Is Phil Steele right?

There's natural improvement that is expected to come with the Florida passing game. Jeff Driskel is a second-year starter, the offensive line will be improved and wide receivers are a year older and aided by a talented group of freshmen. But last Friday, college football prognosticator Phil Steele predicted the Florida passing game would be the most improved in all of college football.

There were times during the 2012 season when it looked like the Florida passing game was the worst in the country. But can it be expected to take this big of a leap to the most improved in the country, even after losing its leading pass catcher in tight end Jordan Reed?

It looks that way.

First of all, here's what Steele said on his website late last week:

"Last year Florida avg'd just 146 pass ypg as QB Jeff Driskel struggled in his first year as the starter. He didn't have many legitimate receiving threats at WR and the OL also struggled in pass protection allowing 39 sacks (13.5%). This year my computer is projecting the Gators will avg 241 pass ypg (+95) as Driskel and the offense should be much improved."

There are issues with what Steele is saying, but the bulk of it remains true. Driskel didn't have many legitimate receiving threats last year, but with that holding true, it doesn't speak highly of what he has this year. It's hard to expect a freshman to make a huge impact, but the Gators might be forced to do that. Demarcus Robinson stole the headlines with his impressive spring but he's joined this summer by Ahmad Fullwood, Alvin Bailey, Marqui Hawkins and Chris Thompson.

That group of five could make the difference. Or it could be the emergence of a veteran.

Florida fans have been waiting for Quinton Dunbar or Andre Debose to take the next step into becoming a Southeastern Conference caliber wide receiver. They're running out of opportunities. This is the last shot for Debose. He has shown his explosiveness in recent years on kickoff returns, and the Gators have to force a role for him on offense. Debose has been criticized in recent years for his lack of consistent effort on the practice field, but his talent might be a big enough weapon for the Florida offense to use either way.

Dunbar needs a big season

Dunbar showed some of what he can do last season. He'll likely enter the fall as the top receiver on the depth chart. Dunbar was second on the team with 383 receiving yards and led all Florida players with four receiving touchdowns. The 6-1, 195-pound receiver has two years left to be consistent, and he showed signs of doing that at the end of last season. He posted a five-catch, 77-yard performance in the Sugar Bowl after an extended set of bowl practices. Dunbar also made a key touchdown catch in the game before that against Florida State.

The intrigue of a sophomore in Latroy Pittman or Raphael Andrades could also play into Steele's prediction. Pittman was the talk of the position during the 2012 spring practices when he enrolled early, but the hype didn't match his production during the fall. Andrades got on the field as a blocker and could see more time as a pass catcher this fall, but he doesn't have the skill set of a game breaker at wide receiver.

The burden doesn't fall exclusively at wide receiver.

The tight end position has been the focus of most negative talk about the Florida offense, and the Gators will still need someone to emerge there. With Mike Gillislee graduating after catching 16 passes last season, sophomore Matt Jones steps into the running back job and showed great hands last season. The Gators could use the running backs more in the passing game this year to help it improve.

Of all the positions expected to improve, the offensive line is at the top of the list. That comes partially because of natural improvement with a year in the system and under offensive line coach Tim Davis, but two transfers will also add competition and talent. Max Garcia will compete for the left guard job after drawing rave reviews with the scout team last season, and Tyler Moore will compete at right tackle but could play other positions, too.

Garcia brings size and tenacity to the line

The Gators also return experience in center Jonotthan Harrison and right guard Jon Halapio. Sophomore D.J. Humphries is expected to hold down the left tackle position as he continues to gain weight, but he showed advanced technique and athleticism as a freshman.

If the Gators can find an improved unit in pass protection, the passing game should take a big step forward. That was an issue at points last season. The Gators struggled to block and give Jeff Driskel time to survey the field and find the open receiver. More time benefits all areas of the field. It also helps the skill players get to the open part of the field if they aren't initially open.

And then there's Driskel. He's far from free of criticism after the struggles last season, but it's also clear that the issues aren't his alone. Driskel held onto the football for too long at times during his sophomore season. It turned into sacks that were his fault and sometimes produced turnovers.

Some of the improvement comes naturally as being a part of the same offense for the second straight year under coordinator Brent Pease. It gives Driskel familiarity in phrases, formations and the scheme the Gators run.

The passing game won't be one of the top units in the country, but if it all breaks right, Steele's prediction could be right and give the Gators the most improved passing game in the country.

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