Nov 2, 2013; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Florida Gators mascot, Albert, against the Georgia Bulldogs during the second quarter at EverBank Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Opponent Sideline Q&A (2014 SEC Football Preview) - Hail Florida Hail

During the 2014 preseason to the college football season, Ole Hotty Toddy is prepared to bring Ole Miss fans the ultimate coverage preview to the 2014 season. We will be reaching out to fellow FanSided writers of other SEC schools and writers from other networks and publishers of other SEC schools to give us their in depth look of their team with what we call Opponent Sideline Q&A.

Sep 28, 2013; Lexington, KY, USA; Florida Gators cheerleader performs during the game against the Kentucky Wildcats at Commonwealth Stadium. Florida defeated Kentucky 24-7. Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

In today’s Opponent Sideline Q&A, Brett Kaplan of FanSided’s Florida Gators’ site – HailFloridaHail.com, was nice enough to share with us his take on Florida coming into the 2014 college football season. You can follow Brett Kaplan on Twitter @HailFloridaHail. Below is our sit-down interview with Kaplan about the Gators in 2014.

Ole Hotty Toddy: These past couple of seasons have been a big disappointment compared to the expectations in Gainesville. Are fans becoming impatient with Muschamp? Is this a defining year for him as head coach of Florida?

Hail Florida Hail: I wouldn’t say “couple” of seasons. If you remember in 2012, Florida was 11-1 and in the Sugar Bowl. They legitimately had a shot at playing for the national title. But since then, it’s been tough. This is THE defining year for Will Muschamp. A lot of people think it’s Atlanta or bust for him, but I’ll give him between 7-9 wins. He needs to show a ton of improvement on the offensive side of the ball, or he might not make it through the end of the year. As for Florida fans becoming impatient? A lot of them weren’t really sold on Muschamp in the first place and last season put him squarely on the hottest seat in college football, as far as the fans are concerned.

OHT: Is Florida a basketball school now?

HFH: No. Florida was, is, and always will be a football school. Despite Billy Donovan’s achievements on the court, UF still gets the most money from their flagship football program. You can’t fit 90,000 people in the O’Dome.

OHT: Which game of this season’s schedule do you see that could make or break Florida’s 2014 season?

HFH: This might be somewhat of a surprise, but I’d have to say the Tennessee game on October 4th. October has always been such a tough make-or-break month for Florida and now they get a trip to Knoxville thrown into it? The game against Tennessee has traditionally been the SEC opener for both teams and usually in the third week of the season. But now it’s two weeks later and gives Tennessee more time to gain confidence as they continue to grow. Plus, the Gators have to follow up a trip to Tennessee with LSU, Missouri, and Georgia. If they go into that LSU game with a two-game losing streak, it could be tough to achieve their goals this season. Why is that make-or-break game not Bama? Because that’s a game that if we’re competitive, we’ll feel good to get out of. This season isn’t about winning every game. It’s about winning the games you should and maybe pulling an upset or two.

OHT: Who has stood out the most this offseason on both offense and defense?

HFH: On the offensive side of the ball, it’s most likely WR Demarcus Robinson. Robinson had a very solid spring and we’re hoping that transitions into the fall where Florida needs resuscitation when it comes to WR play and the passing game. Having Jeff Driskel back at QB definitely smoothed the transition from Brent Pease to Kurt Roper.

On defense, Dante Fowler made some strides this spring. He’s arguably the Gators best player on either side of the ball and he showed up in better shape and showed more consistency on the field. We saw flashes last season of why he was a 5-star recruit coming out of high school and hopefully this season he can consistently get to the quarterback.

OHT: Florida has had some exceptional recruiting classes lately. Tell us about some newcomers who are expected to stand out.

HFH: Jalen Tabor likely tops this list. He was Florida’s only 5-star recruit of the 2014 class and immediately fills a hole at the cornerback position vacated by Marcus Roberson and Loucheiz Purifoy. There’s a decent shot he’ll be the starter opposite Vernon Hargreaves come Idaho.

Duke Dawson is another cornerback enrolled early and can come in and contribute right away. He’s a little more physical than Tabor, but both are going to be special in the secondary.

Adam Lane at running back is actually a redshirt freshman, but he certainly turned heads this spring. He’s small, quick, and tough to tackle. Look for him to get the ball as a change of pace to Kelvin Taylor, Matt Jones, and Mack Brown.

DeAndre Goolsby could be the pass catching tight end the Gators have needed since Jordan Reed got drafted. He and Virginia transfer Jake McGee could finally give Florida some TE production.

OHT: Is it the offense or defense that will carry the Gators to a successful season? Why?

HFH: It’s got to be the offense. The defense was as solid as it could be last season and Florida couldn’t find success moving the ball whatsoever. If the offensive line can protect, receivers can get open, and players can stay healthy, then it could be a very good year for the Gators. But those are a lot of things to go right in a new offensive system. The offensive will have some growing pains, but they have to be the key success for UF.

OHT: Did you really cry more than Tim Tebow on September 27, 2008? Give us a recap of what you did after that game.

HFH: Hilarious. I actually sat behind the Ole Miss bench for that game and I was talking trash the entire time, so much – I thought I was going to get into a fight with an Ole Miss cheerleader (male). But after the game, we did what we always did: Had a couple of beers, sipped on some bourbon, and got ready for next week’s game. If I remember correctly we won the national championship that year. How many has Ole Miss won since then? In the past 20 years? 52 years? When’s the last time they represented the West in the SEC Championship? OK, how about an SEC title? But at least you guys beat Tim Tebow that one time.

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