SEC morning links

March, 23, 2015
Mar 23

This much we know after Vanderbilt’s spring football game on Saturday: Patton Robinette leads Johnny McCrary and others in the race to become the Commodores’ starting quarterback. But Vandy still has miles to go at the position if it is to become more competitive this fall. Vandy’s quarterbacks combined for five interceptions and were sacked seven times in the scrimmage, which the defense won 38-24 through a modified scoring system. That’s not a particularly good sign for the Commodores after a season where their quarterback carousel seemed to spin on a weekly basis. New offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig’s bunch clearly has a long way to go, and it has to start with getting more consistent play at quarterback. Robinette and McCrary are apparently the top two contenders, but this competition might continue for a while.

It seems everyone, including the President, has an opinion these days on whether college athletes should be compensated. President Obama weighed in on the subject in an interview with the Huffington Post, saying that compensating athletes would lead to bidding wars and “ruin the sense of college sports.” However, Obama suggested that universities have a responsibility to take better care of their athletes than they currently do in many cases. He agrees with the concept of guaranteed athletic scholarships as long as the athlete remains in good academic standing and also raised the issue of fairness when athletes’ eligibility can be called into question for receiving something like a free tattoo while their coaches and administrators often make millions of dollars per year. This debate won’t end anytime soon, although we could gain a measure of clarity later this year when a federal labor board rules on the attempt to unionize made by a group of Northwestern football players.

Around the SEC

Tweet of the day


BUFORD, Ga. - Despite the cold and rainy weather conditions, more than 400 prospects from all over the Southeast made the trip to Buford High School for the Nike The Opening Regional Camp on Sunday.

[+] EnlargeMalik Henry
Miller Safrit/ESPNFlorida State quarterback pledge Malik Henry was among the prospects earning invitations to The Opening.
With less than ideal conditions for throwing the ball, several quarterbacks and wide receivers -- including Malik Henry, David Moore, Josh Imatorbhebehe, Freddie Swain, Tre Nixon and several other players -- had standout performances at the camp.

Swain, the No. 214 prospect in the ESPN Junior 300, was one of the most impressive receivers and took home the wide receiver MVP as well as an invitation to The Opening. The 6-foot, 170-pound athlete from Citra (Florida) North Marion High School took advantage of his trip to Atlanta by visiting the University of Georgia on Saturday before attending the Nike camp. The visit turned out to be a success for the talented receiver.

“I just got offered by Georgia yesterday on my visit,” Swain said. "It was a lot of fun and I got to meet with coach Richt. He just said to keep working hard and he’ll see me in the spring.”

There were 14 coordinating changes in the SEC this offseason. Only Alabama and Ole Miss didn't see any changes at their coordinator positions.

For the rest of the conference, new faces have shown up at these important positions. And with new faces in new places, you have plenty of questions for spring ball and beyond.

We aren't going to look at every new coordinator and smother you with questions for each of them, but we did come up with five big questions for the new guys as they dive deeper into spring practice.

Here are five burning questions for new SEC coordinators in 2015:

Can Doug Nussmeier build an offense at Florida?

I understand that this sounds like a broken record, but if Florida is going to do anything of interest during Jim McElwain's first year, the Gators have to find an offensive identity. Florida, which was known for offense for so long, has had a five-year drought on that side of the ball. You won't win a lot of games when the best you can do during that span is average 367.6 total yards of offense (2014), and the Gators haven't since Tim Tebow left after the 2009 season. So Nussmeier and McElwain have to get this offensive ship righted in 2015. But they will be behind the eight ball with a youngster-driven quarterback battle, a very thin and relatively inexperienced offensive line, and a receiving corps lacking multiple proven playmakers.

Can Kevin Steele find a pass-rush at LSU?

