SDS recaps every team’s 2013 regular season:
- Alabama: It all came down to the Iron Bowl
- Arkansas: More SEC-ready athletes wanted
- Auburn: Malzahn orchestrates the biggest turnaround in college football
- Florida: Gators welcome a philosophical change on offense
- Georgia: Injuries and lackluster defense halted championship run
- Kentucky: It all starts with the quarterback
- LSU: Defensive personnel losses just too much
- Mississippi State: Strong finish will carry momentum into 2014
- Missouri: Respect was earned in 2013
- Ole Miss: Despite disappointing finish, Rebels on pace for breakout 2014
- South Carolina: Tennessee loss crushed championship dreams
- Tennessee: Vols just need more athletes
- Texas A&M: Defensive struggles overshadowed explosive offense
- Vanderbilt: Fresh ink all over the football record book
Final Record: 4-8 overall, 3-5 in SEC
2013 was a forgettable season for Gator fans and players. From an amazing 11-2 2012 record to 4-8 was virtually unthinkable and impossible, let alone nobody thought it would happen. The Gators lost seven straight games to close the season, including to Vanderbilt and Georgia Southern, to kill the bowl hopes.
Similarly, no one thought it was possible to lose as many starters in 2013 either. Seven starters suffered season ending injuries, including QB Jeff Driskel, RB Matt Jones and DT Dominique Easley, who was easily (no pun intended) the SEC’s top defensive player at the halfway point. Altogether, 21 scholarship players missed time with injuries throughout the year, including backup QB Tyler Murphy.
Despite injuries and even before them, Florida’s offense wasn’t getting it done. Driskel didn’t look like he made the necessary steps to progress, and the play calls had no imagination and the conservativeness would create a thinner margin of error like 2012. Driskel threw for 477 yards, two touchdowns and three INTs before his injury, and Murphy threw for over 1,200, six touchdowns and five INTs replacing him until his injury.
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The two biggest sparks on offense this year came from WR Solomon Patton and RB Kelvin Taylor. Patton is the senior and Taylor is the freshman. Patton handled kickoff return duties and led the team with 556 yards receiving and six touchdowns, while Taylor rushed for 508 yards and four touchdowns. The offensive line was a disaster due mostly to injuries and allowed 27 total sacks.
Florida has already fired OC Brent Pease and OL coach Tim Davis, as neither justified anything to keep their jobs. Florida is said to be making a philosophical change from a very pro-style, conservative offense to a spread, up-tempo attack. Florida doesn’t need a 45 points per game offense; they just need 28 to 30, and Muschamp has the players to dominate on defense, assuming they can stay fresh throughout the game.
Florida’s defense was elite as a unit, but the offense never actually allowed the defense to reach its maximum potential. Add in the fact Easley was injured during practice, and it was a major hit to the cohesiveness and energy level, aside from the talent lost. The players that stood out on defense were CB Vernon Hargreaves, DE Dante Fowler and LB Michael Taylor. Taylor is the less hyped of any of the backers, but he was the most consistent and led the team with 62 tackles. Fowler racked up 10.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks, and Hargreaves is a freshman All-American, making 38 tackles, three INTs and 11 pass breakups. All three return in 2014, and this unit will be very good once again, if not better.
Here’s a look at the team stats:
|Category (SEC rank)|
|Scoring Offense||18.8 PPG (14th)|
|Rushing Offense||145.75 YPG (13th)|
|Passing Offense||170.9 YPG (11th)|
|Total Offense||316.7 YPG (14th)|
|Scoring Defense||21.1 PPG (3rd)|
|Rushing Defense||142.42 YPG (3rd)|
|Passing Defense||171.8 YPG (2nd)|
|Total Defense||314.3 YPG (2nd)|
One that got away: I know Vanderbilt and Georgia Southern were huge losses, but they weren’t the ones that got away. The game that put a downer on the season to begin with was Miami. The Gators turned it over five total times, including four in the red zone. Everyone knew then the thin margin of error Florida lived on in 2012, where they dominated the TO margin and fourth-quarter scoring, wouldn’t be the same. The offense lacked creativity, and the major problems and holes started to show up. This was even before the injuries.
Offensive Stud: Florida needed a receiver to step up this season, certainly after Andre Debose went down during the preseason, and it came in the form of Solomon Patton. He caught 44 passes for 556 yards and six touchdowns; all were team highs. He rushed 16 times for 71 yards and returned 22 kickoffs for 642 yards and one touchdown, a 100-yarder against Mizzou.
Defensive Stud: Although I think Dante Fowler was dominant at times and has a chance to be an All-American next season, freshman Vernon Hargreaves was the best player on the team. He’s a such a talented lockdown corner, and he reminds me of former Vol Eric Berry. Berry, of course, was a safety, but Hargreaves is silky smooth and has just as great instincts.
What’s next: No. 1 on the to-do list is to find an offensive coordinator that fits Will Muschamp’s direction. The Gators must sign some instant-impact recruits next year at running back and receiver. The defense is going to be fine and elite once again, and if the offense can show any type of pulse and score just three touchdowns per game, Muschamp has a chance to turn Florida around in a hurry.
Photo Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports