This off-season has been an eventful one. Head Coach Billy Napier, in year 2 of his tenure, has faced consistent criticism since his arrival in Gainesville. After going 6-7 in his first year, how will he and the team improve? Roster overhaul, recruiting, and an overall cultural reboot, leads us to one of the most anticipated seasons in school history.
5.5. This number is the expected win total that the Gators are projected for their 2023 campaign. Yet, ESPN”s FPI(Football Power Index) has them ranked at 25 before the season even begins. There isn’t another team in ESPN’s FPI top 25 projected under 7 wins, just for reference. Disclaimer; these are pre-season numbers and ESPN FPI is only a forecast so take that with a grain of salt, but here’s everything you need to know before the Week 1 matchup against Utah and just an overall Florida Gator 2023 season preview.
One of the obvious questions that the Gators have is at the QB position. After Anthony Richardson was drafted in the 1st round of this last year’s draft, Florida was left with Ohio State transfer Jack Miller, redshirt sophomore Kyle Engel, and freshman Max Brown on the roster. The current depth chart now includes Wisconsin transfer Graham Mertz, who’s looking for a revival to his career. It’s been said by his former coaches at Wisconsin that he was “misused” in their normally run-heavy offense. He had an impressive enough summer to earn him the go ahead start in Week 1 vs Utah. It is also worth noting the presence of Grad transfer Micah Leon from UCONN, who has had more of a role due to a minor injury suffered by Jack Miller. Max Brown is still in the mix as well.
The offensive line was one of the better groups in the country last season. With the additions of
Damieon George Jr. from Alabama and Micah Mazzccua from Baylor, and the returners Florida currently has, this should be an above average unit. Center Kingsley Ekuguan, will be a big name to watch on this unit. The depth will be seen as the season goes on.
Two Headed Monster
Combining for 1,500+ yards last year, the returning duo of Trevor Etienne and Montrell Johnson Jr will look to continue their work and now have another season under their belt. Freshman Treyaun Webb will also be contributing to the Gators backfield. Transfer Cam Carroll was also anticipated to be featured in this offense, but suffered an injury that will keep him out for the season.
Possibly the most stacked unit on this Florida team is the WR/TE room. With plenty of returning players like Ricky Pearsall, Dante Zanders, and Kahliel Jackson, plus noticeable young guys like Eugene “Tre” Wilson and basically the entire freshman WR class, there is a lot of optimism around the performance of this unit this season even with losses during the offseason. This includes, WR Xavier Henderson transferring to Cincinnati and TE Keon Zipperer who suffered a season ending injury. Both large contributors last season.
The defense as a whole has changed quite a bit, starting with new Defensive Coordinator Austin Armstrong, who was previously at Southern Miss. Assistant Head Coach and Secondary coach Corey Raymond is in year two with the Gators and now has a full season as well as a couple hand-picked guys that should be a major improvement to the defense.
Florida’s defensive line is headlined by JR Princely Umanmielen, who earned the coveted number 1 jersey and has been named to numerous award watchlists. Transfers such as Cam Jackson from Memphis and Caleb Banks from Louisville and a hungry group of freshmen help bolster this young returning unit that includes Chris McClellan and Desmond Watson. There will be a lot of growth in this unit this season.
A position to keep an eye on would definitely be the linebacker spots, Returning SO Shemar James will be looking to take a big step this season as well as JR Derek Wingo, but it will be interesting to see how Ohio State transfer RS SR Terajada Mitchell, uplifts this group. SO Jack Pyburn, will have higher expectations after SO Justus Boone, another player set to have a breakout year, suffered a season ending injury during the off-season that will unfortunately hurt this unit’s ceiling. However, this will open the door for other young players like Scooby Williams(who will be starting week 1) and transfers Mannie Nunnery from Houston and Deuce Spurlock II from Michigan, to see larger roles.
After rough sledding a season ago, this group has high expectations heading into week 1 of the 2023 season. Returners at CB Jalen Kimber, Jaydon Hill, and Jason Marshall JR. will be expected leaders in this unit and should only improve from last year. Behind them are some young players that should see the field, including FR Jordan Castell who made noise during the summer that will give the week 1 start at safety. Tandem of him is likely a little dose of SO Miguel Mitchell and SO Kamari Wilson who are both going into their second season and should be much improved after seeing the field as freshmen.. However there is also transfer R.J. Moten from Michigan and other freshmen ready to step up such as Sharif Denson.
This will be a huge game starting off the 2023 season. Week 1 against Utah, can this rebranded Gator team get it done?
With one of the toughest schedules in the country, I can see why the Gators are projected to win 5 games but with everything that's transpired this off-season, I believe the floor is more around 7 wins. 7 or 8 wins would keep fans happy and be an improvement from last year. Just like any Power 5 team, this team is fully capable of winning 10+ games, it's just a matter of can they play their best football every weekend?
Blake’s Prediction: 10-2 loss to Georgia, loss to LSU/South Carolina