If you go by the numbers, Florida football should be a work in progress this year. Perhaps that accounts for the overall lack of respect shown by most of the national pundits. In terms of experience, the Gators are 11th in the SEC and #103 nationally, but this team is so much further along than last year. The Gators won 10 games and the SEC East championship last year in Jim McElwain’s debut season.
Probably the biggest reason for the lack of respect is the fact that even though McElwain has more talent and depth at QB than he has last year, he doesn’t have a single QB who has thrown a pass in an SEC game. He doesn’t have a single RB who has ever run for 100 yards in a game and the O-line gave up 45 sacks last season. Over on defense, the Gators lost three DBs who will play on Sunday including two first rounders, and a DT and MLB who also will play on Sunday.
On paper and by the numbers, the Gators come up short, but what McElwain sees this summer compared to what he saw last year is night and day difference. Florida is better off this season than last and that includes a more favorable schedule. While Luke Del Rio has never started a college football game, he’s as well versed in the McElwain offense as Greg McElroy was in 2009 and we all know what he did in his first year as a QB starter at Alabama. Behind him is Austin Appleby, a grad transfer from Purdue. Don’t let that fool you. He was an Elite 11 QB coming out of high school so he’s got the big arm.
The pundits tend to play it straight down the line by the numbers, however, which is why they give the Gators little respect and heap all the SEC East praise on Tennessee and Georgia.
Here is a look at the SEC East by the numbers for 2016 starting with the Gators:
Offense (coordinator Doug Nussmeier; 4 returning starters, 22 returning lettermen): 23.2 points, 334 yards per game, 5.11 per play
Rushing: 126.93 yards per game, 3.48 per carry, 19 TDs
Returning runners: Jordan Scarlett 34-181, 5.32 per carry, 1 TD; Jordan Cronkrite 44-157, 3.57 per carry, 3 TDs
Passing: 207.1 yards per game, 7.2 per attempt, 20 TDs, 10 INTs, 45 sacks allowed
Returning QBs: None
Returning receivers: WR Antonio Callaway 35-678, 19.37 per catch, 4 TDs; WR Brandon Powell 29-390, 13.45 per catch, 3 TDs; TE DeAndre Goolsby 17-277, 16.29 per catch, 1 TD
Defense (Coordinator Geoff Collins; 6 returning starters, 21 returning lettermen): 18.3 points, 310.2 yards per game, 4.65 per play
Run defense: 128,07 per game, 3.53 per carry, 12 TDs
Pass defense: 182.1 yards per game, 6.0 per attempt, 17 TDs, 14 INTs, 40 sacks
Returning tacklers: LB Jarrad Davis 98; S Marcus Maye 82, DE Bryan Cox Jr. 45; CB Jalen Tabor 40; DE CeCe Jefferson 29; CB Quincy Wilson 29; DT Caleb Brantley 28; S Nick Washington 28
Returning pass rushers: DE CeCe Jefferson 3.5; DT Joey Ivie 3.5; DE Bryan Cox Jr. 3.5; LB Jarrad Davis 3.5; DT Caleb Brantley 3.0
Returning DBs: CB Jalen Tabor 4 INTs, 14 pass breakups; S Marcus Maye 2 INTs, 6 pass breakups; CB Quincy Wilson 2 INTs, 5 pass breakups; LB Jarrad Davis 1 INT, 4 pass breakups
Elsewhere in the SEC East:
GEORGIA: New coach Kirby Smart inherits a team that is the fourth most experienced in the SEC and #38 nationally. As a former DC under Nick Saban, expect the Bulldogs to play conservative offensively by eliminating mistakes and win with the running game and defense.
