The Gators made it to Atlanta for the SEC championship game for the first time since 2009 last season. Despite up-and-down quarterback play, especially in the second half of the season, Florida won 10 games under first-year coach Jim McElwain.
Comfort and improvement were the themes of spring in Gainesville this year, and while many aren't sold on an offense overall in 2016, McElwain seems pretty pleased with where things stand with his team right now.
What we learned about the offense: With quarterback Treon Harris and star Antonio Callaway suspended from the team this spring, the Gators had to find a new quarterback and some receiving help. By all indications, they think they've found both. Oregon State transfer Luke Del Rio took over the reigns under center and had a solid spring game showing, even if it was against the second-team defense. The other good news for the Gators is that with three other quarterbacks, they had adequate rotations in practice and could have a future hidden gem in freshman Kyle Trask. Newcomers Dre Massey, Josh Hammond and Freddie Swain added some energy to the receiver position, while vets Ahmad Fulwood and C.J. Worton made nice progress. The offensive line made strides this spring and is in much better shape in terms of the numbers. We don't know if Florida's offense is ready for primetime yet, but the coaches seemed much happier with this unit.
What we learned about the defense: The losses of first-round draft picks Vernon Hargreaves III and Keanu Neal in the secondary and front-seven leaders Jonathan Bullard and Antonio Morrison weren't easy to get over. But defensive coordinator Geoff Collins has plenty of talent to work with, and has solid depth along his defensive line and in the secondary. Jalen Tabor stepped right in for Hargreaves at corner, while Marcus Maye is back at safety. That one-two punch has an athletic supporting cast to work with, starting with Quincy Wilson, Duke Dawson and newcomer Chauncey Gardner, who all impressed. Depth at linebacker is still an issue, but returning veteran Jarrad Davis in the middle gives the Gators a lot of speed and power at the position. If Alex Anzalone, who was limited as a precaution, stays healthy, he and Davis will be a solid duo for this defense.
Breakout player: Losing Callaway was tough, but the Gators also had to practice without slot receiver Brandon Powell. However, the emergence of Dre Massey helped ease that loss. The former junior-college standout quickly caught onto Florida's offense and was one of the team's most consistent playmakers this spring. Massey has a ton of speed and wiggle, which made him a pain for defenders at times this spring. Massey can make tough catches over the middle or be a deep threat in this offense. He caught a 19-yard touchdown pass in the spring game.
Key storyline: The quarterback situation is all but over with Del Rio leaving with the lead, but Purdue transfer Austin Appleby won’t just give up, so we’ll keep our eyes on that until Del Rio is officially named the starter. But the storyline everyone is focusing on right now is whether or not Callaway and Harris will be back with the team this fall. Both were suspended in January and haven’t been on campus during their suspensions. McElwain has provided few details about the suspension and hasn’t said one way or the other if either or both will be back. While Harris struggled mightily down the stretch last season, losing Callaway for the season would be a major blow to this offense.