The Tigers seem to grow pass-rushers on trees down in Baton Rouge, but LSU ranked 103rd nationally in sacks last season (19) and hasn't had a player register double-digit quarterback hurries since Barkevious Mingo had 12 in 2012. No player has recorded more than four sacks since Sam Montgomery's eight in 2012. So Steele, the new defensive coordinator, who was kind of a perplexing hire to begin with, will have to team up with defensive line coach Ed Orgeron to find a consistent pass-rusher to help sustain LSU's place near the top of the defensive statistics in the SEC. We know the Tigers return one of league's best secondaries and a wildly athletic group of linebackers, but the play up front will be very important for Steele to keep this defense going. Replacing Jermauria Rasco and Danielle Hunter off the edges is Step 1, but developing guys like Tashawn Bower, Deondre Clark, Lewis Neal, and Sione Teuhema is the key.

Will John Chavis and Will Muschamp revive their new respective defenses?

We all know the capability of both teams' offenses, but the defenses have been horrendous of late. Last season, Auburn and Texas A&M both finished the season ranking in the bottom half of the SEC in all the major defensive categories, and the Aggies again owned the worst total defense in the SEC, allowing 450.8 yards per game. With the offensive talent returning, Auburn has a chance to compete for more than just the SEC West this fall, but if that defense doesn't improve, don't count on it. The Aggies could also be a threat in the West because of their offense, but, like Auburn, another bad year of defense will make that null and void. Both coaches are considered defensive geniuses and were major upgrades at their new jobs. Muschamp might not have been a great head coach at Florida, but his defenses ranked no worse than 15th nationally during his four years. Chavis was the only defensive coordinator to consistently shut down A&M's offenses, so it only made sense that he was brought on board.

Who is Mike DeBord, and can he make Tennessee's offense potent?

Though DeBord has 30 years of coaching experience, he spent the past two years in administration at Michigan. So it's been a couple of years since he's been hands-on with coaching. Now, DeBord has the task of making Tennessee's offense potent in 2015. What's working in his favor is having starting quarterback Josh Dobbs, star running back Jalen Hurd, and top receivers Pig Howard, Von Pearson, Josh Malone, and Marquez North back. That's great, but these guys were around last season and the Vols ranked in the bottom half of the SEC in all major offensive categories. If Tennessee is going to make a run in the SEC, the offense has to be more consistent. The hope is that age will play a part, but DeBord also has to take hold of the development part. We just really don't know a ton about him.

Will the whole co-coordinator thing work at South Carolina?

Steve Spurrier said there would be coaching changes, so he added long-time NFL assistant Jon Hoke to co-run the defense with embattled coordinator Lorenzo Ward. After ranking fifth in the SEC in total defense in 2013, the Gamecocks dropped to 13th in 2014, allowing 432.7 yards per game and a league-high 6.2 yards per play. The tackling was deplorable for most of the season, and closing out halves and games was a struggle, as the Gamecocks gave up 231 points in the second and fourth quarters. Hoke has an impressive track record -- and SEC experience -- but what's going to change as far as how the defense is run? The first step is to strengthen the front seven, especially the defensive line. South Carolina was last in the SEC and tied for 119th nationally with 14 sacks last season. That begins with improvement from end Gerald Dixon, who led the Gamecocks with two sacks last season. How these coaches mesh with each other and their players will be interesting to watch.

The state of Florida is generally loaded with playmakers at wide receiver. In fact, over the last five years, the state has produced at least eight ESPN 300 prospects in every class.

This year’s group of wide receivers just might top them all. An astounding 15 wideouts from the Sunshine State are listed in the ESPN Junior 300. It’s the deepest wide receiver class to come out of Florida in recent memory.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Offseason spotlight: Florida

March, 17, 2015
Mar 17

We all know Florida has to find the right signal-caller this season, but there's more to any offense than just the quarterback. And if the Gators are going to make any sort of push in Jim McElwain's first season in Gainesville, they will need some balance ... and they'll need a consistent running back to help push the passing game. Check out the offseason spotlight series from the SEC.

Spotlight: Running back Kelvin Taylor, 5-foot-10, 209 pounds, junior

[+] EnlargeMatt Jones, Kelvin Taylor, Florida Gators
Stephen B. Morton/Associated PressFlorida running backs Matt Jones (left) and Kelvin Taylor were all smiles after the Gators pummeled Georgia with 418 rushing yards.

