The Florida Gators enter the 2013 season under a more experienced QB Jeff Driskel. UF will kick off its season in Gainesville at 12:21 p.m. Saturday against Toledo.
It's safe to say I'm usually the only one in Florida's press box rocking a pink dress and heels. Hey, I'm not the one on the field, so it's totally acceptable.
Hey, y'all. I'm Allison. I'm currently 22, so Taylor Swift's song made this year especially enjoyable. I spent my four years at the University of Florida nabbing my journalism degree and reporting on just about every Gators sport the Swamp has to offer. From gymnastics to baseball to football to swimming (post Ryan Lochte, thank God), I've done it. I'm no newbie, and I'm amped to continue my career as Bleacher Report's Lead Writer for the Gators.
Best coach to interview
Coach Will Muschamp is always a treat on the other end of the recorder, but my interview fave is actually next door to the football stadium.
I'm talkin' about Florida's head basketball coach, Billy Donovan. Billy D is a real standup guy. He's not only a true master of his craft, but he actually knows how to talk about it with true finesse, too (at length, giving you all the quotes you could ever possibly need and more). He's transparent with and respectful to the media (a rarity at Florida) and is an all-around phenomenal guy who's life/work off the court is undoubtedly inspiring. Plus, his New York accent just automatically makes everything that comes out of his mouth awesome. Oh, and the widows peak? Legendary.
Best team covered
Covering an underdog never gets old. So writing articles on the doubted Gators' rise to a 11-2 record was sick. However, my top nod has to go to the 2011 Gators Gymnastics team. These chicks were some of the hardest working athletes I've ever had the pleasure of covering and hello, the entire sport involves doing flips and tricks in the air in sparkly outfits. Reporting on this bunch was the closest thing I can equate to what feels like being on tour with Britney Spears (before babies/shaved head).
Most memorable rivalry game covered
It doesn't get any better than the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, y'all. The Florida-Georgia rivalry is one of the most iconic matchups in college football, and even though last season's meeting didn't end well for the Gators, it was an incredible event to report on. It's held in the neutral site of Jacksonville, Fla., in an NFL stadium (OK, it's the home of the Jags, but it's still a pro field). No team holds an advantage and all the wasted fans just go buck wild on each other. Of course the drama on the field isn't slim, either. No one can forget the infamous "Gator Stomp" of 2007 when the entire Bulldogs team (as instructed by UGA coach Mark Richt) stormed the Gators' end zone after Georgia's first touchdown. Unsportsmanlike conduct history, anyone?
Can the Gators recover from losing seven starters on defense?
There's no questioning that the defense carried this team on its back last season. Combined, these guys had 48.5 tackles for loss making Florida's D No. 5 in the NCAA and No. 2 in the SEC . They stepped up in a huge way for a Gators team that was in its first year under a new offensive coordinator and QB. Can this squad "recover" from losing a huge chunk of starters (including Sharrif Floyd and Matt Elam)? Sure, under the notion that this year's D shouldn't be expected to pull as big of a weight as last year's did. On an individual level, this season's defense still maintains sizable talent with leadership including spitfire Dominique Easley, a recently returned Ronald Powell and a more talented Dante Fowler who are all sure to make impacts of their own.
What does Jeff Driskel need to do to live up to his potential in 2013?
The weeks before the 2012 season, the big story was Florida's coaching staff dancing around the quarterback question. Though Jeff Driskel obviously got the job, he came into the spot splitting reps with Jacoby Brissett. Now that Driskel has a full season as the offensive leader under his belt along with the growing pains and learning that go with it, it's time for him to peak. He's going into the season knowing exactly what his job his. His jitters should be gone and he should be more comfortable with his routes, but most importantly, he must make his decisions on the field faster. Last season, Driskel was growing into his role at QB, so it was expected that he show hesitation. But to live up to his potential this year, he just has to go. He has to be comfortable enough to make his decisions more quickly than he did last year. Driskel has to start being the guy to make those big plays. With the loss of an incredible defense that could make up for offensive missteps, it's crucial that Florida's star QB leads this offense to bear more of the burden on the field and the scoreboard.
Who will lead the Gators in rushing in 2013?
Well, Gilly has been freed… to the Dolphins, and unfortunately for Florida, its new go-to running back Matt Jones is out for the season opener against Toledo recovering from a viral infection. But I'm expecting Jones to be back and making a major impact by the time Miami rolls around. Though he's sidelined for a hot minute, it's his time to lead UF in rushing this season. No question he's got huge, mad fast shoes to fill. Last year's RB (slash absolute monster) Mike Gillislee rounded out his career at Florida with a total of 2,024 rushing yards and 20 rushing touchdowns. Gilly finished fourth in the SEC in rushing yards last season and was the first UF player to rush more than 1,000 yards since 2004. Yeah, the rushing standard for Florida has been set high -- like, real high. But in just his first year, Jones finished third on the team in rushing yards (275) and clocked time in 12 games. He also powered three touchdowns during his freshman season. Jones enters this season (a wee bit late) well rested, with more experience and a bigger role for the Gators, and I'm betting he'll show up in a big way.
2013 Season Prediction for the Gators
9-3. Florida faces nationally ranked SEC hard hitters South Carolina and LSU on away turf this season and with a developing team, I see those opponents/ environments presenting trouble for the UF's record. I'm also still doubtful that Florida can escape Jacksonville with a win versus a No. 5 Georgia.