SZNAP CHAT – AUGUST 25
By Adam Sznapstajler

SATURDAYS DOWN SOUTH

It’s the end of August and we all know what that means.  The start of the college football season. I haven’t written much about it so far but, being a Florida Gators alumnus, I am extremely excited for the start of the college football season. After a strong season last year, led by the two Kyles (Trask & Pitts), the Gators come into the 2021 season with some big plans to build upon last season. However, there are some big question marks for this team, especially upon the departure of Heisman Trophy finalist Kyle Trask.

Here is my breakdown of the top 5 storylines facing the Gators this season:

1. Is Emory Jones the real deal?

After being showcased mainly as a change of pace, run package quarterback over the last two seasons, it is now time for Emory to take the reins. A big-time recruit, who chose the Gators over schools like Ohio St and FSU, there is no questions about Jones natural ability. The question now turns to whether he can be a full-time every down quarterback in the SEC. Jones is lucky to have head coach Dan Mullen, with great experience working with dual threat quarterbacks like Tim Tebow, Dak Prescott, and Nick Fitzgerald. I fully expect Jones to have a decent year leaning toward good, although I wouldn’t put his ceiling too high this season.

2. Will the run game show up?

Part of the perks of having a Heisman caliber season at quarterback, as well as two NFL first round draft picks to throw to, is that the running game can take a year off. That is what happened with the Gators in 2020. If the same were to happen with the run game this season, that would be a huge problem. One of the best ways to help inexperienced quarterbacks is with a strong running game. With the return of Dameon Pierce and the addition of former five-star recruit Nay’Quan Wright, expect the running game to take a step up this season.  Or, should I say, it better.

3. What about the defense?

Much like the run game, we saw the defense slide back in 2020. And even more than the run game, if the defense does not step up in 2021, it will spell doom for the Gators. Head Coach Dan Mullen took a big gamble in bringing back much maligned Defensive Coordinator Todd Grantham. However, Grantham has been around the block and is bringing back a young defense from last season with more game experience, so I also expect the defense to take a step forward this season and return to their usual spot of hovering near the of SEC defenses

4. COVID Still Looms

It is nice to see the Gators with a 90% vaccination rate, much higher than the average of people in their age group in Florida. With the SEC making a no rescheduling policy for COVID affected games, keeping the team healthy is more paramount than ever before. There’s not much I can say about this because of all the unknowns but hey, at least they’re vaccinated.

5. The Rest of the SEC

This last point is less about the Gators then their competition. With games against a rebuilding Alabama, and you almost have to chuckle when you say that, surging Kentucky that always give UF fits, always strong Georgia, and whatever other teams make the jump this season.  The SEC is always a tough conference. As we saw last year, one loss is enough to take you out of contention. A lot of the Gators performance this year will be determined by how strong the conference is.

Until early next week, check out our YOU TALKIN’ TO ME column on the weekend.  I know you’ll enjoy our point/counterpoint back-and-forth commentary on a specific topic is always informative and entertaining.