College football fans are gearing up for another season – one that seems to kick off earlier and earlier – amid excitement in Tallahassee and Gainesville as both the ’Noles and Gators are predicted to do great things.
The Gators finished 10-4 in the first season for head coach Jim McElwain. Luke Del Rio looks to be the starting quarterback for the Gators. Del Rio, the son of former Jaguars and current Oakland Raiders coach Jack Del Rio, is an Oregon State transfer. He led the Blue team to a 44-6 win over the Orange team in the spring game, throwing for 176 yards on 10 of 11 passes completed. QB Austin Appleby, a Purdue transfer, is in the running, with Jordan Scarlett and Mark Thompson sharing running back chores.
Big play wide receiver Antonio Callaway returns with 678 yards on 35 receptions. The Gators also have a reliable offensive line led by Martez Ivey and David Sharpe.
On defense, Florida lost some key players, with many of them playing in the NFL this season. Defensive back Jalen Tabor, linebacker Jarrad Davis and safety Marcus Maye anchor the secondary. Florida’s Cece Jefferson, Caleb Brantley and Bryan Cox Jr. look to lead an improved defensive line.
Pineiro will likely be the placekicker. Punter Johnny Townsend returns, averaging 45.3 yards per attempt on 83 punts.
Notes: Tabor was suspended for the season opener against UMass for “behavior that is not acceptable” along with tight end C’yontai Lewis…guard Antonio Riles sustained a torn anterior cruciate ligament that will require surgery and sideline him for the entire season...defensively, Florida lost two All-Americans – cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III and tackle Jonathan Bullard – and safety Keanu Neal to the NFL Draft, along with Antonio Morrison and Alex McCalister.
Last season a young FSU team went 10-3 under head coach Jimbo Fisher. With more experience and depth, the Seminoles should be even better as Fisher begins his seventh season. Fifth-year senior quarterback Sean Maguire needs surgery on his right foot, and he will miss the start of the season. Redshirt freshman Deondre Francois has been handling first-team practice reps in preparation for the Sept. 5 season opener against Ole Miss in Orlando. Francois has yet to throw a college pass.
Maguire is FSU’s only quarterback with significant game experience. He completed 112 of 189 passes last year for 1,520 yards, 11 touchdowns and six interceptions. He quarterbacked the Seminoles to wins in four of the last five regular-season games before a 38-24 loss to Houston in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. He completed 112 of 189 passes (59.3 percent) for 1,520 yards and 11 touchdowns with six interceptions in 2015.
No matter the quarterback, running back Dalvin Cook can make the Florida State offense click. Heisman hopeful Cook ran for 1,691 yards and 19 touchdowns as a sophomore last season.
Travis Rudolph, Kermit Whitfield and Bobo Wilson are playmakers at receiver. Look for tight end Ryan Izzo and side receiver Auden Tate to only help strengthen the passing attack.
Defensively, DeMarcus Walker elected to return to school for his senior year. Nose tackle Derrick Nnadi and safety Derwin James join Josh Sweat, Matthew Thomas and Ro’Derrick Hoskins, Marquez White, Tarvarus McFadden and Marcus Lewis on a gold star defensive unit.
Notes: Florida State lost some key players, like Jalen Ramsey, Reggie Northrup and Nile Lawrence-Stample… FSU has averaged the third-best recruiting class over the past five years.