Photos: The SEC Athletic Departments
Mullen’s ties to the Gators’ glory days fired up the fan base, but no one expected the results he saw in year one.
After finishing with four straight wins, including blowouts of rivals Florida State and Big 10 powerhouse Michigan, expectations are sky-high going into the 2019 season. Mullen’s acumen for getting the most out of his quarterbacks proved true in the progression of Felipe Franks who struggled at times but closed strong as he gained command of his coach’s offensive scheme.
Along with Franks, the skill positions are as deep and talented as they have been since the Meyer era, but in order to match or better their offensive production from 2018, a young offensive line will have to mature and gel quickly. Only center Nick Buchanan returns from last year’s starters, but his experience should play a crucial role in how soon he and his fellow linemen begin to play as one unit. If that happens, expect the Gators to put up piles of points with playmakers like Kadarius Toney, Trevon Grimes, Van Jefferson, Lemical Perine and so many more.
Defensively, this year’s squad should be improved from 2018’s already stingy unit. Anchored by middle linebacker David Reese, the Gators are stacked on the front seven and have the depth needed to stay fresh for the blitz-heavy 3-4 scheme Todd Grantham likes to execute. The secondary is loaded as usual, and bolstered by the return of Marco Wilson, who suffered a season-ending ACL tear against Kentucky last season. Wilson will line up on the opposite side from C.J. Henderson and those two potential first-round draft picks give the Gators two true shut-down corners to go along with Trey Dean, Donovan Stiner and Brad Steward at the nickel/safety positions. Passing touchdowns should come at a premium cost against the school that claims the name DBU.
August 24 vs. Miami (Orlando, Fla.)
September 7 vs. UT Martin
September 14 at Kentucky
September 21 vs. Tennessee
September 28 vs. Towson
October 5 vs. Auburn
October 12 at LSU
October 19 at South Carolina
November 2 vs. UGA (Jacksonville, Fla.)
November 9 vs. Vanderbilt
November 16 at Missouri
November 30 vs. Florida State
The specialists on this team are about as solid as any in the nation. Punter Johnny Towsend has a huge leg and impressive athleticism, while placekicker Evan McPherson was 17-19 on field goals and perfect on PAT’s.
The Gators are likely still a year or two from knocking Georgia from their pedestal as Beast of the East, but if the ball bounces their way and the Dawgs slip up, a trip to Atlanta is in the realm of possibility. They open with a must win against Miami, but the four-game stretch in October against Auburn, LSU, South Carolina and Georgia will make or break any championship aspirations in year two under Mullen.