The third year is crucial for Billy Napier and the Florida Gators, given their uninspiring start over the first two seasons. Despite facing one of the nation’s most challenging schedules, the Gators may have an edge – returning production.
On Monday, ESPN’s Bill Connelly published his “College football 2024 returning production rankings.” The Gators rank favorably, returning 68% of their production for the upcoming season and ranking 32nd out of 134 teams. But how significant is returning production in Connelly’s SP+ ratings?
“On average, teams returning at least 80% of production improve by about 6.4 adjusted points per game in the following season’s SP+ ratings. That’s a pretty significant jump! For a team ranked 25th in SP+ last year, adding 6.4 points to its rating would have bumped it to about 13th. And if we lower the bar to just 70% returning production — a bar 25 teams currently clear — that’s been enough to boost teams by an average of 4.0 points since 2014.”
The ranking does include transfer portal acquisitions in returning production Connely states…
“With the explosion in use of the transfer portal in recent years, I had to make some changes to the way transfers are accounted for in the SP+ projections. They now show up in both the returning production and recruiting portions referenced above.
Returning production: Quite crudely, if a player transfers from one FBS school to another, I mash his production from his previous team into the numerator and denominator for his new team.”
Highlighted by the return of quarterback Graham Mertz, running back Montrell Johnson, wide receiver Tre Wilson, and offensive linemen Austin Barber and Jake Slaughter on offense, and complemented by experienced transfer portal acquisitions such as wide receiver Chimere Dike and offensive lineman Brandon Crenshaw-Dickson, the Gators are returning 70% of their offensive production, ranking 39th.
On the defensive side, lineman Cam Jackson, linebacker Shemar James, and safety Jordan Castell contribute to the return of 66% of production on defense, ranking 41st overall. This is supplemented by veteran transfers, including defensive lineman Joey Slackman, and defensive backs Twikweze Bridges and Asa Turner.
In a season where experience could significantly affect performance, Florida ranks fourth in the SEC for returning production, only trailing Texas A&M (18th), Texas (25th), and Missouri (31st). Notably, the Gators are scheduled to play both the Aggies and the Longhorns.
Florida’s prospects for a successful 2024 season are further boosted by the expected regression of two major rivals. Florida State and Tennessee, ranked 83rd and 94th in returning production respectively, are considered “most likely to regress in 2024”. This gives Florida the opportunity to capitalize on their higher returning production when facing these opponents.
For full rankings and explanation of rating scale, check out College football 2024 returning production rankings: 134 teams