2014 summary: Taylor played in all 12 games for the Gators last season as a backup to starter Matt Jones. Taylor did start two games and finished the season with 565 rushing yards and six touchdowns on 116 carries (4.9 yards per carry). Taylor had the most productive game of his career in 2014 when he ran for a career-high 197 yards and had two touchdowns on a career-high 25 carries in the Gators' 38-20 upset win against Georgia. It was his first -- and only -- 100-yard rushing performance in two seasons. It also marked the only time Taylor rushed for more than 68 yards in a game in 2014.

The skinny: Taylor might have All-American and NFL blood in him from his father, but he has a long way to go to get on his level. Over the past two years, Taylor has shown flashes of brilliance on the field with his strength and shiftiness, but he just hasn't been able to put everything together on a consistent basis. Taylor arrived in Gainesville as one of the nation's most decorated backs, but that hasn't translated to the field. His inconsistency with blocking has kept him from being an every-down back for the Gators. It was telling that even with Jones sitting out Florida's bowl game, Taylor carried the ball just four times. He registered zero yards and watched rarely-used Adam Lane run for 109 yards. Now, Taylor enters the spring with a chance to be the lead back for the Gators, but he'll have to fight a hungry Lane off. Taylor has flashed great moves and vision from time to time, but running backs have to do much more than just run the ball. That's where Taylor has to make the biggest improvements if he's going to stay on the field longer. And with so many questions about the passing game, the Gators' offense needs a very consistent running back. Taylor can look at the success that Dee Hart had in Colorado State's offense while McElwain was there. Hart rant for 1,200 yards last season and 16 touchdowns. Taylor will get every opportunity to reshape his game this season.

Past spotlights:

No. 1 Greg Little has visit plans 

March, 17, 2015
Mar 17
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The top ranked player in the ESPN Junior 300, Greg Little, has been committed to Texas A&M since June 20 of 2014, but that hasn’t kept many of the nations top programs from attempting to knock down the door in hopes of swaying the 6-foot-6, 308-pound Texan.

The nation's No. 1-ranked offensive tackle made a first visit to someone other than the Aggies since committing in February, making the short trip north to take a look at the Oklahoma Sooners. As it turns out, that will be just one of many hurdles the Aggies have to clear to sign the 2016 Under Armour All-America Game selection.

"Alabama, LSU, Georgia, Ohio State, UCLA and USC are coming at me hard,” Said Little. "And Auburn and Florida, too. The first week of June, I’m going to take visits to the Southeast. I’ll go to Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, Florida and some other schools like that. Then in the middle of the summer I’m going to go to the West Coast to see USC, UCLA and Stanford. I want to try and get up to Ohio State, too."

Little, who lists the Aggies and Bruins as the schools he talks to the most, says building a relationship with new offensive line coach Dave Christensen is going to be key for keeping his commitment to Texas A&M.

"[A&M] is telling me to just be patient. They have a new O-line coach, so we have to build a good connection. I just have to get to know him, because I think we have only talked a couple of times. I need to get to know him a little more."

For Texas A&M fans hoping or expecting Little to make a final declaration by the end of the summer, that is unlikely to happen.

"I will probably have a true final decision after my senior season. Probably at the beginning of January."

Following the Nike Opening Dallas Regional on Sunday, Little was one of 13 players invited to the The Opening to be held July 5-10 at Nike World Headquarters.

Quick take: There are a couple of key factors to look at with the recruitment of Little. First is his relationship with teammate and class of 2015 Texas A&M signee Kyler Murray. Murray is a pied piper of sorts on the recruiting trail, and this is certainly true when speaking about Little. As long as Murray shows up on campus and suits up for the Aggies, and does not choose to go the MLB route if selected in the first round of the June draft, Texas A&M stands a good chance to sign Little. Should Murray end up going to MLB, and Little does not feel comfortable with his relationships with the Aggies' offensive staff, then all bets are off.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

SEC morning links

March, 17, 2015
Mar 17

Let me start out by wishing everybody a happy St. Patrick's Day. I hope you all remembered to wear green today. Now let's get to the links.

