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Countdown to kickoff: Hello, Florida

8/13/2012

GeauxTigerNation writers Gary Laney and David Helman get you ready for the season with a daily breakdown throughout August of what LSU is facing in the fall, from its opponents, to its road trips to who it's recruiting. Today, Gary Laney asked the questions in a Q&A with Mike Dirocco of ESPN.com's GatorNation, which covers all things Florida:

Q: How much patience do Florida fans have for Will Muschamp? Is the early recruiting success buying him some mulligans for the on-the-field results?

He certainly is cleaning up in recruiting (19 of the 21 commits for 2013 are four-star players and 11 are ranked in the ESPN 300) and the fans are excited about that, but it’s also a double-edged sword. When you bring in that much talent, you have to produce on the field. I think the fans are smart enough to know Muschamp inherited a program that had discipline and entitlement issues and was bereft of offensive talent. He’ll be OK this season as long as the Gators can win eight games in the regular season. But UF better challenge for the Eastern Division title in 2013 or his fans will really start grumbling.

Q: Who's the quarterback going to be? And, as a follow-up , will either Jacoby Brissett or Jeff Driskel be the kind of QB that can lead the Gators back to prominence?

This is a tough call. Neither has been able to separate himself from the other, and they enter fall practice neck-and-neck. If I had to guess, I’d pick Brissett because he produced at a slightly higher level than Driskel did last season. So far, though, neither looks like he's anything more than an average college quarterback. It’s still early in their careers, though, so it’s unfair to label them as anything but works in progress.

Q: Is there enough veteran talent on this team to tow the line, or will Muschamp have to lean on the talent-laden 2012 recruiting class to make an impact?

There is enough veteran talent at spots, such as offensive line and the secondary. But young players will have to make an impact at wide receiver and tight end, for sure. The Gators’ receivers have been disappointing for two seasons, but early enrollee Latroy Pittman had a great spring, and word is that freshman Raphael Andrades -- a kid who signed with UF out of nowhere on signing day -- has looked great in July workouts. Freshman tight end Kent Taylor also could make an impact. A.C. Leonard has transferred, leaving Jordan Reed, a former quarterback, as the only tight end on the roster who has caught a pass in a game. Taylor is a pass-catching tight end who could quickly move in behind Reed on the depth chart. Reed is still struggling with the transition from quarterback and caught only 28 passes last season.

Q: On Oct. 6, do you see LSU being put on upset alert in the Swamp, or are the Gators still a year away from being able to compete with the elite again?

I guess that partly depends on what the Tigers have in Zack Mettenberger. If he’s a player, then I think the Tigers are a lock to win at Florida Field. If not, then the Gators have a chance because their defense is going to be pretty good in 2012 -- not elite like LSU’s defense, but the Gators could be pretty close. However, there are just too many questions about UF’s offense and too many young players are going to have to contribute heavily to think the Gators are ready to rejoin the ranks of the SEC’s elite teams.