has given up 37 points per game. 49 LSU points later, it might be time for a change.

Florida and Georgia will face off in the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, but Florida fans might want to as well start drinking now. The less you remember, the better.

Florida has now lost six of their last eight games against Power 5 teams, dating back to last year.

Of course, Mullen has already explained that the final game of 2020 came before the blowout loss to Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl, and in fairness, he’s never said when the 2021 season was officially going to start, and with his performance, he could fool me!

 

Toothless Gators

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The Florida Gators are at a crossroads going into the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. They are 4 – 3 but the concern is the way they looked against teams perceived as inferior.

Florida started the season off with two blowout victories against Florida Atlantic and South Florida.

It looks like things went wrong after the third game. The Gators lost to #1 Alabama, 31 – 29. They played well against the defending national champs and may have been too satisfied with the moral victory.

Florida had more total yards than the Crimson Tide, 439 yards to 331. They ran for 244 yards and it looked like that would be their offensive identity going forward.

They beat Tennessee the following week, then lost at Kentucky. They pummeled Vanderbilt for homecoming, 42 – 0.

Going into the LSU game the Tigers were a .500 team. They lost two consecutive games to Auburn and Kentucky. This was also the case last season when they beat Florida in The Swamp. UF was favored by 11 ½ points.

Ed Orgeron was on the hot seat again, but he saves his best coaching performances for the Gators. They ran the ball at will and running back Tyrion Davis-Price rushed for 287 yards with three touchdowns.

Florida’s leading rusher was backup QB Anthony Richardson, but he only had 37 yards.

“The one stat to me stands out a lot is we’re minus-4 turnover ratio,” Florida coach Dan Mullen said. “We didn’t stop the run and make the stops we needed to in the second half when we started to gain momentum. Every time we’d get that kind of fix to get ourselves out of the hole we kind of couldn’t get the stop to get over the hump.”

Quarterback Emory Jones struggles with accuracy, consistency and decision making. He’s thrown for 1,305 yards, 10 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. He has rushed for 495 yards and two scores.

The Gators are coming off of a bye week getting ready for the October 30th game against #1 Georgia.

The Bulldogs have a historically good defense. They are the top-rated defense in the nation in yards and points. They give up an average of 6.6 points per game, the only team that holds opponents under double digits.

Florida ranks 9th nationally in total offense, averaging 502 yards per game and 34.4 points. I don’t think they have a chance to perform like that against UGA.

They rank 38th in total defense and they give up 134.4 rushing yards per game. Running the ball is Georgia’s strength.

Dan Mullen has not publicly said if he will make a change at quarterback. Last season the strength of the offense was the passing game led by quarterback Kyle Trask and tight end Kyle Pitts. This season they lack an identity.

They are no longer ranked following the loss to LSU. They will be underdogs for the Georgia game. They will have to limit penalties and turnovers to have a chance to win. The offense will have to produce which is a lot to ask.

This is a rivalry game so strange things can happen but anybody with eyes has to pick UGA to win this game.

Chomped From Inside

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Steve Spurrier created the Gator Standard, Urban Meyer exemplified this standard by taking the program to new heights, and after two failed coaching hires, and numerous embarrassing losses; Dan Mullen was the man hired to awaken the sleeping giant.

Year one under Mullen saw a quicker turnaround than any realistic fan could have expected (and could’ve asked for). Bad losses occurred, and red flags appeared, but they were excused due to the upward trajectory of the program in only one season.

Fast forward to year four, the bad losses and red flags remain; this time, Mullen has run out of excuses. I am no insider, and don’t claim to have any secret knowledge inside the University of Florida’s football program, but several things have made me scratch my head.

Mullen’s ego is disproportionate to his on-field accomplishments. What big game has he won? He has been extremely close twice versus Alabama but lost at both contests.

I would think he’d carry himself with a chip on his shoulder, but quite the contrary. Dan Mullen refuses to hold himself to the Gator Standard.

He does not hold himself accountable! After his second loss to Kentucky in four years, being the first Florida coach since Doug Dickey to lose multiple games to Kentucky (for reference on how long ago that was: Jimmy Carter was President), Mullen snapped at a reporter who asked if felt outcoached tonight.

Mullen’s quoted, “NO! But 382 yards, I guess that sputtering. I don’t know. We had 382. They had 211 yards. I wouldn’t think that would be the case. I think guys did some pretty good things right there, moving up and down. I think we got to really look at the penalties that we have and how to get ourselves in better situations that way. I got to do a better job coaching up the PAT/field goal group. They’re a physical group. We outrushed them. We outpassed. We out total gained them. The time of possession, we were better on third down.”

