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2022 Florida Gators Football Preview

July 30, 2022
2022 Florida Gator preview

The Dan Mullen era in Gainesville came to an abrupt end in 2021 when Florida fired their head coach after a November loss to Missouri. Mullen had led the Gators to a 5-6 record before being fired. Coming into the season, the Gators had earned back-to-back top-25 finishes. Gator fans are now hoping that Billy Napier can find sustained success after becoming the fourth Florida head coach in the last eight years. Napier inherits a team with plenty of talent but many question marks at key positions. Many are considering the 2022 season to be a rebuilding year for the Gators, but expectations are always high in the swamp. Here are some of the top storylines for the Florida Football program entering the 2022 season.

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How good is Anthony Richardson?

Quarterback Anthony Richardson has been getting rave reviews in Spring practices. His performance and athleticism have caused analysts to project him as one of the top-5 QB prospects in next year’s draft and even has the potential to be one of the top NFL picks. Richardson is also a dark horse contender to win the Heisman trophy (+2000). These are high expectations for a player that’s started just one game and has thrown only seven career touchdowns. Still, Richardson’s talent is undeniable. He has a big frame (6’4) with a rocket arm and is a constant dual-threat with the ball in his hands. But as high as his ceiling is, his floor is lower than other top prospects at the position. Richardson has struggled with decision-making at times and has a penchant for turning the ball over. Richardson will have to continue to develop his fundamentals to reach his potential, but if he even comes close, the Gator’s signal-caller could be in for a special year. Regardless of whether he is a top-5 QB in 2022, he should be a clear upgrade over last year’s starter Emory Jones.

 

Who will emerge as the top playmakers on offense?

A host of new faces will be taking over the skill positions for the Gators. Leading receiver Jacob Copeland has transferred to Maryland, leaving Justin Shorter (41 rec., 550 yds., 3 TDs) as the top returning wideout. The addition of Ricky Pearsall from Arizona State will help things, but lesser-known players will have to emerge for the Gator’s passing attack to be formidable. Florida also has a substantial amount of production to replace in the running game as the top three rushers from last season are all gone. Still, the Gators have a stable running backs competing for carries next season. Lorenzo Lingard, Demarkcus Bowman, and Nay’Quan Wright were all 5- or 4-star recruits coming out of high school. The team also added transfer Montrell Johnson, who ran for 12 touchdowns as a Freshman at Louisiana last season and should be able to provide an immediate impact. However, it remains to be seen how he’ll adjust to the increased speech and physicality of the SEC. Billy Napier is known for producing high-powered offenses, but he’ll be relying on an inexperienced unit next season.

 

How much will the defense improve-

Napier inherits a defense that ranked near the bottom of the SEC in 2021. The Gator’s defense performed poorly under Mullen, giving up over 30 points per game in 2020 and nearly 27 in 2021. Napier routinely fielded solid defenses at Louisiana and brought his top assistants to Gainesville to revitalize the unit at Florida. Louisiana only gave up 18.3 points per game, good for 9th best in the nation. However, Napier and his defensive lieutenants will have their work cut out for them. The Gators’ defense lost two of its best players when top tacklers Mohamoud Diabate and Ty’Ron Hopper transferred over the offseason. Now, Florida will rely on Senior Ventrell Miller, who decided to return for his final year of eligibility, to lead the defense. Miller was one of the Gator’s best defenders in recent years but was sidelined after he tore his bicep during the season’s second game. Producing more pressure on opposing quarterbacks will be another defensive priority for the Gators next year. They’ll rely on Brenton Cox Jr. to lead their defensive line, after being responsible for 8.5 sacks last season. Jason Marshall Jr. will be the Gators top player in the secondary, and could mount an all-SEC campaign in 2022. Marshall Jr. was a five-recruit coming out of high school and played in every game as a true freshman last year. The coaching staff is expecting him to take a big step forward in his sophomore year and fill the void left by first-round pick Kaiir Elam in the secondary. Marshall developing into an every play shutdown corner would go a long way toward improving the defense in 2022.

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