1. Florida held its first practice of the spring Monday, and with it came the official start to the Jim McElwain era. There was a newfound energy among the players, but that didn’t change the fact that there were still more questions than answers after practice was over. It’s always that way this time of year, and a new coach only adds more intrigue. Who is going to be the starting quarterback? How will the offense look under McElwain? How does the defense replace a star like Dante Fowler Jr.? You get the picture. But it was clear that finding a quarterback is at the top of McElwain’s to-do list. Redshirt freshman Will Grier took the first snap in Monday’s practice, but don’t read much into that. McElwain didn’t even notice who took it, or at least that is what he says. Either way, it should be a fun battle to watch in the coming weeks.

2. The Gators weren’t the only SEC team to kick off spring practice on Monday. Across the conference, Bret Bielema and his upstart Arkansas team got back on the field for the first time since knocking off Texas in the AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl. The Razorbacks are going through their own changes this spring with the addition of offensive coordinator Dan Enos, and learning the terminology was priority No. 1 the first day. Meanwhile, the defense is in search of playmakers after losing so much production from a season ago, and it didn’t take long to figure out that redshirt freshman defensive back Santos Ramirez can be one of those impact players. He’s drawn rave reviews from the coaches since he first stepped on campus.

Around the SEC

Tweet of the day

Gators embark under Jim McElwain

March, 16, 2015
Mar 16

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Before Florida coach Jim McElwain started answering questions about his first official practice, he wanted to talk March Madness.

"My alma mater did make it," he said. "Eastern Washington University, a 13 seed."

Great, coach. But at Florida -- at least this year -- the NCAA tournament is mostly an afterthought. The Gators missed the tourney for the first time since 2009.

So all eyes are on the football team, which opened a new era Monday with the start of McElwain's first spring practice.

"Finally," McElwain said. "It seems like it's taken forever to get out on the field and do what the heck we're here to do and that's coach some ball."

The Gators held the first of 15 practices, this one a two-hour session without full pads.

It was the first chance players got to work in a revamped offense, something Florida fans are counting on to change recent results. The Gators are 11-13 the past two seasons, which got Will Muschamp fired near the end of his fourth season.

Florida hired McElwain to turn things around.

"Lot of energy the first day," offensive tackle Rod Johnson said. "I could tell the energy difference and how excited everyone was to come out with a whole new defense, whole new offense. Pretty much the energy level was where it needed to be.

"Everybody is investing in the day. We couldn't wait to get back here on the field. We've been out of football for a while. I can see why the energy was so high. We just have to do it every day."

McElwain has offered few hints into what he plans to do on offense, where the Gators have mostly struggled since former Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow's departure following the 2009 season.

(Read full post)

Florida opens practice Monday, which means the Jim McElwain era will be in full swing on the field.

More importantly, it'll be time for Florida's quarterbacks to finally get some real, live snaps in front of the coaches, as the Gators head into another offseason looking to find some stability at the most important position on the field.

The candidates: Sophomore Treon Harris and redshirt freshman Will Grier.

[+] EnlargeWill Grier
AP Photo/Phil SandlinWill Grier returns to challenge for the Florida QB job after redshirting last season.

Both operate under center in different ways, but both are athletic enough to use their legs when they have to. Even with McElwain and offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier implementing more of a pro-style approach on offense, the ability to create plays with their legs will be very beneficial for both quarterbacks, as they ease their way into a new system with new coaches.

With so much consistently inconsistent play from Florida quarterbacks since Tim Tebow left following the 2009 season, Florida is desperate for some reliable quarterback play. It's imperative that vast improvement take place at quarterback if Florida is going to make any sort of push in McElwain's first year. And, really, McElwain isn't looking for a Heisman Trophy in Year 1. He just needs someone to take care of the football and make the right throws.

