Florida’s football program reached stratospheric heights during the first decade of the 21st century under head coach Urban Meyer, but since his departure, the team has taken a massive U-turn back into a level of mediocrity not seen since before Steve Spurrier’s tenure. Exacerbating the issue is the coaching carousel that the Orange and Blue experienced in recent years, having burned through three new skippers before bringing on Billy Napier to right the ship.
There is little question that the new administration has a steep hill to climb to get the Gators back to their previous level of success. Even though Dan Mullen’s tenure saw three straight New Year’s Six bowl game appearances, it still came to a tumultuous close as the program imploded upon itself due to neglect, leaving things in shambles for the next coach to clean up.
With that in mind, ESPN senior writer Adam Rittenberg recently published his college football’s top 25 future power rankings and where he placed Florida may rustle a few jimmies among the Gator Nation. Take a look at his entry below.
22. Florida Gators
2022 Future QB ranking: Not ranked
2022 Future offense ranking: Not ranked
2022 Future defense ranking: 21
2021 Future team ranking: 8
Scouting the Gators: Florida is the type of program that could surge in these rankings as soon as 2023. There’s always talent in Gainesville, and coach Billy Napier looks like a smart hire for a program that hasn’t made the CFP and last won the SEC in 2008, the Gators’ most recent national championship. But an unexpected transition — no one pegged Dan Mullen to be fired at this time last year — could lead to a down year or two, especially in the improving SEC East Division. The biggest immediate question is the offense and whether dual-threat quarterback Anthony Richardson will provide a consistent spark. Richardson must show greater accuracy and fewer mistakes in the pass game, but he has sophomore eligibility and room to grow under Napier.
Florida also received some QB insurance in Ohio State transfer Jack Miller. Running back could become a multiyear strength. Montrell Johnson followed Napier from Louisiana to Florida after a 12-touchdown season as a freshman in 2021. Johnson leads a sophomore group that includes Nay’Quan Wrightand Demarkcus Bowman. Florida also added ESPN 300 recruit Trevor Etienne. Junior Justin Shorter leads a young wide receiver group with opportunities to shine. The Gators need sophomores Trent Whittemore and Xzavier Henderson to stay healthy, or someone else to emerge. They return two veteran tight ends in Keon Zipperer and Dante Zanders but need options for 2023 and 2024. Offensive line has some concerns, especially depth at tackle, but returns junior center Kingsley Eguakun and some other interior pieces. Florida has a 2023 commitment from Knijeah Harris, ESPN’s top-rated center in the class.
The defense has fewer immediate questions. Florida returns proven players such as safety Trey Dean III, end Brenton Cox Jr. and tackle Gervon Dexter. Both Cox and Dexter could play multiple seasons and lead a line that needs others to emerge this fall, including sophomore end Princely Umanmielen. Florida could become a back-to-front defense in Napier’s first few seasons, as the secondary returns Dean and sophomores Rashad Torrence II and Tre’Vez Johnson at safety, and talented young cornerbacks such as Jason Marshall Jr., an ESPN top-50 recruit who appeared in every game as a true freshman. Kamari Wilson, ESPN’s top-rated safety and No. 18 overall recruit, headlined Napier’s first class. Seniors Ventrell Miller and Amari Burney lead a linebacker group that will look to build long-term depth this season. Derek Wingo has sophomore eligibility, and Florida added ESPN 300 linebacker Shemar James in the 2022 recruiting class.
Despite just making the top 25 list by a few spots, the future is beginning to look bright again in Gainesville. Napier and Co. have done a great job on the recruiting front so far, and once the new regime has its plans for the future fully implemented, the Swamp should once again be a favorable destination for the best in the business.
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