HOOVER, Ala. (WIAT) — The Florida Gators finished the 2018 season with a big win over the Michigan Wolverines in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl 41-15. This capped off a 10-3 (5-3 in the SEC) season in head coach Dan Mullen’s first season in Gainesville.
Despite finishing second in the SEC East last season, the biggest storyline from the Gators in 2018 was their loss to Kentucky in Week 2. It was their first loss in 31 years to the Wildcats, who also had a 10-3 season.
The Gators did have big wins against Florida State, LSU and Mullen’s former team in Mississippi State.
The Gators return a lot of talent on both sides of the ball. Their biggest loss on the team may have been tackle Jawaan Taylor who was drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft, but most of the offensive line is also gone.
Quarterback Feleipe Franks was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the spring, something Mullen was happy about as a self-proclaimed, “big Red Sox fan.” But also says maybe that’s a career for Franks after he’s done at Florida. Much like a former Mullen quarterback in Tim Tebow.
Franks returns and hopes to continue his progression into a dual-threat player. He threw for 24 touchdowns and only six interceptions last season.
“[Franks] has come a long way,” Mullen said. “He continues to work and develop…he understood what his abilities were and bought into using all of his skill set.”
One game Franks says he’s excited about is against LSU in October. The quarterback had previously committed to being a Tiger before setting up with the Gators.
“LSU is always a fun one,” Franks said. “The fact they’re a really good team and we’re a really good team and the matchup between us always excites every player, not just me.”
Joining Franks in the backfield will be Alabama-native Lamical Perine. Returning for his senior season, Perine will be a “dynamic back” according to Mullen in both the ground and passing game for the Gators. The running back is coming off a career year leading the Gators in rushing yards with 826.
“I’m glad he decided to come back,” Mullen said.
Defensive lineman Jabari Zuniga looks to improve an already great defense that finished the season as the fifth-ranked defense in the SEC. He, like a lot of other Gators, have high expectations for the season.
“I want to win the SEC East,” Zuniga said. “Then the SEC Championship. Get to a bowl game and then, obviously, the Natty. We feel like with the talent that we have…we can do some great things this year.”
The Gators start the season taking on longtime rival Miami to kick off the entire college football season August 24.