We reviewed five preseason magazines — Athlon, ESPN, Lindy’s, Phil Steele and The Sporting News — and broke down their team-by-team predictions.
Tuesday, we examine Florida. Here is what’s being said about the Gators:
Phil Steele (2nd in SEC East [tied] — TaxSlayer Bowl): “Florida has the advantage of having only three true SEC road games this year, with UGA being at a neutral site. If they take care of business there, the Gators have beaten Tennessee 11 straight seasons and should they continue that streak, they could be in a second straight SEC title game.”
Athlon (3rd in SEC East — No. 21, 8-4, TaxSlayer Bowl): “To get back to the SEC title game, (coach Jim) McElwain will need to develop a reliable offense despite a litany of unknowns … The encore could be a bigger test of his coaching; these Gators will not sneak up on anyone.”
Sporting News (3rd in SEC East — Liberty Bowl): “If the Gators can continue their hex on the Vols and get productive play at quarterback, their defense should be good enough again to make them competitive with Tennessee and Georgia for the SEC East crown.”
Lindy’s (3rd in SEC East): “Florida should be able to lean on a terrific defense … The offense will need time to jell due to new players at virtually all of the skill positions, but the talent level is improving there thanks to McElwain.”
ESPN (3rd in SEC East — 7.4 projected wins): “The offense still faces major hurdles, but the defense will be elite again, so Florida will contend once more for the SEC East in McElwain’s encore.”
Preseason All-American selections: Jalen Tabor (1st x3, 2nd x1), Jarrad Davis (1st x1, 2nd x1), Marcus May (1st x1, 3rd x1), Johnny Townsend (2nd x1), Antonio Callaway (3rd x1), Martez Ivey (4th x1), Eddie Pineiro (4th x1)
Preseason All-SEC selections: Jalen Tabor (1st, unanimous), Jarrad Davis (1st x2, 2nd x1), Johnny Townsend (1st x2, 2nd x3), Martez Ivey (2nd x2), Caleb Brantley (1st x1, 2nd x1, 4th x1), Marcus Maye (2nd x3), Eddie Pineiro (2nd x1), David Sharpe (3rd x2), Antonio Callaway (2nd x1, 3rd x1), Cece Jefferson (3rd x1), Bryan Cox, Jr. (4th x1)
- Athlon spoke to an anonymous coach who had high praise for McElwain’s first year: “I don’t know if anyone has deserved SEC Coach of the Year more than Jim McElwain last year because they coached their everloving tail off on offense to get as close as they got (to a championship).”
- ESPN spoke to an anonymous coach about Luke Del Rio: “He’s a walk-on QB at best. He’ll be more of that Will Grier type, where he’s going to manage it and they’ll build that offense around his qualities — quick reads, quick decisions, drop back and throw it deep on a go route.”
- Phil Steele listed Florida No. 22 in his “Power Poll,” which was based on talent only. He listed Florida No. 34 in his season predictions.
- ESPN’s Football Power Index lists two games as Florida’s toughest to win: at Tennessee (19 percent chance of victory) and at Florida State (14 percent).
- Sporting News named Luke Del Rio the SEC’s “Top Transfer,” noting he will get the most chances of anyone to “revive Florida’s slumbering offense.”
- Athlon noted the 2015 Gators defense finished No. 4 in the nation in “field position,” meaning Florida consistently forced opponents into tough situations by halting their progress on consecutive drives.
- Athlon named defensive end Cece Jefferson one of its 15 “Breakout Players” across the country.
- Lindy’s named Florida’s defensive backfield the best in the nation. Alongside star cornerback Jalen Tabor, safety Marcus Maye got some love: “Maye is a big-time playmaker (seven career forced fumbles) and could give the Gators a double-shot of All-American DBs.”
- Lindy’s named Antonio Callaway the SEC’s “most dangerous deep threat,” and Jalen Tabor the conference’s “best cover corner.” The magazine also listed Tabor No. 5 in its collection of the SEC’s best NFL prospects.