Offense (coordinator Jim Chaney; 8 returning starters, 17 returning lettermen): 26.3 points per game; 377.2 yards per game; 6.03 yards per play
Rushing: 192.15 yards per game, 5.14 per carry; 22 touchdowns
Returning runners: Sony Michel 219-1,161, 5.3 per carry, 8 TDs; Nick Chubb 92-747, 8.12 per carry, 7 TDs
Passing: 185.1 yards per game; 7.4 per attempt; 14 TDs, 8 INTs, 15 sacks allowed
Returning QBs: Greyson Lambert 162-256, 1,959 yards, 7.7 per attempt, 12 TDs, 2 INTs
Returning receivers: WR Terry Godwin 35-379, 10.83 per catch, 5 TDs; RB Sony Michel 26-270, 10.38 per catch, 3 TDs; WR Reggie Davis 12-187, 15.58 per catch, 1 TD; TE Jeb Blazevich 15-144, 9.6 per catch, 1 TD; WR Isaiah McKenzie 10-123, 12.3 per catch, 0 TDs
Defense (coordinator Mel Tucker; 6 returning starters, 24 returning lettermen): 16.9 points per game; 305.9 yards per game; 4.75 yards per play
Run defense: 149.46 per game, 3.96 per carry, 11 TDs
Pass defense: 156.5 yards per game, 5.9 yards per attempt, 11 TDs, 12 INTs, 21 sacks
Returning tacklers: LB Tim Kimbrough 67, S Quincy Mauger 58, S Dominick Sanders 48; CB Aaron Davis 42; CB Malkom Parrish 42
Returning pass rushers: LB Davin Bellamy 3 sacks; LB Tim Kimbrough
Returning DBs: S Dominick Sanders 6 INTs, 6 pass breakups; CB Malkom Parrish 2 INTs, 2 pass breakups; CB Aaron Davis, 1 INT, 3 pass breakups
KENTUCKY: Fourth-year coach Mark Stoops has the sixth most experienced team in the SEC and the #84 team nationally. New offensive coordinator Eddie Gran inherits 9 starters, good skill people and experience on the O-line. The offense figures to be pass heavy. The defense has to improve dramatically.
Offense (coordinator Eddie Gran, 9 returning starters, 22 returning lettermen): 24.7 points per game; 372 yards per game, 5.47 yards per play
Rushing: 162.87 yards per game, 4.66 per carry, 22 TDs
Returning runners: Stanley “Boom” Williams 121-855, 7.07 per carry, 6 TDs; JoJo Kemp 98-555, 5.66 per carry, 6 TDs; Mikel Horton 82-318, 3.88 per carry, 3 TDs
Passing: 209.3 yards per game, 6.3 per attempt, 10 TDs, 16 INTs, 30 sacks allowed
Returning QBs: Drew Barker 35-70, 364 yards, 5.2 per attempt, 1 TD, 2 INTs
Returning receivers: WR Garrett Johnson 46-694, 15.09 per catch, 2 TDs; WR Dorian Baker 55-608, 11.05 per catch, 3 TDs; WR Jeff Badet 29-430, 14.83 per catch, 2 TDs; WR Blake Bone 20-210, 10.5 per catch, 1 TD; TE C.J. Conrad 15-149, 9.93 per catch 1 TD; WR Ryan Timmons 12-114, 9.5 per catch, 1 TD
Defense (coordinator D.J. Eliot, 6 returning starters, 17 returning lettermen): 27.4 points per game, 394.2 yards per game, 5.55 per play
Run defense: 196.08 yards per game, 4.61 per carry, 24 TDs
Pass defense: 198.1 yards per game, 6.9 per attempt, 14 TDs, 11 INTs, 17 sacks
Returning tacklers: S Marcus McWilson 66; CB Mike Edwards 39; DE Denzil Ware 39; CB Chris Westry 36; S Blake McClain 31; DT Reggie Meant 31; CB J.D. Harmon 28
Returning pass rushers: CB Chris Westry 1; DT Reggie Meant 1; DE Denzil Ware 1
Returning DBs: CB J.D. Harmon, 3 INTs, 2 pass breakups; CB Chris Westry, 2 INTs, 8 pass breakups; CB Mike Edwards 1 INT, 2 pass breakups
MISSOURI: First year coach Barry Odom inherits a team that is the fifth most experienced in the SEC and #83 overall. The talent is all on the defensive side of the ball while the offense has a rather dismal look about it. Mizzou should be a top three or four defense in the SEC.
Offense (coordinator Josh Heupel, 5 returning starters, 18 returning lettermen): 13.6 points per game, 280.9 yards per game, 4.38 per play
Rushing: 115.42 yards per game, 3.49 per carry, 5 TDs
Returning runners: Ish Witter 126-518, 4.11 per carry, 1 TD
Passing: 165.5 yards per game, 5.3 per attempt, 10 TDs, 12 INTs, 30 sacks allowed
Returning QBs: Drew Lock 129-263, 1,332 yards, 5.1 per attempt, 4 TDs, 8 INTs
Returning receivers: WR J’Mon Moon 29-350, 12.07 per catch, 3 TDs; WR Nate Brown 27-326, 12.07 per catch, 4 TDs; RB Ish Witter 15-143, 9.53 per catch; TE Sean Culkin 16-139, 8.69 per catch, 1 TD; TE Jason Reese 15-126, 8.4 per catch
Defense (DeMonte Cross and Ryan Walters, co-coordinators; 8 returning starters, 25 returning lettermen): 16.2 points per game; 302 yards per game, 4.32 per play
Run defense: 132.75 yards per game, 3.29 per rush, 11 TDs
Pass defense: 169.3 yards per game, 5.7 per attempt, 10 TDs, 9 INTs, 27 sacks
Returning tacklers: LB Michael Scherer 93, S Anthony Sherrils 64; LB Donavin Newsom 63; CB Aaron Penton 59; DE Charles Harris 56; DE Walter Brady 40
Returning pass rushers: DE Charles Harris 7; DE Walter Brady 7; DT Terry Beckner Jr. 3; LB Donavin Newsom 2.5, DE Marcel Frazier 2
Returning DBs: CB Athony Sherrils 1 INT, 6 pass breakups; S John Gibson 1, 2 pass breakups
SOUTH CAROLINA: First year coach Will Muschamp’s Gamecocks are the 12th most experienced team in the SEC and #108 nationally. There is very little experience at the skill positions so the Gamecocks will have to rely on an improved defense and eliminating offensive mistakes to win.
