- Behind an unproven offensive line, the pressure will be on for Feleipe Franks and the rest of the Gators' offense this fall.
Our college football 2019 season preview issue is here, which means we're checking in with all 25 teams from SI's official preseason Top 25 ranking. What do you need to know about each of this year's top contenders, from top-ranked Alabama down to Stanford? We'll be rolling out scouting reports for each team over the next two weeks, all of which are being collected here. Next up, it's No. 10 Florida.
THE BIG STORY
When he arrived on campus three years ago, Feleipe Franks was the nation's top-ranked dual-threat high school QB, a 6'6" gunslinger who was going to lead the Gators back to prominence. Franks struggled in his first season at the helm and was off to a rocky start last year as he was booed off the home field and benched during a November game against Missouri. Down the stretch, however, the signs were promising, as Franks led the Gators to four wins in their final four games. Florida fans have waited three years for Franks to live up to expectations. It's now or never.
Franks will have one of the SEC's top receiving units at his disposal, including wideout Van Jefferson, who opted to return for his senior year. After transferring prior to last season, Jefferson immediately became Florida's top big-play threat, leading the Gators in receptions (35), yards (503) and touchdowns (six) last season.
Will the offensive line—the most unproven unit in Gainesville—be able to protect Franks and create holes for senior RB Lamical Perine? The Gators lost four starters from last season and will field a unit with no player who has made more than two career starts.
The Gators' defense, led by lineman Jabari Zuniga, took a big step forward last season, ranking 20th in the country in points allowed after finishing 69th in 2017. Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham's frantic 3–4 unit relies on players who can shift into different roles depending on the situation: a hybrid LB/DE and, just as importantly, a nickel safety who can cover the slot receiver and also fend off blockers to stuff the RB. Last season Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, now in the NFL, excelled at nickel safety; taking over is sophomore Trey Dean, who started at CB last year but will take on Gardner-Johnson's role. He has the size (6'3", 194 pounds) and speed to turn a good defense into a great one.
OVER OR UNDER?
Under 9.5 wins. Beyond the tough conference schedule, the Gators also have two in-state nonconference clashes against what should be improved Miami and Florida State teams. The Gators might be better—but reaching 10 wins again seems unlikely.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Mullen's promise of a national championship will wait another year, but the Gators are building a perennial playoff contender in Gainesville. Getting there will require a star turn from Franks.