Though the 2012 season ended on a high note, taking out the Ohio State Buckeyes 24-17 in the Gator Bowl, it was far from the outcome most Florida Gator fans had hoped for.
Will Muschamp is a great coach, and when he finds his stride the Gators will once again be a contender in the SEC, but he will need players to step up and take this team to the next level. An entire roster playing fundamentally sound, balanced football is needed to win big-time college football games, especially in the SEC, but there are always key positions that can make a world of difference.
Let's take a look at three players who could have a major impact on the Gators' win column this season.
Until the third game of the 2011 season, Sharrif Floyd had been a defensive tackle for the Gators, and now he is in good position to be one of Florida's top defensive ends this year.
A strong pass rush, especially in the SEC, goes a long way to keeping the opposition honest and can make or break a defensive outing, affecting both sides of the ball in the big picture.
If Floyd can break the 50-tackle mark and get to the quarterback a bit more, he could put himself in position to be a huge difference-maker for the Gators this season. The junior has the ability and tools to get the job done, he but needs more sacks under his belt to make a real, noticeable difference.
2011 Stats: 46 tackles, 1.5 sacks
With senior Omarius Hines making the switch to the running back position, Jordan Reed goes into spring practice as the top dog at tight end.
Reed had a productive season in 2011 with a couple of touchdowns and more than 300 yards receiving, but he will need to be more of a real difference-maker for the upcoming year.
If the sophomore can find his stride and embrace the lead role, he should be able to take some heat off the quarterback position against some really tough defensive teams on Florida's schedule.
A healthy and well-performing Reed could make life a little easier for the Gator offense in 2012 and could mean the difference between a successful season and another mediocre finish.
2011 Stats: 28 receptions, 307 yds, 2 TD
As the most experienced running back on the roster, senior Mike Gillislee will have an opportunity to be Florida's leading rusher for the upcoming season.
With a new offensive coordinator in charge for 2012, it will be the third new boss in this senior's career, and a learning curve is always expected. With change, however, always comes opportunity and a chance to shine.
To stay balanced on offense, the Gators will have to be able to run the ball against a slate of tough SEC defenses as well as a really good Seminoles squad at season's end.
Gillislee has the tools and experience to be Florida's work horse on the ground. and given the opportunity he should be able to carry the load, but how well he performs will likely decide how much of the spotlight he'll share with sophomore Mack Brown.
2011 Stats: 56 attempts, 328 yds, 2 TD