Offense (coordinator Kurt Roper; 4 returning starters, 19 returning lettermen): 21.9 points per game, 362.2 yards per game, 5.61 yards per play
Rushing: 154.87 yards per game, 4.39 per carry, 11 TDs
Returning runners: Lorenzo Nunez 59-375, 6.36 per carry, 2 TDs; David Williams 86-299, 3.48 per carry; Perry Orth 53-138, 2.6 per carry, 1 TD
Passing: 207.5 yards per game, 7.1 per attempt, 17 TDs, 12 INTs, 26 sacks allowed
Returning QBs: Perry Orth 143-261, 1,929 yards, 7.4 per attempt, 12 TDs, 9 INTs; Lorenzo Nunez 32-52, 376 yards, 7.2 per attempt, 3 TDs, 3 INTs
Returning receivers: WR Deebo Samuel 12-161, 13.42 per catch, 1 TD; WR Matrick Belton 11-121, 11.0 per catch; RB David Williams 11-93
Defense (coordinator Travaris Robinson; 6 returning starters, 22 returning lettermen): 27.5 points per game, 429.8 yards per game, 5.61 per play
Run defense: 217.42 yards per game, 5.13 per carry, 26 TDs
Pass defense: 212.4 yards per game, 7.3 per attempt, 15 TDs, 12 INTs, 20 sacks
Returning tacklers: LB T.J. Holloman 63; S Jordan Diggs 48; DE Marquavius Lewis 45; LB Jonathan Walton 42; CB Rico McWilliams 32
Returning pass rushers: DE Darius English 4.5; DE Marquavius Lewis 3; DE Dante Sawyer 2.5; DT Kelsey Griffin 2.5
Returning DBs: LB T.J. Holloman 2 INTs, 2 pass breakups; CB Chris Lammons 1 INT, 4 pass breakups; S Jordan Diggs 1 INT
TENNESSEE: On paper this should be Tennessee’s year. The Vols are the most experienced team in the SEC and third most experienced in the country. They have 17 returning starters and 53 returning lettermen. Butch Jones brought in Bob Shoop from Penn State as his DC and that’s where the Vols will have to get better to improve on last year’s 9-4.
Offense (coordinator Mike Debord; 9 returning starters, 24 returning lettermen): 35.2 points per game, 422.3 yards per game, 5.56 per play
Rushing: 223.69 yards per game, 4.71 per carry, 32 TDs
Returning runners: Jalen Hurd 277-1,288, 4.65 per carry, 12 TDs; Alvin Kamara 107-698, 6.52 per carry, 7 TDs; Joshua Dobbs 146-671, 4.6 per carry 11 TDs; John Kelly 40-165, 4.13 per carry, 1 TD
Passing: 198.6 per game, 7.0 per attempt, 17 TDs, 5 INTs, 24 sacks allowed
Returning QBs: Joshua Dobbs 205-344, 2,291 yards, 6.7 per attempt, 15 TDs, 5 INTs; Quinten Dormady 13-22, 209 yards, 9.5 per attempt, 1 TD
Returning receivers: WR Josh Malone 31-405, 13.06 per catch, 2 TDs; WR Josh Smith 23-307, 13.35 per catch, 2 TDs; TE Ethan Wolf 23-301, 13.09 per catch, 2 TDs; RB Alvin Kamara 34-291, 8.56 per catch, 3 TDs; RB Jalen Hurd 22-190, 8.64 per catch, 3 TDs; WR Jauan Jennings, 14-149, 10.64 per catch
Defense (coordinator Bob Shoop; 8 returning starters, 29 returning lettermen): 20 points per game, 362 yards per game, 5.21 per play
Run defense: 151.52 yards per game, 4.19 yards per carry, 13 TDs
Pass defense: 210.4 yards per game, 6.3 per attempt, 17 TDs, 12 INTs, 30 sacks
Returning tacklers: LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin 105; DE Derek Barnett 69; LB Darrin Kirkland Jr. 66; S Todd Kelly Jr. 45; DE Corey Vereen 39
Returning pass rushers: DE Derek Barnett 10 sacks, LB Jalen Reeves-Mabin; DE Corey Vereen 3.5; LB Darrin Kirkland JR 3; DT Danny O’Brien 2
Returning DBs: S Todd Kelly Jr. 3 INTs, 2 pass breakups; CB Evan Berry 1 INT; LB Darrin Kirkland Jr. 1, 1 pass breakup
VANDERBILT: There can be no excuses this year at Vandy. Derek Mason has 18 returning starters. The Commodores are the third most experienced team in the SEC and #36 nationally. The defense is very sound. The offense has to get better after two years of barely plugging along.
