John Raoux/Associated Press
Last fall was a miserable one for Will Muschamp and Florida football.
Two years ago, Florida was 11-2 and made the Sugar Bowl. Gator fans weren’t necessarily thrilled with their team’s style following the Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer eras, but 11 wins has a way of salving wounds.
Last fall, an injury-riddled Gator team suffered through a miserable year. Florida lost 15 players to season-ending injuries last fall, and 10 of them were starters. The Gators finished with a 4-8 record, the program’s first losing mark since 1979.
Junior quarterback Jeff Driskel suffered a broken leg in the third game against Tennessee, ending his season in late September. His replacements, freshman Skyler Mornhinweg and junior Tyler Murphy were very ineffective. The Gators finished No. 113 nationally in total offense (316.7 YPG), No. 112 nationally in scoring offense (18.8 PPG) and No. 107 in passing offense (170.9 YPG).
The nadir was a home loss to FCS foe Georgia Southern in which the Eagles, a triple-option team, won despite piling up zero passing yards.
Florida’s offense needs to catch up with its defense. Muschamp has a defensive background, and it showed. Last fall, the Gators were eighth nationally in total defense (314.3 YPG) and 15th in scoring defense (21.1 PPG).
Offensive coordinator Brent Pease was shown the door and replaced by Duke offensive coordinator Kurt Roper, who helmed a system that brought the Blue Devils their first ACC Coastal Division title, a 10-win season and a Chick-fil-A Bowl berth. The Blue Devils averaged 426.1 yards per game (No. 47 nationally) and 32.8 points per game (No. 41 nationally).
Roper’s system has spread elements and is fast-paced, two things that the Gators desperately need to attract disenchanted fans back to the program. With a healthy Driskel, tailback Matt Jones and receiver Quinton Dunbar leading a solid pass-catching group that will add tight end Jake McGee (Virginia’s leading receiver a year ago), Florida’s offense figures to be improved.
Will it be good enough to save Muschamp’s job? Florida has to travel to Alabama, Tennessee and Florida State and has permanent SEC West foe LSU on the slate (LSU visits the Swamp). Florida also hosts South Carolina and Missouri and will face off with Georgia in its annual neutral-site game in Jacksonville.
To feel secure, Muschamp needs to reverse last season’s record, at the very least. He’ll need a much bigger contribution from Roper and the revamped offense.