The Florida Gators had a memorable 2020 season, that is, until their final three games of the season.
Florida lost its final three games against LSU, against Alabama in the SEC Championship, and then against Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl. Now the Gators will have to replace a number of key starters on offense.
Gone are Heisman Trophy finalist quarterback Kyle Trask and his top three targets, tight end Kyle Pitts and receivers Trevon Grimes and Kadarius Toney. But there's a lot of optimism surrounding the talent on the roster head coach Dan Mullen has returning.
Florida might not be the favorite in the SEC in 2021, but the Gators should contend once again in the East Division.
1. Emory Jones appears to be next
After waiting for years for his opportunity, it appears that Jones will finally get his chance to be the Gators' starting quarterback.
Jones has appeared in 24 games for Florida, so he has some experience in key moments. The expectations will be high in Gainesville, especially after the year that Trask had. But when Mullen has played Jones, he has shown a ton of potential during his limited duty.
In three seasons, Jones has compiled 613 passing yards, seven touchdowns, and thrown just one interception. He also has run for 514 yards with six more scores, averaging 5.6 yards per carry.
It is a tough task trying to replace Trask, but the former top-100 recruit has all the tools to do so.
2. Gators' defense should improve
As bad as Florida's defense was last season, there's only way one to go — up.
The Gators ranked 83rd nationally in total defense last season at 428 yards per game allowed — a year after finishing ninth overall. They also gave up 31 points per game in total and surrendered 48 over the final three contests, all losses.
There were a few signs of positivity as last year by a few of the younger defenders, such as linebackers Brenton Cox Jr. and Khris Bogle and defensive back Kaiir Elam. Florida's defense will try hard to forget what happened last season.
3. Florida remains a threat in the SEC East
Despite all of the losses offensively, Florida should not be counted out to defend its division crown.
Sure, Georgia will be the favorite, but the Bulldogs have tough matchups on the schedule, including at Auburn and at Tennessee. Florida's slate isn't easy by any means, such as opening SEC play against Alabama. The Gators also have to visit LSU and South Carolina, and of course, there's the annual tilt in Jacksonville with the Bulldogs. But Mullen has turned Florida into a consistent contender in a relatively short amount of time and that should not change in 2021.
— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, the Miami Herald and the Palm Beach Post and is a reporter for Pro Player Insiders. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.