Offense (coordinator Andy Ludwig; 9 returning starters, 23 returning lettermen): 15.2 points per game, 326.5 yards per game, 4.5 per play
Rushing: 154.67 yards per game, 3.75 per carry, 9 TDs
Returning runners: Ralph Webb 277-1,152, 4.16 per carry, 5 TDs; Darrius Sims 43-250, 5.81 per carry, 1 TD; Dallas Rivers 60-183, 3.05 per carry, 1 TD
Passing: 171.8 yards per game, 5.5 per attempt, 11 TDs, 16 INTs, 28 sacks allowed
Returning QBs: Kyle Shurmur 44-103, 503 yards, 4.9 per attempt, 5 TDs, 3 INTs
Returning receivers: WR Trent Sheffield 51-659, 12.92 per catch, 3 TDs; WR Caleb Scott 24-339, 14.13 per catch, 2 TDs; RB Ralph Webb 24-188, 7.83 per catch, 2 TDs; WR Latevius Rayford 19-151, 7.95 per catch 1 TD
Defense (coordinator Derek Mason; 9 returning starters, 28 returning lettermen): 21 points per game, 350.5 yards per game, 4.02 per play
Run defense: 143.17 yards per game, 3.75 per carry, 9 TDs
Pass defense: 207.3 yards per game, 5.5 per attempt, 10 TDs, 6 INTs, 26 sacks
Returning tacklers: LB Zach Cunningham 103; LB Oren Burks 59; CB Torren McGaster 51; CB Tre Herndon 47; S Arnold Tarpley 36
Returning pass rushers: LB Zach Cunningham 4.5 sacks; DT Adam Butler 3; S Arnold Tarpley 2; DT Torey Agee 2
Returning DBs: LB Oren Burks 3 INTs, 6 pass breakups; CB Ryan White 1 INT, 1 pass breakup
SEC East Prediction
1. Tennessee: The Vols have experience but can they handle prosperity and can they beat teams with winning records?
2. Florida: If the Gators beat the Vols in Knoxville on September 24, they might just make it two straight SEC East titles.
3. Georgia: Good enough to finish third in the SEC and second if Tennessee melts down but they aren’t going to finish in the top 20 nationally.
4. Vanderbilt: It’s bowl game or bust for Derek Mason.
5. Kentucky: Mark Stoops (a) better get to a bowl game and (b) win it.
6. South Carolina: Will Muschamp needs bubble gum and baling wire to hold the Gamecocks together while he assembles SEC caliber talent.
7. Missouri: This is a bad situation, but the defense is really good.
Friday: The SEC West breakdown
The PGA starts today. A year ago we were asking how many majors would Jordan Spieth win in 2016. He needs to win the PGA to get to one. I’ll go with Lefty (Phil Mickelson) as my first choice with Dustin Johnson and Henrik Stenson as the next two.
UCF AD Danny White (older bro of UF hoops coach Mike) is making a case for the Big 12. White told ESPN that UCF would “elevate” the Big 12 and says it’s just a matter of time before “UCF will be a top 25, even a top 10 athletic department.” That’s a lot of wishful thinking.
Among ESPN.com’s Adam Rittenberg’s picks for the hottest coordinators in college football are five from the SEC: Florida DC Geoff Collins, Alabama OC Lane Kiffin, LSU DC Dave Aranda, Arkansas OC Dan Enos and Tennessee DC Bob Shoop.
In the ninth inning of a non-save situation for new Cubs closer Aroldis Chapman, the radar gun hit the 100 mph mark 13 straight times.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
What are your predictions from 1-7 in the SEC East for 2016?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
They call their style of music “Newgrass” but whatever you want to call it this is one talented group of musicians who regularly incorporate jazz, blues, Celtic and some rock and roll with a little bit of Dylan thrown in for good measure. I have not seen these guys perform live but their live performances on Youtube.com have me hoping they’ll make a southern swing sometime next year.
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