Florida football at 2018 SEC Media Days: Five hot topics to follow for talking season

By Adam Silverstein
July 17, 2018
Florida football at 2018 SEC Media Days: Five hot topics to follow for talking season

Image Credit: ESPN Images

With Florida Gators football making Tuesday appearance at the 2018 SEC Media Days, there are so many questions surrounding the program that there should be plenty to talk about during the team’s afternoon session.

Head coach Dan Mullen will bring senior offensive tackle Martez Ivey, senior defensive end Cece Jefferson and junior linebacker David Reese along for the ride, which begins at 1:30 p.m. ET inside the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta. Mullen will take the main stage at some point after 2:50 p.m. It will be one of two stops made by the group of Gators on Tuesday as Florida will also reveal its new Jordan Brand jerseys at the World Congress Center later in the day at 7 p.m.

For now, let’s focus on the SEC Media Days themselves and tackle a few topics that will surely be on the tip of everyone’s tongues while the Florida contingent is on stage and doing interviews throughout the venue.

1. Is Mullen just a guy, or is he the guy? There’s no need to sugar coat it: Gators football has been floundering since the departure of Urban Meyer following the 2010 season. Sure, Florida’s had its share of successes, but none of its teams have come close to looking like the caliber of Meyer’s programs. Lately, coaching and culture problems have been accentuated by lacking talent from substandard recruiting classes. Mullen needs to come in and fix all that … and do so while finding a starting quarterback. That’s a tall task, but Mullen is no rookie. In addition to his time at UF, Mullen is an experienced SEC head coach, one who usually wins at SEC Media Days, in large part due to his disposition to wearing trendy sneakers. So while we patiently wait to see whether Mullen can turn the Gators around, on Tuesday, it’ll also be somewhat intriguing to see which pair of Jordans he wears inside the HOF.

2. Has Feleipe Franks lost his smile? Mullen’s top task will be determining Florida’s starting signal caller for the 2018 season, and you can be sure he will be asked about it over and again on Tuesday. While some fans are praying that freshman Emory Jones will surprise in the summer and steal the job with others thinking redshirt sophomore Kyle Trask is the guy, Franks remains the incumbent. And while Franks was far from spectacular in his first season of action, he enters his redshirt sophomore campaign with three years of eligibility remaining and a significantly improved coaching staff behind him. The job is his to lose, and while Mullen may not come out and say so, it will be interesting to see what he does reveal about the status at that position.

3. Fixing the defense: Without getting into the raw numbers, suffice to say the Gators’ defense a season ago was historically bad. A combination of talent and coaching led to this failure, and it was a particularly embarrassing one for a Florida team that has been uneven on offense but always able to count on one of the top defenses in the nation to save it when in dire straits. Jefferson will be the face of that unit in attendance as a potential preseason All-American, but Mullen also has to answer how the Gators are going to turn it around so quickly with an entirely new system and a similar group of players missing some of its top playmakers from last season. Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham has some work to do.

4. What’s up with the wide receivers? For some reason, Florida appears to still be unaware whether either of its transfer wideouts — redshirt junior Van Jefferson of sophomore Trevon Grimes will be eligible to play this season. Consider that it was acceptable for this to be a question in March … and even May … as UF hoped a new SEC rule would get passed to make Jefferson eligible. But we’re now in mid-July, and fall camp starts in August. Jefferson should be made eligible considering the rest of Ole Miss’ transfers got cleared and the SEC passed a rule change that removed his perceived final hurdle. Grimes appealed to the NCAA to be eligible immediately for a familial exception. Simply put, the Gators’ receiving corps will be greatly strengthened if both players are able to suit up; if not, that becomes a major question mark for Mullen and his offensive coordinators in 2018.

5. The offseason program: Mullen did not reveal much during his spring speaking tour, and there’s little news this time of year coming out of programs regarding what the players have been doing in their off time and how the strength and conditioning program has been moving forward ahead of summer practice. By all accounts, director of strength and conditioning Nick Savage has made an instant impact with Florida’s players, but it will be nice to hear what Ivey, Jefferson and Reese have to say about the way the team is adjusting to his program and its new coaching staff. Consider that the Gators’ staff has never truly been set with this being its third head coaching change in eight seasons and there being plenty of assistants shifting around throughout the last two regimes.

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