Five SEC Departures That Impact the Gators in 2020 and Beyond
Not a see you later, but a goodbye.
Lots of big-name SEC players and coaches are leaving the program they were a part of in 2019. Each one impacts that particular program in different ways, but which ones impact Florida the most?
When you look at the 2020 landscape of the SEC, the Gators are the best team that returns both its quarterback and primary offensive engineer. So, let's rank the biggest departures in the SEC and rank them based on how they impact Florida the most.
5. QB Tua Tagovailoa leaving Alabama
This impacts the Gators simply because it impacts the entire SEC. Will Alabama still be absurdly good? Do they still have an offensive amount of talent everywhere? Of course.
But even still, replacing 33 touchdowns to just three interceptions this season is no small task. Coach Nick Saban will have to find production somewhere else on that offense, as top wide receivers Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs are departing for the NFL as well.
This mostly changes a possible SEC Championship meeting between Florida and Alabama. Defending a much less explosive offense than 2019's in all likelihood would help UF's chances tremendously.
4. Sam Pittman leaving Georgia
I know that Pittman is staying in the SEC, as he took the Arkansas head coaching gig, but still. What happens in Fayetteville, Arkansas, does not affect UF nearly as much as what happens in Athens, Georgia. The SEC East crown got a lot easier to compete for without the recruiting guru that Pittman was at UGA for that offensive line.
What was a huge theme of this past year's Florida-Georgia game? What was perhaps the biggest reason that Florida left Jacksonville in 2019 with a loss? Why were the Bulldogs converting third downs seemingly at will?
Florida could get no pressure at all on quarterback Jake Fromm. Forget sacking him, they couldn't even disrupt him whatsoever. Now, former Ole Miss head coach Matt Luke replacing Pittman was a great hire, but it remains to be seen if he can match Pittman's worth - remember, Joshua Braun flipped to Florida within days of Pittman's departure.
This means a higher chance of the Gators leaving Jacksonville winners and earning a trip to Atlanta.
3. Joe Burrow leaving LSU
If LSU were in the east, I would have Burrow higher.
However, as huge of rivals as the Gators and Tigers are, I feel that Burrow leaving for the NFL does not impact UF quite as much as it does Alabama or Auburn. Still, for the yearly rivalry, with a game that still has a hefty amount relying on it, slowing down LSU's offense should be much easier now.
Burrow was unquestionably the best quarterback in college football this season. The only player that even had an argument of being better overall was Ohio State defensive end Chase Young. It is impossible for LSU to replace 60 touchdowns.
2. Jake Fromm leaving Georgia
Again, if LSU were in the east, I would have Burrow's departure ranked ahead of Fromm's. However, with Georgia being by far the most important game of UF's 2020 season, I rank Fromm higher from the perspective of how much it affects the Gators.
Georgia will still be a must-win game in all likelihood for the chance at an SEC Championship birth for coach Dan Mullen and UF. Fromm played by far his best game against Florida in 2019 and it cost the Gators the trip to Atlanta.
Transfer Jamie Newman could turn out to be excellent, but Fromm was the anchor of that offense and that team in a lot of regards. He was the extension of coach Kirby Smart on the field and now that is gone.
1. Joe Brady leaving LSU
I know I just got finished explaining that what happens with Georgia is a bigger deal than what happens at LSU, but it is different with passing game coordinator Joe Brady at LSU. I feel that way for two different reasons:
First, Brady was going to attract every explosive offensive player in high school. He was about to make recruiting a lot harder for Mullen and the Gators, especially when it comes to big-play wide receivers.
Second, the Tigers have always had the issue of a ridiculously talented offense, but no quarterback. Brady fixed that obviously with Burrow, and he was on track to fix that issue permanently. Brady leaving to become the offensive coordinator for the Carolina Panthers lessens the chances of the Tigers becoming an Alabama-and-Clemson-like powerhouse for years to come.