As we inch closer to the 2014 college football season, Garnet and Cocky will profile each of the South Carolina Gamecocks’ six SEC East rivals. We’ll go in alphabetical order to make it fair, starting with Florida, who host the Gamecocks at The Swamp on November 15.
Last Year: 4-8 (3-5 SEC)
Head Coach: Will Muschamp (3rd season)
Key returnees: QB Jeff Driskel; RBs Mack Brown and Kelvin Taylor; WR Quinton Dunbar; OL D.J. Humphries; C Max Garcia; RT Chaz Green; buck ILB Dante Fowler Jr.; FS Jabari Gorman; LB Michael Taylor; CB Vernon Hargreaves III; P Johnny Townsend
Key departures: TE Trey Burton (declared for NFL Draft); DT Dominique Easley (declared for NFL Draft); RG Jon Halapio (graduated) QB Tyler Murphy (transfer); LB Ronald Powell (declared for NFL Draft); CB/PR Marcus Roberson (declared for NFL Draft); CB Jaylen Watkins (graduated)
The Gators return a strong core of offensive players, including Driskel, who is back from a season-ending broken fibula suffered in week four against Tennessee last season. (Despite winning that game and the next two against Kentucky and Arkansas, the Gators would go on a seven-game losing streak to end the year). Driskel had a breakout campaign in 2012 as he led the team to an 11-2 mark and a spot in the Sugar Bowl. Add Mack Brown and Kelvin Taylor in the backfield, leading defenders Dante Fowler Jr., Vernon Hargreaves III and Michael Taylor, tight end Clay Burton (Trey’s brother), an experienced core of o-linemen returning from injury, and several big ticket recruits like #3 d-back Jalen Tabor and #2 DT Thomas Holley headlining the nation’s 8th ranked recruiting class, and you could certainly make the case for the Gators going to Atlanta.
Why they won’t win the SEC East
Too much turnover in the coaching ranks. Less than a week ago, Joker Phillips was forced to resign as WR coach and recruiting coordinator after a Miami staffer allegedly ratted him out for a possible “bump rule” violation. OC Brent Pease and OL coach Tim Davis were fired following the 2013 season after the Gators’ collapse, with Duke OC Kurt Roper taking the same job in Gainesville and Mike Summers being hired away from Southern Cal to coach the o-line. And while the Gators have enjoyed some success at running back from Brown and Taylor, Matt Jones’ continued injury struggles still hurt, so getting him back would be an extra boost. That’s not to say there’s no hope for Florida; it might just be a matter of a few other teams in the division being better at this point.