"I think a guy who learns how to throw it to our colored jersey is probably the most important thing," McElwain said. "Understands the importance of taking care of the football and affecting the people around him in a positive way is really what we're looking for."

For now, there is no clear leader. Harris, who started the final six games of the season for the Gators last year, has the collegiate experience that Grier lost to a redshirt year, but Harris also struggled throwing the ball in key moments last year. He completed 49 percent of his passes, and his lack of a down field presence is a reason the Gators got so conservative in a disastrous home loss to South Carolina that ultimately cost Will Muschamp his job. When the Gators had to throw the ball in an ugly, close loss at Florida State -- a game in which the defense put Florida's offense in a handful of great positions to score touchdowns -- Harris couldn't. He attempted a career-high 17 passes that traveled 10 or more yards down field but completed only six, including two in the second half. He also went 0-of-7 to end the game.

His inconsistency throwing is a major reason why this battle will start from scratch. While we haven't seen Grier take any in-game snaps for the Gators, he did arrive in Gainesville with impressive arm strength and ability.

Grier was named the Parade National Player of the Year and Maxwell Player of the Year after throwing for 4,989 yards with a national-best 77 touchdowns during his senior year of high school, so like the enigmatic Jeff Driskel before him, Grier's name is firmly attached to the hype machine. But Driskel, who was the No. 1 quarterback prospect coming out of high school in 2011, never lived up to his billing and transferred to Louisiana Tech in January.

Grier's high school credentials are nice, but they mean absolutely nothing when it comes to being productive on the field in the SEC. Harris has cut his teeth in SEC play. Harris' first two collegiate passes went for 148 yards and two touchdowns and he rallied the Gators for a 10-9 win at Tennessee. The offense opened up a tad for him once he was named the starter, but more passing responsibly showed the flaws in Harris' game.

While he added a much-needed jolt to Florida's offense and could extend plays with his legs, Harris' arm held him and Florida's offense back. Do I need to mention South Carolina and Florida State again?

McElwain hasn't given a timetable for this quarterback competition, but he'll be very hands-on with it. McElwain had a lot of success tutoring quarterbacks at both Alabama and Colorado State, where he coached a national champion in Greg McElroy in Tuscaloosa and a 4,000-yard passer in Garrett Grayson with the Rams. Still, there's no doubt McElwain will have his hands full with this race.

“I'm looking forward to seeing what those guys can do and seeing the competition as we move forward," he said. "They'll get an opportunity with all groups. That's just the way we practice. The thing I know from playing the position and having coached it a long time, sometimes guys become crutch heavy if they're just practicing with the same group of guys. You never know who's going to be in the game. You've got to develop a trust with everybody; all of the receivers, all of the running backs, all of the tight ends. So those guys take a lot of reps with a lot of different groups moving forward, should be a lot of fun."

Opening spring camp: Florida

March, 16, 2015
Mar 16

Schedule: The Gators start spring practice at 3:48 p.m. ET today. Florida concludes spring practice with its annual Orange & Blue Debut spring game on April 11, inside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

What's new: Try just about everything. Florida had a major overhaul with its coaching staff after Will Muschamp was fired late in the 2014 football season. Only offensive line coach Mike Summers returns from last year's staff. Former Colorado State head coach Jim McElwain takes over as the Gators' head coach after three seasons with the Rams. Former Michigan offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier takes over at the same position, and former Mississippi State defensive coordinator Geoff Collins will coach the Gators' defense. Other new coaches: Kirk Callahan (defensive backs), Kerry Dixon II (wide receivers), Greg Nord (tight ends/special teams), Chris Rumph (defensive line), Randy Shannon (linebackers/associate head coach), and Tim Skipper (running backs).

On the mend: Linebackers Antonio Morrison (knee) and Jarrad Davis, and offensive lineman Trip Thurman (shoulder) will miss all of spring practice. Defensive end Bryan Cox Jr. could also miss all of spring with a shoulder injury. Tight end Jake McGee will not participate in contact drills this spring as he continues to recover from breaking his lower leg on Sept. 6 against Eastern Michigan.

