Florida Football: 10 New Year's Resolutions for the Gators
The Gators will be looking to bounce back from a disappointing 2011 campaign beginning with the Gator Bowl against Ohio State.
Florida will face both Texas A&M and Missouri as they join the SEC in 2012 and will try to exercise some of the things that plagued them all season long.
Let's take a look at the top 10 new year's resolutions that the Gators need to make in order to improve from a disappointing season.
Beat Ohio State
The Gators have struggled the entire season, recording a 6-6 record with only one game left to play.
The first new year's resolution for the Gators should be to not finish with a losing record for the first time since 1979.
Getting a win against Ohio State and finishing the year at 7-6 will set the tone for the 2012 season.
Not to mention that many players on the Gators roster were made promises by Urban Meyer when they decided to commit to Florida. Though Meyer will be as far away from Jacksonville on Jan. 2 as he can be, expect many players to have a personal vendetta and to play as hard as they have all season to beat Meyer's new team.
Protect the Quarterback
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Much of the Gators lack of success can be attributed to constant turnover at the most important position on the field. The Gators played three different quarterbacks this season, and even more if you include having to run Wildcat plays due to lack of confidence in the young quarterbacks.
John Brantley was knocked out for a month due to an ankle sprain, and his replacement, Jeff Driskel, was also missed action after being sacked against Alabama.
The Gators allowed 23 sacks this season, which ranks them 59th in the country. Simply put the offensive line, which was a position of strength in the first month of the season, failed the quarterbacks miserably down the stretch.
To be successful in 2012, the Gators will need to keep the quarterback's jersey clean and keep whichever sophomore wins the starting job healthy.
Find a Replacement for Chris Rainey
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Simply put, Chris Rainey was the Gator offense in 2011. Rainey tore up defenses in the first month of the season, but struggled to find running room as the Gators got into the thick of the SEC schedule.
Will Muschamp is looking to find a physical runner who can carry the ball between the tackles and be an effective runner in the red zone. Many Gator fans thought that Mike Gillislee could be that back, but he was never given the chance last season. With Rainey and Jeff Demps set to graduate, Gillislee along with Mack Brown and incumbent freshman Matt Jones will compete to become the starting back.
Jones, a senior in high school, is listed at 6'3'' 225 lbs. Jones s quick and very fast for his size but more importantly can provide Muschamp with the type of chain moving runner he so covets.
Get the Wide Receivers More Involved in the Offense
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Of the Gators top five receivers based on receptions, only two were listed as receiver on the depth chart. Only three receivers finished with double-digit receptions, and the Gators struggled to establish a deep passing threat to help the running game.
With Deonte Thompson graduating, Andre Debose and Quinton Dunbar become the elder statesmen in a unit that struggled to find an identity in 2011.
Currently the Gators only have one receiver committed to the 2012 recruiting class, Latroy Pittman, but are in the running for Stefon Diggs and Nelson Agholor. All three freshmen could make an immediate impact on a position that will be lacking in depth for the Gators.
Beat Your Rivals
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Upon entering Florida in 2004, Urban Meyer made it a point of emphasis to be successful against the Gators rivals, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida State and LSU.
Florida lost to three of their four rivals this past season and will need to get back on a winning track against FSU and LSU, both who have beaten the Gators in back-to-back seasons.
Finish in the Top 3 in Recruiting
Kent Taylor, Nelson Agholor
The Gators have had several top recruiting classes of late and will look for more of the same this year. Currently Rivals has the Gators ranked fourth in the nation, but with many recruits still in play for the Gators, there is room to move up.
Notable recruits that could still choose Florida include WR Nelson Agholor, WR Stefon Diggs, OT Avery Young, CB Tracy Howard and LB/DE Jordan Jenkins.
Jenkins is being recruited for the BUCK position that Ronald Powell struggled to fill last season and could allow Powell to make the move to DE permanently.
The Gators are high on many recruits lists, and with National Signing Day quickly approaching will look to finish off the recruiting season strong.
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The Gators were hit by the injury bug in 2011.
In a popular new year's resolution for many people, the Gators will hope for good health in 2012.
The Gators were forced to constantly change their lineup with injuries at quarterback, offensive line, receiver and running back to name a few. Dominique Easley will miss the Gator bowl and spring practice after undergoing knee surgery, and Darrin Kitchens will miss the Gator Bowl after suffering a scary hit against Florida State that required him to be carted off the field and spend the night in the hospital.
Staying healthy will allow the Gators more continuity on offense and defense and allow for a more successful season.
Fill Coaching Vacancies
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With Charlie Weis accepting the head coaching job and Urban Meyer taking Mickey Marotti to Ohio State with him, the Gators have two crucial coaching vacancies to fill in the offseason.
First Florida will need to replace Marotti. Marotti had done an incredible job as Florida's strength and conditioning coach earning the respect of all of Florida's players. Many Gators who had moved on to the NFL still returned to Gainesville to work out with Marotti.
It is the strength and conditioning coach that spends the most time with the players during the dead period of the offseason when the coaches are not allowed to run practice, and it is the strength and conditioning coach that will begin to create the team unity and make sure the players are ready for a grueling season.
Just as, if not more, important than the strength and conditioning coach the Gators will need to fill the void at offensive coordinator. For all that was made about how Charlie Weis was an offensive mastermind, the Gators finished 71st in scoring and ran the fewest amount of offensive plays of any team in the country.
The Gators offense was deplorable and should apologize to the defense for how badly they played in 2011. That being said it shouldn't be too hard to find someone to fill in for Weis and duplicate the horrendous numbers his offense put up last year, but the Gators will need to find someone who can improve the offense and return the Gators back to the top of the SEC.
Mike Shula, Kerwin Bell and Brian White are among a long list of potential rumored candidates to fill the void for Florida. Muschamp has made it clear that whoever he brings in the Gators will still run a pro style offense.
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That is the number of turnovers that the Gators defense created this season. Eight interceptions and four fumbles were all the Gators could manage this season, a measly one turnover per game average.
Florida finished 113th out of 120 in turnover margin, posting a -11 turnover margin.
Simply put that will not cut it. For as good as the defense played this season, and how the defense carried the offense especially late in the year, it needs to create more turnovers and provide a bigger spark for the team.
Cut Down Penalties
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Florida beat themselves throughout the 2011 season.
The Gators were penalized 93 times (111th), for 699 yards (83rd) and averaged 58.3 penalty yards per game (85th).
The Gators proved that they are not a strong enough team to overcome that many penalties, and they will need to become a more disciplined team in 2012.
Will Muschamp is a no-nonsense type of guy, and he will need his team to take on his attitude next season if they want to improve on their 6-6 regular season finish from the 2011 season.
These are 10 resolutions that the Gators will need to stick to in order to be successful in 2012, but like many resolutions, how many will the Gators stick to throughout the whole year?