The 2019 season is set to get underway on August 24 with a massive contest against Miami in Orlando. With the beginning of a new season, and expectations abound for Florida, we decided to utilize a panel of Gators football scribes to predict several keys to the success of the 2019 squad.
We are fortunate enough to be joined by Will Miles of ReadAndReaction.com, David Waters from Gators Breakdown, and Graham Hall of GatorSports.com. ChompTalk.com football beat writer Michael Pfeffer also joins the discussion.
FINAL RECORD PREDICTION:
Michael Pfeffer: 11-1, loss to LSU
Will Miles: 10-2, losses to LSU & Georgia
David Waters: 10-2, losses to LSU and Georgia
Graham Hall: 11-1, loss to Georgia
Brian Fox: 9-3, losses to LSU, Georgia, Missouri
OFFENSIVE MVP and why:
MP: Feleipe Franks – I am continuing to see improvement in his form and the ability to recognize the weak points in the defense. More than this, Franks has displayed some of the intangibles that the game-changing quarterbacks have ever since silencing the home crowd against South Carolina, last season.
WM: Feleipe Franks – I wish I could pick LT Stone Forsythe, because Franks’ ability to succeed is going to rely heavily on how Forsythe plays. But when an offense succeeds, the QB wins the awards and that happens here.
DW: Lamical Perine – He becoming a complete RB. Mullen will use his him as a RB1, workhorse and Perine will make the most increased usage.
GH: While it’s no secret Franks and Perine are vital to the offense, I’m going Kadarius Toney here. After receiving the No. 1 jersey this offseason, Toney should be a dynamic presence in Florida’s offense. If he becomes a true match-up nightmare, the entire offense around him will improve.
BF: Feleipe Franks – it’s now or never for the Gators QB. With one of the deepest receiving corps in program history, Franks has the opportunity to improve his draft stock and leave UF on an incredibly high note.
DEFENSIVE MVP and why:
MP: I’m taking CJ Henderson for this honor, although, I could see Marco Wilson taking it just as easily. Both of these guys are lock down corners and will make all kinds of trouble for any quarterback that has the displeasure of facing them, but I like Henderson to win by a slight edge.
WM: Amari Burney – If this defense takes a next step, Burney is going to be the reason why. Grantham has been raving about him and his ability to cover and run sideline to sideline opens up flexibility that gives Florida a personnel advantage at linebacker they haven’t had in a long time.
DW: Jabari Zuniga- Zuniga took a step forward last season and will really benefit with the addition of Jonathan Greenard. UF has many options at DE and Buck and opposing offenses will have to gameplan for all of them. Zuniga will be in backfield constantly in 2019.
GH: Just like Kadarius Toney, I’m going with the new No. 1 on defense — C.J. Henderson. After leading Florida’s secondary in 2018 following the loss of Marco Wilson, Henderson emerged as not only one of UF’s leaders on defense, but one of the nation’s best cornerbacks, too. Look for offenses to continue avoiding him in 2019.
BF: The Defensive Line – Florida will enter 2019 with a lack of experienced depth in the defensive backfield, forcing the d-line to play a major role. Jonathan Greenard and Jabari Zuniga will help each other and could combine for 15+ sacks. For Florida to be successful, the whole defensive line will have to play up to their potential.
MP: Lamical Perine, 1,197 yards
WM: Lamical Perine, 850
DW: Lamical Perine, 1,200
GH: Lamical Perine, 930
BF: Lamical Perine, 1,050 yards
MP: Trevon Grimes, 805 yards
WM: Trevon Grimes, 750
DW: Trevon Grimes, 700
GH: Kadarius Toney, 800
BF: Van Jefferson, 730 yards
MP: David Reese, 103
WM: David Reese, 102
DW: David Reese, 107
GH: David Reese, 96
BF: David Reese, 91
MP: Jonathan Greenard, 9
WM: Jabari Zuniga, 9
DW: Jabari Zuniga, 11
GH: Zach Carter, 7.5
BF: Jonathan Greenard, 8
MP: CJ Henderson, 4
WM: Donovan Stiner, 3
DW: Trey Dean, 4
GH: C.J. Henderson, 4
BF: Marco Wilson, 5
WHAT BOWL WILL THE GATORS PLAY IN?
MP: Sugar Bowl – There are so many reasons to be optimistic about the coming season, but the outcome of this season rides a line of fragility that is cause for concern. My prediction is what I perceive as the ceiling for the Gators’ 2019 season. I believe that the talent is in place for Florida to challenge anyone in the country but in order to do so, they must remain healthy. I believe Florida gets the better of Georgia this season after losing a close battle at Death Valley. They will just miss out on the CFP after losing to Alabama in Atlanta.
WM: Sugar Bowl – In 2018, the Gators defense struggled with experienced QBs who could make them pay for being out of position. There aren’t many of those on the schedule this year, but they come in rapid succession on the road against LSU and South Carolina and then in Jacksonville against Georgia in games 7-9. Florida will be a better team in 2019 in year two under Dan Mullen, but I think they lose to LSU and Georgia, finish second in the SEC East, and get another New Year’s 6 bowl bid.
DW: Sugar Bowl — Florida does one thing in 2019 that they didn’t do in 2018. They will beat the teams they’re supposed to beat. The win over Miami will fuel an early season streak into a brutal mid-season stretch. I’m not sold on LSU being a better team but it’ll be tough walking out of Baton Rouge with a win. UGA is just better all around right now and that’s one I have to see happen before I can pick UF.
GH: Citrus Bowl — I think Florida loses to Georgia and just barely misses out on the College Football Playoff. With Alabama and the “Dawgs making the CFP, the Gators finish third in the conference and accept a Citrus Bowl invite. That’s the best case scenario. If the offensive line doesn’t live up to its full potential, or the secondary falls victim to the injury bug once again, then the Gators will have trouble with the likes of Auburn and, even more so, LSU.
BF: Citrus Bowl – The Gators lose their shot at the Sugar Bowl with the loss to Missouri, which is a sneaky pick to finish as runner up in the East. Despite Florida having a better coach, the talent in Athens is superior to the talent in Gainesville right now. While I’m not a fan of Joe Burrow, they call LSU Death Valley for a reason. Florida won’t sneak up on anyone this year after winning ten games a season ago. I think the schedule is very difficult and a 9-3 regular season shouldn’t be deemed a failure by any measure.
How did we do, Gator Nation? Do you agree or disagree with our selections? Leave a comment or join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter.
*My sincere appreciation goes to Will, David, and Graham for joining Michael and I in this roundtable discussion.