Previewing Utah’s 2022 Schedule With Unrivaled: Florida

May 9, 2022, 1:34 PM
Louisiana Tech Bulldogs v University of Florida Gators...
A general view as the University of Florida Gators takes on the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on September 10, 2005 in Gainesville, Florida. Florida defeated Louisiana Tech 41-3. (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)
(Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY- Summer is around the corner which means it’s a great time to start thinking about the 2022 Utah football schedule. While we are still a few months out from fall camp, it’s never too early to start previewing the Utes’ opponents with the help of Alex Kirry and Scott Mitchell of Unrivaled. Today we take a look ahead to Utah’s first game against Florida, with the help of Mark Long with the Associated Press.

The Great Florida Rebuild Of 2022

If you were a former University of Utah football coach circa 2004 coaching a team in Florida in 2021, you probably didn’t enjoy a lot of success. While Urban Meyer made the splashiest headlines last season for his shortcomings with the Jacksonville Jaguars, one of his former assistant coaches, Dan Mullen, was struggling to get anything going with the Gators as well.

Neither Meyer or Mullen will be coaching in 2022, and Florida will be looking to right the ship under Bill Napier before the Utes pay the Gators a visit on September 3. According to Long though, it will be a tough task for Napier to field the type of team Gator fans are used to against an experienced team like Utah.

“It’s reality,” Long said. “I think most insiders know that’s what it’s going to be this year. It was not a very good team last year. All of the sudden, you change coaches, lose some people to the Draft, you lose some people to the portal, a new coaching staff, the changes, the growing pains. You’re going to have issues. Anybody is crazy to think this is a team that’s going to roll out of bed and win eight or nine games. It’s just not going to happen.”

“They just don’t have that receiver, or depth at running back,” Long continued. “They don’t have a good pass-catching tight end. Those will catch up to you. Especially in this week. It’s the worst opener in history to have. To all of a sudden have a new coach that they didn’t think they would have when they inked this deal.”

Respect For Utah

Long believes the Utes will be coming into Gainesville as at least a top ten team in the country and possibly even as high as a top five. With this in mind, Long doesn’t think the combination of Utah’s steady coaching staff and plethora of returning players is going to bode well for a Florida team that is basically starting over.

“You’ve arguably got a top five team coming into town, certainly top ten, maybe top five team coming to town with an experienced staff and returners everywhere. All of a sudden they are going to be facing a Florida team that for all intents and purposes is in rebuilding mode. Even though Anthony Richardson has some potential, he’s far from polished. He played well at times last year, but really played poorly at times too. He’s injury prone. Everything is going against Florida for this season opener.”

Don’t Bank On The Achilles Heel

The Gators may have one advantage on their side and that is going to be the weather/climate. Admittedly, being in the middle of the desert, Utah is used to some heat, but the humidity in conjunction could be problematic. Long doesn’t believe it will ultimately matter, however, it is something to watch for and keep in mind come kickoff.

“The one thing they’ve got going for them is will Utah come in and wilt in what will still be late summer’s heat and humidity? Or will Utah be good enough,” Long mused. “Here is what I think, I think Utah’s going to be good enough to overcome that.”

It’s not all doom and gloom for the Gators, but it will be a process to get themselves back to where they expect to be. Long believes Napier’s plan of attack will be to rely on the transfer portal, and focus on building a strong defense until the offense catches up.

“You build on the fact that Napier gets some transfers- a handful, maybe enough to be dangerous,” Long said. “Then you build on defense. That’s the big one. You’re going to have a handful of guys come back on defense to have a chance to be pretty decent. Not great, but decent and they are going to have to be able to run the ball.”

Florida’s Loss Is Utah’s Gain

The Utes have been known to find gems through the transfer portal to help fill in roster gaps, and they did just that with former Gators linebacker Mohamoud Diabate. Long described Diabate’s transfer from Florida as “brutal”, but a good get for Utah.

“A lot of speed. A lot of agility. A good guy,” Long said of Diabate. “I actually thought he was a big loss for them. That was a guy we thought would come back, step into a starting role and be really good. Maybe even help them offset the loss of Zach Carter and a couple of other guys. Him transferring was really brutal. It really was for a defense that thought it had a chance to get them on good footing from the start, losing him was brutal. He would have have had a chance to be along with Ventrell Miller, a starting linebacker, maybe even their leading tackler.”

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