Florida enjoyed its first trip to Atlanta for the SEC title game during Jim McElwain's first season. It wasn't the prettiest of seasons, but there were six other SEC Eastern Division teams that would have loved to trade places with the Gators. Now, expectations are a little higher and there is a little more pressure in Gainesville, as McElwain prepares for his encore.
2015 record: 10-4 (7-1), lost 41-7 to Michigan in the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl
Final AP rank: No. 25
2016 Way-too-early rank: No. 24
2016 FPI rank: No. 29
Spring game date: April 8
Who will start at quarterback?
With Grier gone and the embattled Treon Harris (four losses in 2015) working out at wide receiver during the offseason, McElwain and offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier could have a brand new starting quarterback in 2016. True freshman -- and ESPN 300 member -- Feleipe Franks is already on campus, and former Oregon State transfer Luke Del Rio is finally eligible. So is Purdue graduate transfer Austin Appleby, who has three years of playing experience. Early enrollee Kyle Trask is also on campus, however, he’s viewed as more of a project. Early indications are that Del Rio, who was on the practice squad last year, is the favorite to start, but Franks, though raw, possesses the most upside with his cannon of a right arm. The good news is that all four -- and maybe five, depending on what happens with Harris -- will go through spring practice together.
Who will step up alongside Antonio Callaway at receiver?
Callaway enjoyed one of the best seasons ever as freshman receiver at Florida, catching 35 passes for a team-leading 678 yards (SEC-high 19.4 ypc) and four touchdowns. He has a chance to get more passes thrown his way, but he will also need more help in 2016 if this offense is going to improve. With Robinson and McGee (89 combined receptions) gone, the Gators don’t exactly have many other proven receiving options. Brandon Powell moved from running back to receiver, but caught just 29 passes for 390 yards and three touchdowns. Seniors Ahmad Fulwood and Chris Thompson have just 44 catches between them, so the Gators will have to rely on some newcomers and tight ends DeAndre Goolsby and C'yontai Lewis. Hammond, Massey (JUCO) and Swain are already on campus, and Tyrie, who was the No. 4 receiver in the 2016 recruiting class, will definitely be in line for reps this fall.
Can the defense stay elite without some key, familiar faces?
You can’t underestimate the losses of Hargreaves, Bullard, Morrison and Neal. They were key cogs in Florida’s top-10 defense in 2015, and their absences will be sorely missed in Gainesville. But defensive coordinator Geoff Collins has the luxury of working with enough quality guys who saw extensive time last season. Cornerback Jalen Tabor outplayed Hargreaves for most of the season and should get All-America consideration. Quincy Wilson should be fine opposite Tabor. Getting Marcus Maye back at safety was big, and Jarrad Davis returning at linebacker is a huge lift. If Alex Anzalone returns to full strength, the Gators could be even better at linebacker in 2016. Bullard will be hard to replace, but linemen CeCe Jefferson, Joey Ivie, Bryan Cox Jr., and Caleb Brantley combined for 13.5 sacks and 29.5 tackles for loss last season. The additions of Clayton at defensive end and the very versatile Gardner (early enrollee) in the secondary should give the Gators boosts as well.