Say this for Jim McElwain. The new Florida coach is a happy enough guy.
Despite inheriting a University of Florida football team that has been mediocre for a while, despite a difficult schedule and despite meager expectations, McElwain is an enternal good mood. He talks about his team having “15 opportunities” to play this fall, which would include a playoff and a national title game.
Along the way, however, McElwain has some questions to answer.
Here they are, then. The five key positions for the Gators going into 2015.
1. Quarterback: No one seems to know whether it will be Will Grier or Treon Harris who will run the Gators. At a lot of schools, that might not matter. But Florida is a place that has always followed its quarterback. It’s the reason there are statues of Steve Spurrier, Danny Wuerffel and Tim Tebow in front of the stadium. The Gators need impact from the position
2. Offensive line: It’s a thin position for the Gators, who will be severely tested against the likes of Georgia and FSU. Florida returns only 10 starts, all of them by Trip Thurman. How crisp the Gators’ offense will be might not depend on the quarterback or the coach. Someone has to block.
3. Pass-rusher: The Gators will be without Dante Fowler, who was picked No. 3 overall in the NFL draft last spring. The Gators return only 17.5 sacks as a team, meaning they are looking hungrily at Alex Mcalister and Bryan Cox Jr. Jon Bullard is an all-SEC lineman, but he isn’t a huge sack guy. One thing that will help? The secondary is so good that the defensive line might get an extra second to rush.
4. Playmaker: This could be a running back or, more likely, a wide receiver. Brandon Powell has talent to spare at wideout, and McElwain thought enough of him to take to him the SEC Media Days. If it’s not Powell, look for running back Kelvin Taylor to handle the chores.
5. Linebacker. The Gators have a player to build around in Antonio Morrison, but Morrison will miss the start of the season with his knee injury. That puts others in the forefront, including Jarrad Davis and Alex Anzalone. The defense is supposed to be the great equalizer at Florida, at least until offense finds its rhythm.