2018 Season Preview: Florida Gators

Season outlook

The Florida Gators poached new head coach, Dan Mullen, from conference foe, Mississippi State, during the offseason. The Gators hope Mullen, who amassed a 69-46 overall record and 33-39 conference record, can bring a level of consistently to Gainesville. Mullen previously served as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coached during Florida’s heyday between 2005-2008. The Gators head coach will have to choose between three underclassmen to take  the command at quarterback.  Sophomores Feleipe Franks (6’5, 227) and Kyle Trask (6’5, 239) will battle freshman Emory Jones (6’2, 192) for the starting role. Whoever is under center, will have junior wide receiver Tyrie Cleveland (6’2, 205)to depend on. Cleveland finished last season with 410 receiving yards and two touchdowns.  Cleveland should be able to stretch defenses with the deep ball.  Defensively, the Gators project to be further ahead of the curve than the offense.  The Gators have playmakers at each level on defense.  Senior defensive end Cece Jefferson (6’1, 242) has totaled 28.5 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks over his three years in Gainesville. Jefferson, pictured left,  plays with strong leverage and can set the edge.  In the middle, junior inside linebacker David Reese leads the defensive huddle and junior defensive back Chauncey Gardner-Johnson (6’0, 207) patrols the back end, playing on the outside and in the nickel. Gardner-Johnson has five career interceptions. The Gators aren’t expected to contend for a national championship like they were during Mullen’s first stint at Florida, but defensively look for marked improvement.

Troy’s player to watch

33 David Reese 6’1 248 LB- Junior
After missing the entire 2017 offseason recovering from wrist surgery, Reese came back with a vengeance, leading the Gators in tackles with 102 and finishing second on the team with 10 tackles for loss. The junior linebacker also totaled 1.5 sacks and an interception. The Farmington, Michigan native will be tasked with leading the defense from his middle linebacker position. Reese, a solid tackler, is as dependable as they come in the middle of a defense.

Game of the season

September 29th against Mississippi State
Head coach Dan Mullen will return to Starkville to face his former team during the fifth week of the season. The Bulldogs finished 9-4 last season in Mullen’s ninth and final season as Mississippi State’s head coach. The storylines will be plentiful and the two teams should be evenly matched. The Gators are looking to get back to a bowl game and beating a conference foe will be crucial.

 

Prediction: 7-5

Draftnasty’s Troy Jefferson is predicting a 7-5 record and a bowl game appearance for the Florida Gators. Mullen’s crew will fall to some of the upper echeloncompetition in the SEC including LSU, Tennessee, Georgia and South Carolina. The Gators will also fall to in-state rival Florida State but will win enough games to inspire confidence in the new head coach. 

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