SDS continues a series looking in depth at teams and their biggest subplots heading into 2015. Next up, the Florida Gators.


Yes, but probably not this year. McElwain is the innovative offensive mind Florida fans longed for after enduring several years of offensively-challenged teams under Will Muschamp. He’s already made upgrades throughout the program, adding new personnel and new innovative ways to do things in order to right the ship as quickly as possible.

The former Colorado State head coach and Alabama offensive coordinator has a vision of where he wants to take the program, but lingering quarterback questions and a lack of depth at tailback and along the offensive line this year mean it might take some time to become reality.

Florida will again field an elite defense, but it remains to be seen whether McElwain has enough offensive firepower at his disposal to contend with the likes of Georgia, Tennessee, South Carolina, LSU and the like. The Gators haven’t finished better than 82nd nationally in total offense in 2009, so McElwain will have his hands full in his first season in Gainesville.

A brutal October slate of games against four teams all ranked in the initial Associated Press Top 25 awaits, with just one – Ole Miss – to be played in the friendly confines of The Swamp. How Florida fares through this gauntlet will be telling.

All-American cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III heads a Gators defense that will be asked to shoulder a lot of the load early on as the new faces on offense grow into their roles.

It’s a tall order, but McElwain has little other options right now.


Both Will Grier and Treon Harris will see action in the upcoming Sept. 5 opener against New Mexico State as neither has won the job outright after battling this spring and throughout the preseason.

Grier, a redshirt freshman, was the Parade National High School Player of the Year in 2013, but has yet to take a college snap. He boasts a big arm and is a much better athlete than given credit, but failed to close the deal and win the job outright despite having a lead coming out of the spring.

Harris, a sophomore who started six games for Florida last year in place of an ineffective Jeff Driskel, is the better athlete of the two and has more experience. He went 4-2 as the Gators starter a year ago, engineering an upset of then-No. 9 Georgia to highlight his season.

McElwain is fortunate to have two relatively winnable games to start the season (New Mexico State on Sept. 5, East Carolina on Sept. 12) to get a better feel for his quarterbacks before Florida opens SEC play at Kentucky on Sept. 19.

Both young quarterbacks need all the reps they can get in practice, so the longer the competition goes on, the slower the winner’s development will be.


Tight end Jake McGee lasted all of just nine snaps in 2014 before breaking his leg and missing the rest of the season. Now healthy and back for a sixth year, the Virginia graduate transfer figures to be an inviting target for whichever quarterback is under center.

McGee’s size (6-feet-6, 249 pounds), soft hands and great speed make him a matchup nightmare for opponents, especially when lined up in the slot against slower linebackers. He’s not renowned for his blocking, but McGee runs excellent routes and should thrive in a McElwain offense that has traditionally made great use of its tight ends.

In his final year at UVA in 2013, McGee hauled in 43 passes for 395 yards and two touchdowns. Twenty-six of his 43 catches (60.5 percent) went for first downs or touchdowns.


Florida’s season hinges on how quickly an inexperienced offensive line can pick things up. Senior left guard Trip Thurman is the only one of the Gators linemen to have started a major college football game. True freshmen typically need a year to learn the college game and get physically stronger before contributing along the offensive line, but McElwain will be forced to throw them into the fire from the outset. The lack of depth could be a factor down the line in a conference as physical as the SEC.

McElwain is aware of the cards he’s been dealt and has been very deliberate in the preseason about tempering unrealistic early expectations among Gators faithful, who clamor for the immediate return to the haughty days of 10-win seasons and regular New Year’s Day bowl appearances.

That’s not likely this year, and Florida fans had best come to grips with that fact. Seven or eight wins would be a great season in Gainesville in 2015 whether Florida fans realize it or not.