New faces: Florida only had two early enrollees this year: Tight end Daniel Imatorbhebhe and wide receiver Kalif Jackson.

[+] EnlargeTreon Harris
Scott Donaldson/Icon SportswireTreon Harris will battle with redshirt freshman Will Grier for the starting quarterback job.

Question marks: The Gators have plenty this spring. The biggest question is at quarterback, where sophomore Treon Harris, who took over as the starter last November, will battle with redshirt freshman Will Grier. Harris showed flashes as a playmaker last season, and provided the Gators with a much-needed spark on offense, but he never developed as a consistent passer. Grier was one of the top high school prospects last year, but had to add some weight. Florida is also incredibly thin along the offensive line, so losing Thurman, who is Florida's most experienced lineman, is a big hit. The Gators are also thin at linebacker and will be searching to find players at wide receiver, something this team hasn't had since 2009. Demarcus Robinson was one of the league's best receivers last season, but he has to be more consistent and needs help. Also, who is going to replace top pass-rusher Dante Fowler Jr.?

Key battle: It has to be quarterback. Florida hasn't had solid play at quarterback since Tim Tebow's final season in Gainesville in 2009. Since then, Florida has had only two individual 300-yard passing performances, and the Gators haven't averaged more than 185.7 passing yards per game in a season since 2009. Harris took over late in the year for embattled starter Jeff Driskel, who has since transferred to Louisiana Tech, and though Harris certainly got a little more juice out of the offense, Harris was never consistent enough throwing the ball (completed just 49 percent of his passes in 2014). He was a much better runner than passer, but that won't count for much in McElwain's more pro-style offense. Grier might be better suited for McElwain's offense, and some folks in Gainesville have been very impressed with his arm strength and quick release. Not playing last season is a disadvantage for Grier, but with a new offensive system being installed, both quarterbacks will start over fresh this spring. If the Gators don't get a handle on the quarterback position, it will be another long season for an offense that has struggled mightily the past five years.

Breaking out: Keep an eye on running back Adam Lane, who enters his third year at Florida with very limited in-game work. Lane hasn't exactly played much during his career, but his 109-yard performance as the lead back in Florida's bowl win against ECU showed some of the potential many fans were waiting for from the pint-sized bruiser. Lane averaged 6.8 yards per carry against the Pirates and scored a touchdown back in January. He's shiftier and a little faster than expected with his build, and he'll have every chance to take the starting job from junior Kelvin Taylor, who still has to battle consistency issues.

Don't forget about: McGee barely broke a sweat with the Gators in 2014, but with the NCAA granting him another year in Gainesville, McGee could provide Florida's offense with a solid safety net to help out this passing game. Though he won't take contact this spring, McGee, who transferred from Virginia last season, will work out and run around with the offense. Just getting him out there and comfortable with his quarterbacks is a major win for this offense. The Gators are in desperate need of another playmaker in the passing game, and McGee has the tools to be that person. In 36 games with Virginia, McGee caught 71 passes for 769 yards and seven touchdowns.

All eyes on: The offense. The Gators have some holes to fill on defense, but that side of the ball won't get near the attention that the offense will. Florida hasn't had much success at all on offense since 2009, and the Gators' highest offensive marks in the past five years came in 2014, when the team averaged 367.6 yards per game. At a school like Florida, that's totally unacceptable. The line is hurting, quarterback is up in the air, receivers must be found, and a new offensive scheme must be installed.


Gators coach Jim McElwain discusses the quarterback battle between Treon Harris and Will Grier and the lack of depth on the team.
The Florida Gators added a pair of key in-state commitments on Saturday in defensive end JaQuan Bailey and safety Chauncey Gardner, with the Cocoa High star being the first ESPN Jr 300 pledge for Jim McElwain and staff.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Florida coach Jim McElwain understands that he's way behind with his new team. He hasn't coached a second of football with his Gators so he really has no idea what to fully expect until spring practice finally begins next week.

