Florida Gators at the 2017 SEC Media Days: Schedule, watch live, five hot topics

By Adam Silverstein
July 11, 2017
Florida Gators at the 2017 SEC Media Days: Schedule, watch live, five hot topics
Football

Image Credit: ESPNI

For the first time in a number of years, the Florida Gators will be featured on the second day of the 2017 SEC Media Days where they will share the Hoover, Alabama, stage primarily with Georgia but alongside Mississippi State and Vanderbilt as well.

Florida is expected to begin its day around 1 p.m. ET with head coach Jim McElwain, defensive backs Marcell Harris (redshirt senior) and Duke Dawson (senior), and offensive tackle Martez Ivey appearing at The Wynfrey Hotel to answer questions during what former Gators head coach Steve Spurrier once deemed to be “talking season.”

You can watch it all go down live on the SEC Network, which will air McElwain’s primary press conference live at 3:30 p.m. ET. McElwain will also have a spot on TV at 3:15 p.m. ET, either on the SEC Now set or in an interview Paul Finebaum for his televised radio show.

Now that you’re prepared to tune in and watch Florida go through the motions on Tuesday in Hoover, here are five hot topics that the Gators will likely have to discuss throughout the day.

1. Who will start at quarterback? Though it was clear that redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks led the battle out of spring practice, the addition of graduate transfer Malik Zaire will serve as either a speed bump or wrench on Franks’ track towards taking the first snap in Week 1. McElwain will likely note that the quarterback competition is “open” and claim that Franks is in a better position to start at this time considering that Zaire just joined the program and has not even practiced with the team.

2. Is the Gators’ defense going to be a problem? For years now, questioning whether Florida’s defense would be on par with the nation’s best units was a foolish ask. That’s not the case in 2017. The Gators losing handfuls of top-tier defenders to the NFL and graduation, combined with a perceived lack of quality recruiting on that side of the ball by the coaching staff, puts Florida in a situation where it has a number of young, inexperienced and — to this point — lower-rated players to go along with some veterans returning to the unit. Combine that with a new defensive coordinator in Randy Shannon, who moves into the job after serving as a co-coordinator for two years under McElwain, and the questions are legitimate entering 2017.

3. Florida’s growing rivalry with LSU: The Gators and Tigers have long been rivals, but the antics out of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, as LSU tried to take advantage of a natural disaster to add a home game kicked things up another notch in 2016. Florida and the SEC made pointed statements at the Bayou Bengals last year, and the Gators trolled the Tigers quite often after the football season. Couple all of that with Florida scheduling LSU for its homecoming game in 2017 and the rivalry will surely be a topic discussed often throughout the day’s activities.

4. What’s the status of two important receivers? Even when junior wideout Antonio Callaway finally gets the chance to participate in a spring practice, his status for the season opener remains in question. Callaway was cited for possession of marijuana back in May, and McElwain has since remained silent about punishment for the star playmaker. Asked about Callaway’s status more recently, athletic director Scott Stricklin had to ask which issue the interviewer was referring to. The Gators have yet to announce whether four-star WR James Robinson, a signee who barely snuck into the Class of 2017, will be part of the program this fall. Though Robinson is listed on the roster, his enrollment at UF has remained an open-ended question that’s gone unanswered.

5. Underdogs again? One would think McElwain taking Florida to consecutive SEC Championship Games with lacking offensive talent and quarterback play would teach critics to stop discounting the Gators. That’s unlikely. Do not be surprised if Florida is ultimately voted to finish second in the SEC East (behind Georgia) despite proving to be kings of the division over the last two seasons. Yes, the Gators have faltered massively against rival Florida State in their regular-season finales and Alabama in their SEC Championship Game meetings, but in terms of league play, UF has proven it is able to get it done.

One group who believes in Florida are the SEC Network analysts. Greg McElroy, a former signal caller under McElwain at Bama, was particularly upbeat about UF’s chances. “I like their offensive personnel. I don’t care who their quarterback is,” McElroy said of the Gators. “[The offense] isn’t going to be worse than it was last year, and it’s certainly not going to be worse than when Treon Harris was the guy.”

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