Florida Football: 4 Reasons the Gators Are Bound to Underachieve in 2013
The Florida Gators certainly overachieved in 2012.
Despite a new starting quarterback and numerous other question marks on both sides of the ball, Will Muschamp's squad was able to beat some of the top competition in the country. After a surprising 11-win season, the Gators made a return to the BCS party.
But will they have similar results this season?
I do not see it happening for multiple reasons.
For now, here are the four biggest ones.
Florida's defense was the dominant unit last season, and that should once again be the case this year.
Although most Gators fans are optimistic that the offense will improve, it is hard to imagine a huge spike in production after only one offseason.
The obvious question mark is Jeff Driskel. Will he be able to combine his freakish athletic talent with improved pocket presence and have a solid season? Perhaps, but he will not immediately rise to the level of A.J. McCarron or Johnny Manziel.
Well, at least the odds are very slim.
Then there is the wide receiver problem that has existed since the Tebow era. Aside from Quinton Dunabr and Demarcus Robinson, no other Florida receiver seems to be a trustworthy contributor.
Even if Driskel improves, the Gators offense may not have the firepower to complement a solid defense.
Ask any other team in the country, and each one will tell you that Florida's 2013 schedule is extremely tough.
The Gators will face usual SEC heavyweight foes such as LSU, South Carolina and Georgia. In addition, teams like Tennessee and Arkansas will be trying their hardest to spring an upset.
As if these clashes weren't enough, the non-conference lineup includes tilts against both of Florida's in-state rivals: Florida State and Miami.
There could conceivably be four or more losses scattered throughout this lineup if the Gators are as inconsistent as they were last season.
Although I still think that is an exaggerated prediction, I do not see any way in which the Gators can finish the year without a loss or two. Thus, I think another BCS appearance is not in the cards as many seem to believe.
Too Many Replacements
Losing players to graduation and the NFL is no excuse for a bad season. After all, it's something that every team has to go through after every season.
However, the Gators were hit pretty hard following the 2012 campaign.
Despite having talented athletes to replace them, the fact remains that many of the key pieces from last year's surprising squad are no longer in Gainesville. Matt Elam was as dependable a safety as one could have asked for, and Mike Gillislee was a warrior at running back. They are just two on a list that also includes Jon Bostic, Sharrif Floyd and Jordan Reed.
Sure, Antonio Morrison and Jonathan Bullard are ready for expanded roles. But what about everybody else? Can Keanu Neal, Brian Poole and Jaylen Watkins fill the voids at safety? Can Clay Burton or Kent Taylor emerge as a target for Jeff Driskel?
There are a lot of unanswered questions in terms of replacements for departed contributors. Ultimately, these losses could spell trouble for the Gators.
Caleb Sturgis and Kyle Christy formed a potent one-two punch last season as special-teams superstars.
Unfortunately, it will be extremely difficult for the Gators to have similar reliability at those respective positions this season.
Christy is not a big worry by any means. Still, his performance last season was exceptional. Duplicating that success will be a very tough task.
The bigger conundrum is at kicker. Whether Austin Hardin or Brad Phillips wins the starting role, the trust level that came with Sturgis will be gone. By the time Hardin is a senior, he may merit his hype as a high school recruit. Right now, however, it is hard to have confidence in either of them if the game is on the line.
There will be times during the season when Florida needs a big kick to change the outlook or result of a game. Right now, it is not clear if there is a player who can get the job done in such cases.