He can look at film and talk with guys to get a feel for what he can kind of expect early on, but without real hands-on experience, the Gators are as much of a mystery to him as they are to everyone on the outside.

However, there is one position that he knows more than any other has to be better, and that's quarterback.

[+] EnlargeTreon Harris
Scott Donaldson/Icon SportswireTreon Harris showed off his arm and his legs in Florida's Birmingham Bowl victory.
Florida has been on shaky ground at quarterback since Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow left after the 2009 season. Yes, it was going to be hard to replace one of college football's greatest players, but to still be trying to replace him is unacceptable. Even with ultra-hyped recruits such as John Brantley and Jeff Driskel making their way to Gainesville, the Gators have been incredibly inconsistent under center.

In fact, since Tebow's departure, the Gators have had just two individual 300-yard passing performances in the last five years. Brantley threw for 329 yards against Furman in 2011, and Tyler Murphy threw for 305 yards in a home loss to Vanderbilt in 2013.

So here the Gators are -- trying to figure things out with a two-man quarterback battle between sophomore Treon Harris and redshirt freshman Will Grier. Harris replaced the one-time supposed savior Driskel as Florida's starter during the last month of the season, but never truly developed as a complete or consistent passer. Grier took last season to learn and bulk up after being named the Parade National Player of the Year and the Maxwell Player of the Year after his high school senior season.

There's so much on the line with this battle. For starters, McElwain's success in his first year in Gainesville rests heavily on what the offense can do, and that will be greatly determined by the guy at quarterback. Secondly -- and believe me, this is not hyperbole -- the future of offensive recruiting also hinges on the success at the quarterback position. This doesn't mean that Florida's next starter has to be an All-SEC performer, but he has to move the football more consistently. He has to make plays and score points. There needs to be continuity and some sort of passing threat.

There's a reason Florida hasn't succeeded in bringing high-quality offensive recruits to Gainesville since Tebow's departure. The offense just hasn't been attractive and that starts with instability at quarterback.

Wide receivers need to feel confident in the guy getting them the ball. No one has done that. Brantley, Driskel, Murphy and little-used Jacoby Brissett never took complete command of Florida's offense. It's telling that the most prolific individual passing day during the Will Muschamp era took place when Murphy threw three interceptions in a loss to Vandy in the Swamp.

Recruits aren't attracted to that, and Florida's mostly down play at quarterback has resulted in the Gators signing just four top-15 high school receiver prospects since 2010, according to ESPN recruiting services. An offense that has done no better than average 367.6 total yards (2014) and 185.7 passing yards in that span doesn't intrigue top-notch receivers, and if the Gators continue that trend, recruits are going to push further and further away from this program.

What confidence in the future will they have if an offensive-minded coach can't even muster some production out of this unit?

Of course, people will point to Muschamp's more conservative, run-first-and-often philosophy, but unfortunately for McElwain, he'll have to dig the Gators out of that offensive rut, despite not being the cause of its failures.

And if he's going to do that, the QB guru is going to have to work his magic because as unfair as this might sound for the first-year coach, this program can't afford more of this offensive free fall.

SEC morning links

March, 13, 2015
Mar 13
The SEC has a new commissioner. On Thursday, the conference announced that Greg Sankey will replace Mike Slive beginning Aug. 1. Sankey has been Slive’s right-hand man for the past 12 years, so the decision didn’t come as a huge surprise, but for those who don’t know the new SEC commissioner, this article is for you.

More on Sankey
Around the SEC
Tweet of the day

SEC morning links

March, 11, 2015
Mar 11
It was 70 degrees in Atlanta on Tuesday. Happy days certainly are here again!
Not a tweet of the day, but colleague David Ching's Instagram video of LSU's receivers showing off their fancy footwork is impressive:


McElwain discusses new Florida football
SEC Network's Greg McElory and Booger McFarland sit down to discuss the future of Florida football with head coach Jim McElwain.