BUT COACH, AT THE END OF THE GAME, YOU DIDN’T OUT SCORE THEM! SOUNDS PRETTY OUTCOACHED TO ME!

Mullen has also refused to make changes to his coaching staff. He has selectively neglected staff incompetence, especially in recruiting SEC-level talent.

He has yet to win a game as an underdog in his tenure at Florida. Fans will calm down and Florida will finish the season with eight or nine wins. Dan Mullen isn’t going anywhere soon.

I am not one of those calmed down fans. The stench from the Gators’ loss to Kentucky is lingering like burnt popcorn after the worst movie ever. Another loss like the last one and noise will build in the program for an exit.

Mullen will be a name next to Zook, Muschamp and McElwain, and be another coach that can’t return Gainesville to glory.

Let’s not forget that most Gator fans (and I) are already miffed with him for not starting Anthony Richardson.

If Mullen wants to win championships, he is going to have to change.

First, he will have to make significant changes to his coaching staff. Next, he is going to have to give a Damn about recruiting. Finally, he is going to have to hold himself to the Gator Standard.

Mullen has steadied the program, and now, can he take them up to the next level?

Gator Chomp

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Florida will begin the 2021 season where they ended in 2020; ranked 13th by the AP.

Florida sits behind three SEC teams, two of which will appear on this year’s schedule.

Week 3 the number 1 ranked Alabama Crimson Tide will travel to Gainesville, and Halloween weekend, the annual cocktail party with number 5 Georgia.

Remember, it was just three years ago that the Gators were 4-7. Dan Mullen was hired and the turnaround began. The Gators have gone 21-5 the past three seasons.

Of course, the 8-4 record was disappointing, but beating Georgia and playing in the SEC Championship game were signs of the program heading in the right direction.

This year’s Gators have the potential and talent to challenge for the College Football Playoffs.

Sept 4 vs FAU: Willie Taggart will bring his Owls to the Swamp to be plucked. Florida 51 FAU 10.

Sept 11 at South Florida: USF brings back 15 total starters but that is not going to mean much as the Bulls get barbecued. Florida 49 USF 17.

Sept 18 vs Alabama: It is hard for me to believe that Florida or any other SEC team takes down the Tide this season. The fact the game is at the Swamp and it will be Bryce Young first SEC road start gives the Gators a puncher’s chance.

Alabama is one of the most talented and coached teams in the country. No SEC title game revenge. Alabama 34 Florida 27.

Sept 25 vs Tennessee: Tennessee is in total rebuild mode. Josh Heupel will have an up-tempo offense but the lack of talent will be apparent. Florida 49 Tennessee 20.

Oct 2 at Kentucky: The Cats have been a thorn in the side of the Gators for the last few years, but they have only won once against UF. This game is always close (other than last year’s blowout) but Florida will sneak out a win on the road. Florida 34 Kentucky 28.

Oct 9 vs Vanderbilt: Vandy is going to be bad, and I mean really bad. This may be the worst Vandy team in the last 10 years. New coach has the same results. Florida 58 Vandy 3.

Oct 16 at LSU: Everyone remembers the last year when an LSU’s player shoe was tossed and a flag followed. This event led to a game winning field goal. Florida wants revenge, but I think the Tigers are going to be much better than they were last season. In my opinion, revenge is Sweet this year for the Gators! Florida 27 LSU 24.

Oct 30 vs Georgia: I’m calling this the “What If Game.” All offseason. Georgia fans have been saying “What If JT Daniels was healthy?” Daniels will be full go this season, but who will he throw the ball to?

That answer is hard to find with the SEC’s best wide receiver George Pickens recovering from an ACL injury and Arik Gilbert leaving the team.

The winner of this game represents the SEC in the Championship. Gators’ defense gets a late sack from Georgia transfer Brenton Cox. Florida 34 Georgia 27.

Nov 6 at South Carolina: Trap game after an emotional win in Jacksonville, the Gamecocks will keep it close until the fourth quarter. Florida 27 South Carolina 17.

Nov 13 vs Samford: Another win over the Bulldogs. Florida 51 Samford 7.

Nov 20 at Missouri: Eli Drinkwitz is building a program in Columbia but the Tigers are not at the same level as the Gators. Florida 31 Missouri 21.

Nov 27 vs FSU: FSU hasn’t been relevant since Jimbo was in town. After not playing their instate rival in 2020, the Gators win big. Florida 48 FSU 13.

Mullen gets the Gators back to Atlanta with an 11-1 record.