Florida Gators Poised to Be the Auburn Tigers of 2014

Kurt WirthCorrespondent IJanuary 16, 2014

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 02:  Jeff Driskel #6 of the Florida Gators runs against the Louisville Cardinals during the Allstate Sugar Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 2, 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

After winning just four games in 2013, the Florida Gators could be poised to stage an epic comeback, the likes of which hasn't been seen since...well, since the Auburn Tigers' this year.

After an undefeated season culminated in an Auburn national championship in 2010, the Tigers lost 14 games the following two years. Winning just three games in 2012, national championship head coach Gene Chizik was fired in favor of former offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn.

Malzahn, a former high-school coach, brought his innovative offensive style to the hapless team and reeled off 12 wins in 2013, including a near miss at the national championship and an SEC title.

That kind of one-year turnaround is rare indeed, but 2014 could very well see another rendition—this time performed by Will Muschamp.

Similarly, a once-historic program in Gainesville, Fla. managed just four wins in 2010. In an almost poetic coincidence, the former Auburn defensive coordinator was hired for the head job at Florida and immediately brought the Gators back to respectability. In just two years at the helm, Muschamp had taken the program to 11 wins and a BCS bowl appearance.

Not that you need to be lectured about what 2013 brought to Muschamp and the Gators, but let's quickly recap. In one of the nation's most injury-plagued seasons in recent memory, Florida managed just four wins and lost, at home, to FCS squad Georgia Southern.

Nearly losing his job, Muschamp fired offensive coordinator Brent Pease in favor of Duke's OC Kurt Roper.

COLUMBIA, SC - NOVEMBER 16:  Head coach Will Muschamp of the Florida Gators watches his team warm up before their game against the South Carolina Gamecocks at Williams-Brice Stadium on November 16, 2013 in Columbia, South Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lec
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Roper will have a lot to work with. Despite the loss of a couple of backup quarterbacks, a great deal of talent returns on offense. Freshman Mack Brown emerged late in the season as one of the conference's most dynamic running backs and experienced starting quarterback Jeff Driskel returns, joining ultra-talented duo redshirt sophomore Skyler Mornhinweg and incoming freshman Will Grier.

A stout defense, ranked 15th nationally in opponents' scoring, should improve as well, as only three second-string players graduate and none from the Florida starting corps. With the amount of talent and experience the Gators will possess in 2014, the chances of injuries causing the issues they did in 2013 are minimal.

On top of this experience comes the nation's seventh-ranked recruiting class.

Putting the pieces together, it looks something like this: a power program from a major conference, a recent national title followed by recent struggles, a new offensive system, a solid recruiting class and a great deal of returning experience.

Sound familiar?

Muschamp sure hopes so.


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