1. Off-the-field stuff first: how much of a hot seat is Will Muschamp on right now? Is there some sort of minimum success level or win total he has to reach this season?
I don't think the bar that Florida has to clear for Muschamp to be retained is set yet. We'll get a better picture of it when September's over, probably.
But I can tell you that most Florida fans will likely be displeased with anything less than 9-3. 8-4, depending on the four wins, could end up being enough to leave fans miffed enough to make keeping Muschamp untenable.
2. Most of the attention has been on new offensive coordinator Kurt Roper. How's his first spring gone and what style of offense do you see him implementing?
The weird thing about Roper: He feels like the offensive version of Muschamp as a coach when you see him roaring and barking in practice, which I think is a good thing, because Muschamp, for whatever his faults are, is beloved by his players for how he coaches hard and loves as fiercely.
But Roper's going to invert Florida's offense, too — and that's an even better thing. Florida's been running spread offense with many up-tempo touches since this spring, and it looks very much like the Gators are gonna be throwing on first down a fair bit this year. After three years of plodding, backfiring attacks, this is a welcome change.
3. How has Jeff Driskel recovered from last season's injury and is he ready to take the step forward that Gator fans hoped for last season?
It's frankly been difficult to tell that Driskel was hurt in 2013 this spring, given how well he's moved around in the pocket and on the run. We haven't seen him in live game action with contact yet, obviously, but he never looked even fractionally less athletic to me in the handful of practices and spring game I watched.
The one tell? Driskel's been sailing some deep throws, though, given that his tendency was to throw high even before his injury, it's not totally clear that this is injury-related.
4. Have any other new playmakers emerged out of the backfield or receiver positions?
It's tempting to say that Demarcus Robinson, a playmaking wideout who starred in practice after practice this spring, and scored a touchdown in Florida's spring game, emerged, but he did most of this stuff last season, as an early-enrolling freshman, then saw his fall get sidetracked by a lack of familiarity with the playbook and a disregard for team rules that produced a pair of suspensions. It's also tempting to say Kelvin Taylor is new, but he did plenty of playmaking last fall as a freshman thrust into the fray by a season-ending injury to Matt Jones.
So I'll go off that two-person board, which is likely to produce Florida's most explosive receiver and most productive running back in 2014, and point to Mark Herndon, a walk-on who appeared to me to be the fastest player in Florida's backfield. He's undersized, and not quite as quick as you'd like from a speed back, but Roper's used relative unknowns before, and Herndon hits holes in a jiffy, which is something an outside zone team could certainly use.
5. We've come to expect a stout defense out of this program under Muschamp. How is the 2014 unit shaping up?
I think this defense is liable to do as well as its line allows it to do — and I like the line.
Florida's going to have a decent secondary, because it's had one every year under Muschamp, and this one has an outside shot at being his best if Jalen Tabor is as quick a study as Vernon Hargreaves III was last year. And I think Florida's linebackers are likely to be good no matter what, and good and deep if Matt Rolin and Alex Anzalone are healthy enough to be contributors.
But aside from Dante Fowler, Jr., pass-rusher extraordinaire, and Jonathan Bullard, DE-turned-DT, I'm not as certain Florida's line. Leon Orr's talent has outstripped his production to date, and Darious Cummings showed mostly flashes of superior play in 2013; the interior of Florida's line was doughy at times after Dominique Easley went down in 2013, and it helped make running on the Gators shockingly easy, and infamously so against Georgia Southern.
If there's a second pass-rusher beyond Fowler, who will command double teams, and a stout interior rotation, Florida might be scary good on defense. If not, Florida might have some bend-but-not-break tendencies.