The all-important pre-season, post-spring top 25 has been revealed, and ESPN has the Florida Gators sliding all the way to No. 17. Of course, these rankings are subject to change and are very likely not to hit the mark when it's all said in done.
Nevertheless, ESPN grading Florida at around No. 17 makes sense. Florida finished its season at 8-4. After starting the year with an impressive 8-1 record, the Gators went on to lose its final three contests, including the SEC Championship game vs. Alabama and the team's bowl game against Oklahoma.
Florida ranked below three SEC schools, including
ESPN had this to say about Florida's ranking: Alabama (No. 1), Georgia (No. 3) and Texas A&M (No. 7).
It's difficult to know what the Gators' rebuilt offense might look like this season, as coach Dan Mullen didn't hold a spring game and severely limited access for fans and media at practices. Regardless, the Gators are undergoing a facelift after losing so many playmakers from a team that won the first SEC East title of Mullen's tenure.
The Gators figure to go from a pass-heavy to run-heavy offense, even when the ball is in new quarterback Emory Jones' hands. Florida's running backs room is especially crowded, and Mullen will look to get the ball into Dameon Pierce, Malik Davis, Nay'Quan Wright, Bowman and former Miami transfer Lorenzo Lingard's hands as much as possible.
Florida's defense also is undergoing a makeover after it ranked 100th in the FBS in pass defense (257.5 yards per game) in 2020. Mullen hired former Auburn secondary coach Wesley McGriff, and South Florida's Jules Montinar was hired as cornerbacks coach.
As stated by ESPN, it is tough to tell where Florida will go in terms of the direction of its offense and defense. There are far too many unknowns, particularly at the quarterback position and the weapons on the team's offense. While fourth-year quarterback Emory Jones has shown plenty of potential, the fact remains that he is still an unknown.
The Gators are losing plenty of talent at key skill positions, too. Former Florida tight end Kyle Pitts was selected fourth overall in this year's draft by the Atlanta Falcons, receiver Kadarius Toney was selected at No. 20 overall by the New York Giants. The team will also be fielding a re-shaped offensive line with plenty of question marks.
Defensively, Florida frankly can't really get much worse in its pass defense. As stated by ESPN, the team ranked 100th in the FBS in pass defense. After losing some key contributors, the team will hope its newer and younger players can come in and make up for the lost talent, while at the same time providing more desirable outcomes for the defense as a whole.
In all, Florida's rank shouldn't come as a surprise. There are far too many question marks on the team to give them a favorable position heading into the fall. However, it wouldn't be surprising to see them raise after the first few weeks of the season, showing off the new-look Gators team for the first time since January.