Ryan Young / SEC Country
Athlon Sports ranked the Jim McElwain-led Gators No. 16 in its preseason top-25

Florida football ranked No. 16 in Athlon Sports preseason poll

Welcome to another installment of Good Morning, Gators, SEC Country’s daily morning column covering Florida athletics with Florida beat writer Jordan McPherson. Today, we look at football preseason rankings, the women’s tennis team’s national title run and more.

Athlon sports rankings

Preseason college football rankings are starting to get into full swing, with the latest coming out of the publication Athlon Sports. The magazine has the Gators at No. 16 in their top-25, which was released Monday. Here’s are a few snippets regarding what Athlon had to say about Florida:

“The Gators have claimed back-to-back SEC East titles under coach Jim McElwain, and a third one is within reach. In order to edge Georgia for the division crown, improvement on offense is a must. Florida finished 100th nationally in scoring in 2015 and 107th in 2016.

“(Quarterback Feleipe Franks) won’t have much time to grow into the job, as Florida takes on Michigan in its season opener, followed by a matchup against Tennessee in Week 3. Until the passing game develops, the Gators could lean heavily on running back Jordan Scarlett. Antonio Callaway anchors the SEC’s top receiving corps and should ease Franks’ transition into the No. 1 role.

“McElwain has holes to fill on defense at each level and a new coordinator (Randy Shannon) calling the plays in 2017. Linebacker Jarrad Davis, safety Marcus Maye, lineman Caleb Brantley and cornerbacks Jalen Tabor and Quincy Wilson headline the key departures on defense. Despite losing a wealth of talent, this unit may not slip too far on the stat sheet. Cornerback Duke Dawson is an All-America candidate, and there’s plenty of promise in the front seven.”

Florida will face 5 teams during the regular season that are in Athlon’s top 25: No. 3 Florida State, No. 10 Michigan, No. 11 LSU, No. 15 Georgia and No. 19 Tennessee.

Athlon also ranked Florida’s 2017 schedule as the sixth-toughest nationally and ranked Florida coach Jim McElwain as the third-best coach in the SEC.

Women’s tennis playing for the national title

The top-seeded Florida women’s tennis team will play for its seventh NCAA championship in program history after defeating No. 4 seed Vanderbilt 4-2 in the semifinals late Monday.

The Gators (28-3) will face No. 7 seed at 5 p.m. for the crown. It’s a rematch of the 2011 women’s tennis national championship game, a match Florida won 4-3.

After quickly securing the doubles point against Vanderbilt on Monday, Florida fell into trouble early in singles action, dropping points on the Nos. 2 and 3 courts. The Gators rallied, though, with sophomore Anna Danilina and senior Belinda Woolcock earning 3-set wins before junior Brooke Austin clinched the match with a 6-2, 6-3 win on Court 5.

Florida’s biggest strength in the national championship match will easily be its depth. All three Gators doubles pairings are ranked in the top-45 nationally while 5 of their 6 singles players rank in the top-60. Austin, Florida’s lone player in its normal singles lineup who is unranked, is a 2-time SEC Player of the Year and played on the No. 1 court her first two seasons before suffering an injury this past fall.

The win is also Florida coach Roland Thornqvist’s 400th since taking over the program in 2002.

If Florida wins, it would be the Gators’ first team national championship of this athletic season and would mark the eighth straight year a team national title came back to Gainesville.

Women’s Golf is top 8

The Florida women’s golf team responded for a horrendous 32-over-par opening round of the NCAA Tournament with back-to-back solid scores on Sunday and Monday to finish stroke play in a tie for fifth place. By finishing in the top-8, the Gators will advance to the match play portion of the championship with a chance to win the program’s third national title and first since 1986.

Senior Maria Torres led the way in the final round of stroke play, shooting an even-par 72 with 3 birdies on the back-nine. Overall, the Gators closed out the final round with a 4-over 292 team score — the second-best score in the field on the final day — to jump up 7 spots on the leaderboard into a tie for fifth.

Florida’s first round of match play will be against Arizona State.

Sam Horsfield going pro

In an unsurprising move, Florida men’s golf team member Sam Horsfield formally announced Monday that he will be forgoing his final 2 years of collegiate eligibility to turn pro.

Coach JC Deacon announced that Horsfield would be turning pro back in the fall.

In two seasons with Florida, Horsfield won 4 tournaments and had 12 top-5 finishes. He was a first-team All-American as a freshman as well as the SEC Freshman of the Year.

What they’re saying on Twitter

Sherri Green, mother of incoming Florida freshman WR Daquon Green

Incoming Florida freshman CB Marco Wilson

Florida DB Chauncey Gardner

NFL.com college football writer Chase Goodbread

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