Texas A&M linebacker Edgerrin Cooper (45) wraps up Florida running back Montrell Johnson Jr. (2) for a two-yard loss during the first quarter of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022, in College Station, Texas. (AP Photo/Sam Craft)

Phil Steele Talks College Football

On Monday, national sportswriter and personality Phil Steele joined Sport Scene to discuss the upcoming college football season. Along with hot takes, he discussed the outlook on Florida’s season and the current state of the SEC.

Brief Background

Phil Steele is a renowned writer who specializes in football — both college and professional.

He is a voter on 20 college football awards, including the Heisman. He recently released his 2023 edition of “College Football Preview,” which is a magazine that discusses the NCAA football landscape before the season.

Opinions on Florida

Although his prediction for the Gators’ 2023 season is lackluster, Steele is confident the program is headed in the right direction.

Steele argues that inexperience and their tough schedule are going to be the main drawbacks to the success of the Gators in 2023.

In terms of a rushing attack, Florida is relatively solid. They have a top-tier running back room with both leading rushers from the 2022 season returning. However, their offensive line only has one starter, Kingsley Eguakun, returning. Confusion in the trenches could hold the offense back.

Also, the Gators are being led by new transfer quarterback Graham Mertz and a young receiving core. Steele pointed out that the inconsistency and immobility of Mertz could be an issue.

On the other side of the ball, Steele mentioned that all four starting linebackers from 2022 are no longer playing for the Gators. A new leader will have to step up for the center of the defense.

When looking at the schedule, things get ugly. Florida drew LSU from the SEC West, a team that began to catch its stride in the end of last season. In non-conference play, the Gators have Utah and Florida State, which are two teams that could end up competing for a spot in the top 10. Steele has UF’s schedule rated first in the nation for difficulty.


Aggies on the Rise

Steele, like many, emphasized the difficulty of the Southeastern Conference. It is consistently stout from top to bottom, and usually has multiple national title contenders.

When asked who he thought was going to make the biggest jump from last year, Steele had an immediate answer: Texas A&M.

Last year, in A&M’s woeful 5-7 season, they had an inexperienced team in a stacked conference. Now, they have more talented recruits coming in and offensive coordinator Bobby Petrino drawing up plays. After a full offseason of tweaks and a year of players maturing, they could certainly make a run in the West.

Mississippi State in Trouble

Contrary to the Aggies, Steele believes the Mississippi State Bulldogs have a rough road ahead.

This is not exactly a surprising opinion — MSU tragically lost their head coach, Mike Leach, to a heart condition last December.

The team will have to regroup behind talented QB Will Rogers and new head coach Zach Arnett. Arnett was the Bulldogs’ defensive coordinator last year.

About Steven Hieneman

Senior Sports Media/Business Administration dual major at the University of Florida, ESPN Gainesville WRUF sports correspondent.

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